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In 2013, the BCIT School of Construction and the Environment, Rivers Institute and Squamish Nation Education Department collaborated in the joint delivery of a pilot First Nations Guardian Ecological Restoration training program. The course ran from July 8 through to Aug 30, 2013 and was taught by BCIT Rivers Institute, Sustainable Resource Management and Fish, Wildlife and Recreation instructors, Squamish Nation educators, and several recent graduates of BCIT’s Ecological Restoration Program, as well as a professional teacher on contract for guidance on program delivery. Students attended classes at the Eshlha7an Learning Center in North Vancouver, the BCIT Burnaby campus and the BCIT Wood Lot in Maple Ridge.

The objective of this pilot Guardian Training program was to introduce Squamish Nation students to the theory and practice of ecological restoration, and to train Squamish Nation members to perform this important work long-term. Timing of the pilot program capitalized on the restoration of Tl’alhemá7elkw MacKay Creek estuary in 2013, which was funded by the City of North Vancouver, Seaspan, Living Rivers and the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. The pilot training program provided Squamish learners with skills to secure jobs aligned with ecological restoration of their traditional territory. In the long term, this program hopes to inspire Squamish members to secure diplomas and degrees in ecological restoration, and to eventually perform the work required within Squamish Nation Traditional Territory instead of seeing it outsourced to non-Aboriginal entities.

Additionally, the curriculum include unique components such as identifying Squamish language for indigenous flora and fauna, as well as knowledge of the area as seen from a Squamish cultural and historical perspective.

Students who successfully completed the program received a BCIT Statement of Completion for the summer program and 9 credits on a BCIT transcript. Students also received separate certificates in Chainsaw Safety, Occupational First Aid, and ATV Safety. Students accumulated 90 hours of field experience and will be able to present their achievements to consultants operating within the Squamish traditional territory to possibly secure other Ecological Restoration work.

This pilot program is designed to be delivered in-community in modules, and can be custom tailored to suit Indigenous Guardian programs throughout BC, should sufficient interest and additional funding become available in the future.