Stewardship Graduates Ready And Prepared To Protect Their Coastal Territories

April 11, 2014 - 5:00am

Twenty-three participants from nine Nations on the coast took part in a Stewardship Technicians Training program delivered through a partnership between Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative and Vancouver Island University (VIU). The training program wrapped up with a graduation ceremony in Port Hardy. In all, 10 participants complete all seven courses and three others completed a majority of the courses:

• Tara Brennan, Guy Edgars, Sean Brennan and David Vanderhoop from the Council of the Haida Nation;

• Richard Reid, Randy Carpenter and Carey Stewart from the Heiltsuk Nation;

• John Sampson from the Nuxalk Nation;

• Brian Johnson from the Wuikinuxv Nation;

• Chris Wilson and Kevin Paul from the Haisla Nation; and

• Leslie Walkus and Ethan Shaw from the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations.

A graduation ceremony was held for the

students in Port Hardy on Feb. 28. Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett, attending on behalf of Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative, and Ralph Nilson, VIU President, spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the students on their achievements. Each student was presented with a portfolio and gifts.

The goals of the program were to build stewardship technicians’ skills and knowledge for monitoring their territories, including:

• Identifying, documenting

and reporting environmental offences;

• Monitoring and enforcing marine and land use plans;

• Protecting ecological and cultural values in parks and protected areas;

• Undertaking archaeological inventories for cultural heritage protection; and

• Diagnosing and repairing marine engines and learning the basics of electrical marine wiring.

“Overall I am far more confident in my work, with practical skills I can use every day in my role as a Guardian Watchman,” remarked one participant.

The training was specifically developed for First Nations stewardship staff who currently work for their Nation to monitor and protect the land and sea. The majority of the participants are employed as Guardian Watchmen, whose role is to be out on the water throughout the year collecting data, monitoring compliance to environmental regulations, and engaging the general public. The four Haida participants are employed in the Haida Mapping office, inventorying cultural and ecological features on protected areas and forestry lands.

The program included both credit and non-credit courses offered by VIU. Two new courses were specifically designed to support the role of stewardship technicians in documenting environmental offences – Monitoring Environmental Compliance and Note-taking and Evidence Gathering. Students are equipped with the skills to document any situations of concern on the coast, from oil spills to fishing infractions.

The Ministry of Advanced Education provided funds to develop and deliver the program through the Aboriginal Community-Based Partnership Program. Hakai Beach Institute also provided generous support, hosting the participants and instructors for four of the training courses, while the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance assisted by subsidizing student travel.


View a slideshow of photos taken during the program at:


For more information, please contact:

Sandra Thomson at the Coastal Stewardship Network (250-325-7263 or

Sheila Cooper, Aboriginal Projects Manager at Vancouver Island University (250-753-3245 local 2804 or

This article has been reprinted with permission of the author, Sandra Thomson of the Coastal Stewardship Network.

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