Coastal Guardian Watchmen are the eyes and ears of BC’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, but many Indigenous Guardian programs fulfill a similar role in their own homelands across the continent and beyond—upholding a responsibility to protect traditional territories.
Some of these programs are firmly established and have evolved over many decades; others are either just beginning or still building the initial capacity to get off the ground.
The recently released Indigenous Guardians Toolkit provides a valuable online resource for learning more about these programs, and information and inspiration to help communities start their own. Based on discussions with community leaders from established programs, including Coastal Guardian Watchmen, TNC Canada designed the Toolkit to be a practical tool. It includes an ever-evolving collection of examples, lessons learned and stories, and offers useful tips on everything from nurturing the initial vision to early planning and prioritizing, securing funding and hiring staff.
To add to the Toolkit’s many resources, the Coastal Stewardship Network provided several documents as guides, including previous flag and uniform policies, safety procedures and instruction manuals for effective monitoring.
Several stories feature the Coastal Guardian Watchmen, including some background about the origins of the Coastal Stewardship Network, which includes great insights into the crucial importance of grounding Guardian programs within local communities and staying connected regionally.
In a story on Coastal First Nations’ Regional Monitoring System, Toolkit readers learn how to create an effective monitoring and data management system, and in a feature on the Stewardship Technicians Training Program, they get a crash course on the importance of ongoing training in Guardian programs, which ensures all future Guardians possess up-to-date stewardship skills and techniques and are immersed in cultural awareness and traditional knowledge passed down through generations.
Beyond its practical usefulness for current and future Indigenous Guardians, the Toolkit is a great resource for others to learn about these programs, and why they’re so important.