Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network

A network of Nanwakolas member First Nations’ Guardian programs, fulfilling their ancestral rights and responsibilities to take care of their Nation’s lands, waters, wildlife and food sources for future generations

Who We Are

The Nanwakolas member First Nations are all part of the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network, established by Nanwakolas Council to support each of the member Nation’s individual Guardian programs. In addition to fulfilling their stewardship responsibilities, the member Nations’ Guardians help protect the cultural and socio-economic values associated with Aweenak’ola.

Keepers of the Coast from Josie Byington on Vimeo.

The Role of the Guardians

Through the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network, a coordinated and consistent approach is applied to the First Nations’ independent stewardship responsibilities within their traditional areas.

That approach is given life through the role of the First Nations’ Guardians. The Guardians are the “eyes and ears” out on the land and waters of the traditional areas. Ha-ma-yas itself means: “the place we go to gather food.” In taking care of the land and waters, the Guardians are also protecting the sources of physical and cultural sustenance for the member First Nations and for future generations.



Read more about the establishment of the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network

The Work of the Guardians

The Guardians work in the traditional areas of the member First Nations year-round, observing the lands, waters, and wildlife, and gathering information about activities occurring in the territories. Working with federal and provincial governments, the Guardians also keep an eye on companies operating in the territories, and the public, to make sure that everyone is complying with environmental laws. Currently, the Guardians’ authority is passed on by the Chiefs and Councils of each of the Nanwakolas Nations.

Nanwakolas support for the Network

Nanwakolas supports the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network and each of the Nations’ Guardian programs in five principal ways:

  • Governance – we work with Guardian managers and staff to ensure coordinated, efficient, and effective use of Guardians.
  • Funding – we support the Guardian programs by looking for various funding sources that meet the Nations’ stewardship visions. In 2023, Nanwakolas has provided each Nation with approximately $300,000 to support stewardship activities.
  • Capacity – we work with the Nations’ Guardian programs to determine collective capacity needs. To date the outcomes have included the successful creation of the Stewardship Technician Training Program in partnership with Vancouver Island University, professional certification, culture and language training, and (a work in progress) the development of a pathway for Guardians to become a “Master” Guardian.
  • Data Management – your Guardians collect data for various Nanwakolas projects and provide it to our staff so that this information can be used in referrals, and your Nations’ decision making. We get information back to you through Arc-GIS on-line so that Guardians/ decision makers can see the data that they have collected.
  • Shared Experiences – two times a year the Guardians get together at annual gatherings and reflect on the work they have done, share with others their experiences out in the field, and plan for future activities. This is a chance for Knowledge Keepers to join and pass on teaching to the Guardians.

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Skills and Knowledge

The Guardians are highly trained women and men who have many skills and qualifications, including everything from boat safety to regulatory and environmental issues.

The Nanwakolas Council works closely with partner institutions such as Vancouver Island University, which provides post-secondary courses, certification and qualifications in subjects like water safety and boat operation; environmental surveying and data collection and analysis; dealing with the public; environmental laws and reporting procedures; environmental monitoring; tourism, and communication. Knowledge of traditional culture, values and laws is fundamental to all of these topics and is incorporated into each of the courses.



Many of the Guardians have completed formal stewardship training programs or are in the process of doing so. Some Guardians also have university qualifications in important and relevant subjects like biology, forestry and archaeology which they are able to apply to their work in the field.

Collaborative Work

The member First Nations also work collaboratively with other First Nations up and down the coast to protect the territories, especially the Coastal Stewardship Network of the Coastal First Nations.