Indigenous Nations of the Pacific North Coast, Central Coast, and Haida Gwaii have stewarded their lands and waters for thousands of years.
Today, these efforts continue on within the Stewardship Offices throughout coastal communities, and much of that important work is carried out by Coastal Guardian Watchmen —the frontline stewards for their Nations.
Each Guardian Watchmen program within CFN member Nations has a mandate and distinct set of goals, objectives and priorities, based on the uniqueness of their Nations’ territories and governance structures. And these programs all share a regional stewardship perspective as well, and a recognition that working together can help build knowledge, capacity and success. This collective focus is a big part of what defines the Coastal Guardian Watchmen, and it’s also why they are recognized across Canada and beyond for their success and effectiveness.
The Coastal First Nations Guardian Program – Strategic Plan, released in July 2020, articulates the shared goals and objectives of the Guardian programs within CFN member Nations, and outlines eight Strategic Priorities for enhancing their work into the future.
Created through in-depth conversations and workshops between CFN member Nations’ stewardship leaders, and coordinated by the Coastal Stewardship Network, this publication is part of a long-term planning effort that aims to strengthen unity and provide a clear pathway for achieving stewardship goals. The priorities are designed to allow each Nation’s Guardian program to develop its own unique strengths individually, while also developing collectively as part of a regional network.
“As Guardian Watchmen programs have become better known both within communities and to external agencies, the scope of their work has grown,” says Mike Reid, Aquatics Manager with the Heiltsuk Nation, who has played a leading role in establishing the Coastal Guardian Watchmen that we know today. “With the Guardians’ workload and expectations increasing,” he adds, “we recognized the need for strategic actions with respect to collective support, capacity building and governance to provide focus for these programs going forward.”
It’s already clear how valuable these Guardian Watchmen programs are for communities along the coast. In 2016, a business case assessed the value of these stewardship programs and found that, on average, Guardian Watchmen programs see a return on investment between 10:1 and 20:1 when measuring results in terms of dollar values of community values, such as economic opportunities, cultural well-being, governance authority and taking care of territory.
“When we speak to funders, we can point to that business case and say that for every dollar you put into the program, you get this much value out of it,” says Ross Wilson, Stewardship Director for the Metlakatla Nation.
Wilson says that many others across the country are seeking to replicate this regional stewardship model in their own areas. “This strategic plan is about building on that success,” he says, “and working together to continually enhance our collective efforts.”