Vancouver Island University’s Stewardship Technician Training Program

Vancouver Island University has been working in partnership with First Nation Communities to co-create and deliver a community-based program in resource management. VIU’s Stewardship Technicians Training Program (STTP) provides First Nations community members with applied skills and knowledge required for work in their communities in the growing field of resource stewardship. Specific work opportunities include Coastal Guardian Watchmen, fisheries technicians, heritage surveyors, or environmental monitors. The program offers industry-recognized certificates and university credits that can be applied to further studies.

The stories, pictures and videos below highlight the leadership of Coastal Guardian Watchmen and other technicians in protecting their territories, and show how the VIU’s Stewardship Technician Training Program (STTP) supports the resurgence of Indigenous laws and governance, and asserts the rights of Indigenous peoples to govern their territories. The STTP has been mentioned or profiled in a range of media outlets, including CBC Radio, The Northern View, and WHYY Magazine, and featured by several other organizations, such as the BC Government, Coast Funds, the Marine Plan Partnership for the North Pacific Coast, and The Nature Conservancy’s Indigenous Guardians Toolkit and our program partners both Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative and Nanwakolas Council. The links below are for several of the articles.



What this course has been teaching me is fundamental for the work I want to be doing in Bella Coola and my territory. It’s teaching me that I have to protect my territory and cherish it like a child, because if we take care of her, she will take care of us.
~Charles Saunders, Nuxalk Nation

I appreciate the opportunity to build on previous skills along with learning new ones in the STTP. The various courses have broadened my learning horizons and taught me how to better care for my homeland. I am grateful for all the other participants and the nations represented because they all help me to understand different views. Giaxsixa and I look forward to going home and putting my skills to use!
~Desiree Lawson, Heiltsuk Nation

The Stewardship Technician Training program is important to help preserve our lands. To keep our traditional foods healthy – preserving natural resources for tomorrow. The program helps to bring different First Nations together to work as one and to share different knowledge. Helping thy neighbor. I am excited to learn more, excited to work with the teachers and most of all to see all my classmates. This program has helped to develop another family for me – my Stewardship family. We all enjoy the same thing – working on our own Territories.
~Nicole Morven, Nisga’a Fisheries Technician, Cohort 2 Participant

One thing I like the most about the program [is that it] brings all the nations together from up and down the Coast and how all the Nations have so much in common. The second thing I like about it is how the STTP program brings so many people together and you’re scared to meet them- then you all become friends and as time goes on, everybody becomes family. It’s been 4 months now without seeing my STTP family and I miss them all. Third thing I like about the STTP program is how many great courses the STTP runs and how much you can learn and bring it back to your Homeland to to teach people or further your career and to tell our people about the STTP program and how much it has to offer to our people.
~Jordan Jones- SCH Haida Mapping, Cohort 2 Participant

“My interest lies in the cultural pieces, how to show others how our people have respected the land for generations, educating both non-Indigenous and Indigenous people on this respect for the land. Sometimes we run into people who are difficult and don’t want to follow the rules and then I remember the tips that we were taught.”

“As guardians, our roles are so huge and it’s so new – the possibilities are endless as to what we can do,” she says. “For me, being a guardian is being in my territory and being a steward of my Nation’s land. Thanks to this program, we are developing connections with other guardians up and down the Island, building a network of support.”
~Angela Davidson, Student STTP Cohort 2, Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation

STTP Instructors –Testimonials

As a First Nations elder and instructor with the FN Stewardship Technician Program, I have witnessed profound transformation of identity, pride, image and confidence among the students who completed this training. Through their reinforced Indigenous cultural awareness, paired with their technical training, the graduates contribute to the sustainable management and protection of natural resources within their homelands. I believe that this collaborative way of learning and growing is a best practice to model in the spirit of reconciliation today.
~Hilistis Pauline Waterfall, B.Educ, O.B.C. Instructor, Cultural Awareness and Program Cultural Advisor

