A special ceremony to mark the beginning of a brand new forestry training program that was two years in the making took place at Fraser River Heritage Park earlier this week.
The Indigenous Guardians Training Program is a six-week course developed by the City in close partnership with Kwantlen First Nation, Leq’a:mel First Nation, Matsqui First Nation, and the Mission Public School District.
Program participants will learn about forestry field training in tree and plant identification, forest ecology, forest health, stream classification, as well as Guardians-specific training in archaeology and Cultural Plant identification. The course is taking place at Riverside College, with training provided by Stillwater Consulting Ltd.
Graduates of the program will be working within lands located in the shared territories of the Kwantlen, Leq’a:mel, and Matsqui First Nations. Some of the roles for Guardians include environmental and fire patrol, cultural interpretation, archaeology fieldwork, managing cultural trees and plants, and stream assessment and rehabilitation.
“We value our growing relationship with the City of Mission and look forward to ways we can be involved in this important initiative and lend support and guidance where we can,” said Kwantlen First Nation Chief Marilyn Gabriel. “The role of Guardians is an important one as they are connected to protecting and safe-guarding areas in our shared territories. 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.”
“Leq’á:mel First Nation is pleased to partner with, support, and participate in the City of Mission’s Guardians Training Program,” said Leq’á:mel First Nation Councillor Phil Sherwood. “Not only will it provide learning and employment opportunities for our members, it will build capacity for Leq’á:mel First Nation Guardians to improve monitoring within our Territory. This training program represents an important step in relationship building and reconciliation between Leq’á:mel First Nation and the City of Mission.”
“Collaboration and working together is a good step towards building a positive relationship for the Matsqui First Nation and City of Mission,” said Matsqui First Nation Chief Alice McKay. “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. Matsqui First Nation appreciates these relationships.”
“It’s rewarding to see this partnership taking place,” said City of Mission Mayor Paul Horn. “It will benefit our environment, help us all share valuable and traditional teachings, and create new career opportunities for people in the shared territories.”
“The start of this program represents a culmination of two years of collaborative effort between the City and the Kwantlen, Leq’a:mel, and Matsqui Nations,” says Chris Gruenwald, Director of Forestry at the City of Mission. “I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the Nations, City staff, and Stillwater Consulting to bring this program to fruition. We also very much appreciate the support of our City Council, the Board of Mission Public Schools, and Riverside College in helping to get this program up and running. We look forward to continuing the development of this program into the future.”
Funding for this initiative was provided by the Union of BC Municipalities’ through its Community Resiliency Initiative program.
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