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NWCC chosen as partner in Provincial Coastal Guardian/Watchmen Training Program

NWCC has been chosen by the Sierra Club of Canada (BC Chapter) and the QQS Project Society (Heiltsuk Nation) to partner in developing and delivering a First Nations Guardian/Watchmen Training program for central and north coast communities in BC. The Coastal Guardian/Watchmen Training project has the support of the Coastal First Nations Turning Point Initiative - a regional body representing a number of coastal communities. "The Sierra Club is excited and encouraged by Northwest Community College joining the project team to develop the Coastal Guardian/Watchmen Training Program" says Claire Hutton, the First Nations Outreach Coordinator for the Sierra Club of Canada, BC Chapter. "This program will be based on the needs of First Nations from the North and Central Coast and will serve to build capacity and strengthen First Nations role in the effective management and stewardship of their traditional territories." The purpose of the Coastal Guardian/Watchmen Training project is to address an issue articulated by coastal First Nations communities - the need to build the capacity of community-based resource practitioners to ensure sustainable resource management practices are being implemented and adhered to on the central and north coasts of British Columbia. Guardian programs, also referred to as Watchmen programs, are a mechanism through which First Nations are the "eyes and ears" on the land and water to monitor and ensure that activities and practices within their territories are responsible and consistent with community plans and government regulations. "This is the right kind of program for the College to be offering," comments Ken Downs, who has been designated the project's Curriculum Development Specialist. "We have experience and success working with First Nations communities on programs aimed at cultural, environmental and community sustainability - from the First Nations Land Stewardship and First Nations Public Administration programs to the Kitlope Field School and the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art. The First Nations Coastal Guardian/Watchmen Training program will enable the integration of traditional environmental knowledge of First Nations people with existing natural resource management curriculum to produce a program that will benefit communities and enhance the skills and knowledge base pertaining to environmental and community sustainability." Program development will be done in partnership with a broad-based Community Advisory Group with representatives from communities on the North and Central Coast. Jacinda Mack (Nuxalk) has been hired as the program's Community Liaison to facilitate participation and input from First Nations in the region, traveling to Skidegate, Masset, Kitamaat Village, Metlakatla, Hartley Bay, Klemtu, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Wuikinuxv Village, and others. The program itself will initially consist of a one-year Certificate, followed by the development of a second year Diploma. Certificate level courses will include core courses addressing areas such as natural resource management, cultural knowledge, safety and communications, and skills related to effective monitoring. Diploma level courses will be specialized and focus on knowledge and skills specific to monitoring activities in forestry, fisheries, and/or parks and tourism. "This partnership reflects the new reality that First Nations people are in control of our own destiny," states Larry Jorgenson, QQS (Eyes) Projects Society. "This applies not only to monitoring and managing our traditional territories but also to being an integral part of developing the training and education programs to give us the capacity to do that. It is encouraging that NWCC recognizes this new reality and has become a willing partner with First Nations to move beyond the imposed models of education that have failed us in the past." "The College is committed to supporting the education goals of not only the First Nations communities we serve but those within the Province and beyond," states NWCC President, Stephanie Forsyth. "This unique program acknowledges the traditions and wisdom of First Nations and will help to ensure that their lands and culture remains intact for generations to come."

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