“I thought it was just great that everyone is able to get together like this in the heart of their territories. Each Nation is quite different, with different personalities involved and different ideas to offer, but there are also a lot of similarities between each of us as Nations. I felt right at home.”
—Jaytuk Steinruck, Tribal Resource Specialist, Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, California
The 2016 gathering of Ha-Ma-Yas Guardians and stewardship staff took place between June 13—17 at Tsatsisnukwomi (New Vancouver), not far from Telegraph Cove on northern Vancouver Island, and was hosted by Da’naxda’xw Awaetlatla. Crews from several of the Ha-Ma-Yas First Nations joined specialist instructors for a week of training, sharing experiences, good food and fun.
“We gathered everyone together to provide training in a range of fields,” explains Nanwakolas Planner Scott Harris, who along with Nanwakolas Marine Planner and GIS Analyst Greg Johnson coordinated on-site activities and logistics. “For example Jamie Stephen, who is a retired fisheries and conservation officer, trained the crews in compliance monitoring, and archaeologist Morgan Ritchie from Inlailawatash did archaeological inventory training.”
Participants also had the opportunity to review their crab survey techniques with A’tlegay Fisheries biologist Jim Meldrum, take drone survey training with Tony Wong and Greg Johnson, and learn about cultural site protection from elders Emily Aitken and Gloria Cole.
Putting training into practice
Tlowitsis Guardians Gina Thomas and Brandon Wilson took full advantage of the opportunity. “It was a very interesting time,” reflects Brandon. A highlight for both of them was being able to confirm the existence of an old village site Gina had discovered a few years previously while doing forestry work. “There were depressions in the ground, and no trees around them, so Gina had been fairly sure it was a village site,” says Brandon. “The archaeologist told Gina she was right, and it was likely at least 2,000 years old, which is just an amazing feeling. It felt so good to learn our ancestors were here.”
Using their training, Gina and Brandon then established the existence of two similar and even bigger sites. “We knew what we were looking for this time,” says Brandon. “The archaeologist came with us and told us we were right on the ball and really knew what we were doing. That felt great!”
Building connections across territories
Educator Gloria Cole thoroughly enjoyed her time with Guardians. “There is so much respect and humour between them,” she observes. “Even though they are from different territories, they have built a strong relationship through getting together to do the training. They are just like a big family, even the ones from the United States.”
Jaytuk Steinruck, a Tribal Resource Specialist from the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation in California, leapt to accept an invitation to attend the gathering. “We have a grant to develop the same kind of program, so I was really happy to come and learn how Ha-Ma-Yas Stewardship Network works. The experience was great from every aspect.” Jaytuk especially enjoyed the drone training: “That could work well for us in some of the remote parts of our territory. From up there, different things really stand out.”
Looking ahead to 2017
Scott and Greg are already thinking ahead to next year’s gathering, and what worked well. “I found the gathering to be very successful in bringing communities together, sharing information on activities and creating a deeper connections between each other’s’ territories,” says Greg. “We’re also talking to participants about what improvements and additions we can make.”
“The programs and the training we’ve received through initiatives like this have been very valuable,” acknowledges Brandon Wilson. “We’ve learned a lot, and we have a lot of knowledge under our belts. Now,” he says, “we have to put that knowledge into practice. I’m looking forward to moving forward with all these skills and building on them in practical ways, and when we get together again being able to share the techniques we’ve all developed and our different experiences. It feels really great to have reached this point in our work.”
Acknowledgements and more information
Many, many thanks are owed to Da’naxda’xw for their hospitality this year. Ha-Ma-Yas Stewardship Network is also very appreciative of funding contributed by The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Vancouver Island University and The Moore Foundation to help make the 2016 gathering a success.
To read about previous visits by the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation to our territories, go to http://www.tolowa-nsn.gov/tribal-delegation-travels-to-canada/.