Tribal Delegation Travels to Canada for Marine Planning and Stewardship Learning Exchange
Project team members and tribal leaders had the unique opportunity to conduct a learning exchange with the Nanwokolas Council in their home in Campbell River, and the Guardian Watchmen Program of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation at Port Hardy, British Columbia on northern Vancouver Island June 24-27, 2014.
The Tribe was awarded a grant in 2012 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to build capacity of West Coast Tribes to coordinate and engage in Ocean Regional Governance and Coastal Marine Spatial Planning. Through this project we have brought coastal tribes together from California, Oregon and Washington to provide a platform to discuss the best ways for tribes to approach Marine Planning.
Representatives from Nanwokolas Council were able to come and present an overview of their work at the Indigenous Ocean Science Forum (IOSF) the Tribe held in April of 2013 (see Tribal newsletter May 2013 for more details.). The Nanwokolas Council has implemented a First Nations-driven Marine Planning process that has incorporated Traditional Knowledge (TK) and has provided a process by which the First Nations can proactively engage in their own Marine Planning and Ocean Governance, as well as be better equipped to engage with the province and crown (see http://www.nanwakolas.com).
What the Nanwokolas Council is currently accomplishing is truly a model from which to learn as we build the approach and framework for West Coast Tribal partnerships and Tribal Coastal Marine Spatial Planning.
The Tribal delegation included Tribal leaders Kara Brundin-Miller, Denise Richards Padgette, and project team members from the Office of Self-Governance, Briannon Fraley, and Jaytuk Steinruck and Project coordinator, Megan Rocha. The learning exchange was conducted over a four day period and covered an array of information sharing opportunities. Campbell River is home of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation, where the central office of the Nanwokolas Council is located. The Delegation received an overview of the land referrals process along with standard procedures for utilizing marine and land planning for stewardship purposes by referrals officer, Art Wilson. Wei Wai Kum First Nations citizen and Economic Development Officer for the Nanwokolas, Chris Roberts took us on a tour of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation Reserve and other points of interest in Campbell River. We were able to meet with the Board to share their stories of struggles and inspiration. The Board and Staff were generous with their knowledge and shared with the Tribe their policies, procedures, operations manual, agreements between first Nations and the Provincial Government and other useful documents to assist the Tribe in conducting Tribal Coastal Marine Spatial Planning. The Delegation was grateful for the generous amount of knowledge the Nanwokolas shared, and presented the Board with a ceremonial pipe, made by Smith River Rancheria Tribal Member Thomas Brundin, to honor their gift of knowledge.
On the third day the delegation traveled north to Port Hardy, home of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation. We met our learning exchange host, Scott Harris of Nanwokolas who introduced us to the Guardian-Watchmen program director as well as our guide Thomas Henderson, Elder and Hereditary Chief of the ‘Nakwaxda’xw. We ventured into the traditional territory of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation on a four hour boat tour where we saw firsthand effective stewardship and monitoring taking place. We learned about the rigorous training the watchmen go through to be able to execute their job, including swimming and survival skills testing and technology and Traditional Knowledge training.
The Tribal Delegation was very inspired by the Watchmen Program as the Tribe is developing and conducting similar activities in monitoring and stewardship. The Tribe’s Office of Self-Governance is initiating the first steps in formalizing a sister watchmen program that will be the first in the United States, with the hopes of sending Tribal members to be trained in their Watchmen Program, to return and implement at home.
The Purpose of the visit was to witness the benefits of Marine Planning for effective governance. They welcomed us with open arms, wanting to share their story on how to conduct Marine Planning. They provided us information on data collection procedures, how to be effective in the planning processes, planning and data standards framework, and to shed light on potential outcomes from investing in this work.
Theirs is a model from which we are building our approach and framework and there are many “lessons learned” that could continue to greatly inform our work as we proceed with the development of our Ocean Governance including Marine Planning and the development of a structured stewardship program.
Interacting with the Nanwokolas has given the Tribe the opportunity to better understand the composition, priorities, and challenges facing the Council and their respective coastal tribal nations so that we can appropriately asses ways in which this particular model is replicable and ways in which it does not appropriately fit/apply to our situation on the West Coast (i.e. WA, OR, and CA).
The First Nations of north east Vancouver Island provided the Tribe with insight and hope that the creation of a program utilizing traditional values for governance is possible and that Marine Planning will lead to effective and efficient stewardship.