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BC city, local First Nations partner to deliver forestry field training program


January 24, 2022
By CFI staff
Photo: City of Mission.

A new forestry field training program in B.C. will see participants working within lands located in the shared territories of the Kwantlen, Leq’a:mel, and Matsqui First Nations.

Delivered as a partnership between the City of Mission, B.C., Kwantlen First Nation, Leq’a:mel First Nation, Matsqui First Nation, and the Mission Public School District, the six-week Indigenous Guardians Training Program will teach tree and plant identification, forest ecology, forest health, stream classification, as well as Guardians-specific training in archaeology and Cultural Plant identification.

Stillwater Consulting is providing the training taking place at Riverside College in Mission.

“The role of Guardians is an important one as they are connected to protecting and safe-guarding areas in our shared territories,” Kwantlen First Nation Chief Marilyn Gabriel said in a news release. “Having knowledge and understanding of our sacred connections to the land and the precious resources within it, are a necessary part of this important role. We are honoured, excited, and eager to be involved as this program gets underway.”

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Chris Gruenwald, Mission’s director of forestry, said the program launch last week was the culmination of two years of collaborative effort between the city and the Nations. “We look forward to continuing the development of this program into the future,” he said.

Matsqui First Nation Chief Alice McKay said the collaboration is a good step towards building a positive relationship with the city. “This means being good neighbours and putting the needs of our members first. This training could lean toward a very positive position in the forestry field and much more to come.”

Program graduates or Guardians will fill roles that include environmental and fire patrol, cultural interpretation, archaeology fieldwork, managing cultural trees and plants, and stream assessment and rehabilitation.

Leq’á:mel First Nation councillor Phil Sherwood said the program will not only provide learning and employment opportunities for Leq’á:mel members, but also build capacity for Guardians to improve monitoring within their territory.