Stewardship and Planning
“It is our obligation and birthright to be the caretakers and protectors of our land and waters.”
A large part of the stewardship and planning initiatives the Tsleil-Waututh Nation undertakes are based on extensive and ongoing traditional use studies. Data, ranging from species habitats to ancient travel and trade routes, energy infrastructure to sacred or ceremonial sites, are plotted and mapped for a number of reasons. It is done in order to first preserve traditional knowledge that might otherwise be lost, and second, to expand the body of traditional knowledge of the territory over time. Through speaking with community Elders, maintaining extensive databases on available resources, locating traditional use sites, and mapping them over time, the Nation has, in essence, painted a picture of the past that is used to inform the practices of the future. We combine this traditional knowledge, accumulated over thousands of years, with the best practices of modern land and natural resource management in order to form a complete and holistic approach to stewardship within our territory.
The stewardship work we do as a Nation is ongoing and broad. And we are not alone. We know that we have a wealth of knowledge and information to share. Through working cooperatively with partners, the agencies and organizations that have, since their arrival, become stakeholders within our territory, it is our aim to take the leadership we demonstrate beyond the boundaries of our community.
Just a few of the current stewardship initiatives we are currently working on cover our water, our forests and our fisheries. In working towards restoring our territory to the health of its prior state, we are fulfilling our obligation to our environment, and ensuring a home for future generations of Tsleil-Waututh people.
For the first time in the Nation’s history, the bounty of the Burrard Inlet, the food that has sustained the Nation for hundreds of generations, is unsafe to eat. It was said that when the tide went out, the table was set. But industrialization and urbanization of the Inlet’s shores have caused the waters to be polluted, disturbing the balance of the eco-system within our territory, causing harm to our food supplies, and deeply impacting our way of life.
Beginning in 1995, the Nation began regularly testing the waters of the Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver in order to monitor the safety and health of the area. The purpose of this testing and monitoring was not only to provide a baseline for the future measure of the health of the Inlet, but also realize other aspects of the Tsleil-Waututh vision. As we adopted new tools and to observe and gauge the health of what has always been our charge, we have built the capacity and skills base of our people. Through our action, we have developed relationships with partners and acted as an example to others of how to care for the environment.
The Tsleil-Waututh traditional territory was once clothed in a blanket of lush temperate forest, but has, since the 19th Century, been repeatedly deforested for industrial timber or to make room for urban sprawl. Old growth stands were replaced with immature trees, causing habitat loss for a number of species, thereby reducing the area in which we traditionally conducted food harvesting, hunting and ceremonial practices.
The Nation’s forest stewardship plan takes a holistic approach in keeping with our belief that the health of our environment is interconnected with the health of our people. The plan integrates economic, cultural, social and ecological objectives and our management process highlights six main goals
Our aims are:
1. to practice a high level of stewardship and conservation of the forest ecosystem;
2. to maintain and, where necessary, restore resources and opportunities for Tsleil-Waututh Nation activities and sustenance uses associated with the forest;
3. to create economic opportunities (revenue and/or employment) for the Tsleil-Waututh people;
4. to strengthen the skills and knowledge base of Tsleil-Waututh people in forest ecosystem management and the forestry sector;
5. to provide a positive example of sustainable forest resources stewardship;
6. to practice an adaptive management approach.
The strategies we use in our forest stewardship plans include steps that ensure that forested areas are maintained in ways that are commensurate with the values of the community and are always a manifestation of our vision for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Salmon has traditionally been the staple food of the Tsleil-Waututh people. The many different species available within the traditional territory at varying times throughout the year sustained us through winters when other foods were less available. Throughout the years, salmon stocks have undergone depletion due to pollution of the water, industrial fishing and habitat loss.
In order to enable salmon stocks to return to their former levels and restore the overall balance of the waters in our territory, the Nation has undertaken a number of projects, such as protecting intact areas, riparian restorations, flood plain stabilization, and species reintroduction.