Stewardship Grads Bring Knowledge Back to Coastal Communities

At an inspiring ceremony in Prince Rupert, proud graduates of the Stewardship Technicians Training Program accept their well-deserved certificates.

A couple of years ago, they were a collection of 14 strangers from separate First Nations throughout coastal BC. Today, they’re family, and they will always share the huge accomplishment of being deserving grads of the two-year Stewardship Technicians Training Program.

The unique training program, a partnership between the Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative and Vancouver Island University, offers students practical skills and hands-on training for work in resource management and stewardship.

At an inspiring ceremony in Prince Rupert, proud students gathered with family, friends and community members to receive their certificates. One-by-one they stepped up to describe what the program has meant to them, and how it will help them fulfill their responsibilities to care for the lands and waters of their homelands.

“I have witnessed a profound transformation of identity, pride, image and confidence among these students,” said Hilistis Pauline Waterfall, a Heiltsuk Elder and knowledge keeper, who was at the ceremony to congratulate each student and present their hard-earned certificates.

A recipient of the Order of British Columbia for her extensive work in First Nations education, Waterfall spoke to those in attendance about the program’s greater significance, and described how the learning extends beyond resource management and stewardship to provide critical lessons in cultural awareness (a course she developed and taught for the students), as well as leadership, respect and self-governance.

“Through reinforced Indigenous cultural awareness paired with technical training, the graduates contribute to the sustainable management and protection of natural resources within their homelands,” said Waterfall. “I believe this collaborative way of learning and growing is a best practice to model in the spirit of reconciliation today.”

The evening included a delicious feast of local food and flavour, plus heartfelt songs and speeches. Elder Clarence Nelson Sr. welcomed the group, on behalf of Metlakatlka First Nation, and spoke to the importance of education and stewardship for all coastal Nations. Councillor Alrita Leask congratulated the students on behalf of the Board of the Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative.

The event came on the heels of a busy week of classes, aptly focused on leadership, and concluded two years of similarly intensive classes, both in the field and in the classroom, in locations throughout BC’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii.

“These students have grown as leaders in their communities and in their own lives,” says Elodie Button, Training Coordinator for the Coastal Stewardship Network. “I feel confident that each of them will stand tall as they head into the field season, working hard to protect the health and well-being of their territories.”

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.