VIU’s new class of Stewardship Technicians now set to protect B.C Coast as Indigenous Guardians

VIU's new class of Stewardship Technicians now set to protect B.C Coast as Indigenous Guardians
Katherine Gordon
Vancouver Island University Stewardship Technician Training program graduation

Sixteen students from the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Stewardship Technician Training program are set to be graduates from the program. After graduation, the 16 students from five different First Nations will work as Indigenous Guardians to protect the B.C. coast.

Nanwakolas Council President Dallas Smith says he feels proud of these students and wants to congratulate them on their achievements.

Smith says member Nations have been taking on responsibilities for environmental guidance and many more guardians are needed to help with monitoring forestry harvesting and collecting data on key species.

The Nanwakolas Council consists of several First Nations that hold responsibility for the stewardship of Aweenak’ola, which means “the lands we are on,” within their traditional areas on North Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

The VIU training program ran over a six-month period that began in October 2023. A similar program has also ran in the past at the institution.

Scott Assu is one of the graduates from the program and he is looking forward to helping his Nation with formal education under his belt.

“The program helped me with professional skill development, forestry surveying, electro-fishing and being able to identify plants,” said Assu. Twenty-year-old Assu was hired by his Nation (We-Wai-Kai First Nation) as a land guardian almost two years ago. Although he said hands on training is helpful, he knows that education will push his career forward.

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We-Wai-Kai First Nation Land Guardian Scott Assu seen here working on a Land Capability Classification survey for his nation prior to joining the VIU training program. (Photo Credit: Scott Assu)

Assu hopes that this education will help him pursue his dreams of becoming an archaeologist.

“Another cool part of my journey would be to become an archeologist. I think that would be really cool. The opportunity to make money and learning about my own heritage and re-discovering stuff is a really neat idea,” said Assu.

He has applied to the archeological program at Simon Fraser University and is hoping to hear back soon.

Assu told CHEK News that some of the Nations represented through the students include the K’ómok First Nation, We–Wai-Kai First Nation and the We Wai Kum Frist Nation.

VIU could not confirm with CHEK News when the next set of students will start the second round of the Stewardship Technician Training program.

SEE ALSO: B.C. promises $1.4M for Indigenous guardian program at VIU

Below are some pictures of other graduates from the VIU Stewardship Technician Training program.

  • Tashina James-Matalpi, Tlowitsis graduate. (Photo Credit: Katherine Gordon)
  • Matthew Everson, K'omoks graduate. (Photo Credit: Katherine Gordon)
  • Cool Cliffe, Wei Wai Kum graduate. (Photo Credit: Katherine Gordon)
  • Marisa Baikie, left and Telisa Puamau, We Wai Kai graduates. (Photo Credit: Katherine Gordon)
  • Caitlyn Puglas, Mamalilikulla graduate. (Photo Credit: Katherine Gordon)

With files from The Canadian Press

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