The program has been a joy for me to be a part of, I have taught half of my RMOT 165 course (Compliance Communication and Resource Monitoring) last November in Prince Rupert. The 17 students came from a variety of communities along the central and north coast of BC. Many of these students met for the first time and have developed lifelong friendships and a professional network of Guardian Watchmen and Stewardship Technicians. I support the off campus, /on location model used in this program, as it keeps students closer to home and allows the host students to welcome the others into their traditional territory. There is much sharing and camaraderie in the classroom. I look forward in seeing these students again for the second half of my course and to meeting new cohorts this year.
~Greg Klimes, Honorary Research Associate and Academic Emeritus, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC

I found the students in Prince Rupert highly motivated to learn and a real pleasure to work with. The hands on learning experience and the final outcomes were very rewarding for both students and myself. It was great to go over theory of operation and have the motors available to validate what we had just gone over. I am certain that theory combined with hands on training is the best way to deliver this program in the hours allotted.
~Harold Wanke, Instructor, Small Marine Motors Servicing and Electrical Systems

Having the students be a cohort is an important aspect of the program’s success. There was an amazing bonding that happened between students as a result of spending so much time together. I see that this will benefit them professionally as now they have a solid and friendly relationship with colleagues in their areas. Teaching in community! Not everyone would sign up for classes that are at a University, or are too far from their home community. There was many benefits to the classes being held, largely in First Nations communities. Incorporating Elders into the classroom brings such value for the students.
~Tania Smethurst, Instructor Indigenous Portfolio Course

The Stewardship Technician Training Program (STTP) is an excellent opportunity to build capacity in land and water stewardship amongst aboriginal communities. As an instructor for the water, land and fish habitat modules, I have directly witnessed the transformation that takes place when these students learn something that can be related to a personal experience or from traditional knowledge. There is increased engagement and curiosity in ecosystems and monitoring them and an ambition to apply newly learned skills in their work. The students have shared positive feedback on the program with me, indicating the respect and awareness it has generated in their group. The experience the STTP provides is obviously empowering for the students, opening doors to a future of amazing experiences & lifelong curiosity for the natural world.
~Lora McAuley, Environmental Monitoring Certificate Instructor

STTP Coordinators

As the Community coordinator for the Stewardship Technician Training Program (STTP) I had the privilege and honour of working with the students in cohort one and two. The STTP was a success as we were able to embrace an indigenous, holistic learning model. This involved having elders in classes, classes within the communities, students teaching students, teachers learning from students, appropriate funding to support the students, and enabling local knowledge to support the learning objectives of each course. The STTP will have lasting impact on the students, communities and society as a whole. The students are now more confident, have increased their earning potential and can work in many different resource management fields. Some of the participants will go on to further their education and complete diplomas & degrees.
~Greg Johnson, Community Coordinator, Nanwakolas Council

In my role I have the privilege of working with VIU’s First Nations partners (Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative & Nanwakolas Council) and the communities they serve, the students and the instructors/faculty at the university. I fully endorse community based deliveries as there is no question in my mind that this flexible delivery model opens up opportunities for post-secondary education to many who had not considered it as a viable option. Regional deliveries which allow for a number of different Nation members to be involved as a cohort also helps bridge communities. Students do become families and describe it as such. Confidence and pride is gained when students recognize they are university students and are taking courses from university faculty. A number of the students are interested in continuing their post-secondary education after they leave the program and are supported to do so by both community and families.

What I also continue to observe is the significant learning the instructors gain from teaching in community-based programs. This holistic approach of teaching- inclusion of the Elders and placed based, hands-on learning inspires instructors to challenge themselves with their own teaching practices, not only with the community-based deliveries, but also with their teaching practice in on-campus classes. More and more non-Indigenous instructors are gaining the confidence to include more culturally appropriate curricula, allowing space for Indigenous perspectives and knowledge into the classroom and learning from the students and Elders. This is important for reconciliation.
~Sheila Cooper, Indigenous Community Engagement Coordinator, Vancouver Island University

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