This year the Howe Sound/Atl’ka7tsem Marine Reference Guide was grateful to have Jonathan Williams and Nolan Rudkowsky, members of the Squamish Nation, join our team as Indigenous youth project leaders. Jonny is currently a student at SFU completing a First Nations Studies program, and Nolan is working at the youth centre in Squamish. Having both spent their youth around Atl’ka7tsem (Squamish Nation place name for Howe Sound), fishing, swimming, running on the shores and canoeing, Jonny and Nolan connect deeply to this region and understand the need to protect it in the face of growing pressures: “It’s a beautiful area and should be cared for,” Jonny once said. These internships were supported by the Vancouver Foundation’s Youth Level Granting program.
As Indigenous youth project leaders, Jonny and Nolan worked with community and project mentors to outline strategies for elevating Indigenous youth voices and participation in marine stewardship and spatial planning, while acknowledging and respecting the confidentiality and cultural sensitivity of Indigenous knowledge and values. During their internship, Jonny and Nolan participated in regional workshops and events, including a community forum, a workshop on sustainable development goals, an ethnobotany workshop, and a salmon release event. They also chaired monthly meeting with Squamish Nation mentors, and led three incredibly meaningful activities that increased Indigenous youth engagement and connectivity with Atl’ka7tsem and ocean health. These included a canoe journey to and shoreline clean-up at Kwum Kwum (Defense Islands), a boat trip to culturally important places in Atl’ka7tsem, and a workshop to discuss the roles of Indigenous youth in championing regional stewardship initiatives.
Through these activities, Jonny and Nolan helped build trust and inspire communities throughout Atl’ka7tsem to protect ocean health. They also began conversations that will continue to grow and develop into actions throughout the rest of the Marine Reference Guide’s process. For example, the Guide seeks to build upon the ideas proposed by Jonny and Nolan to build a stewardship model in Atl’ka7tsem based off the successful Guardian Watchmen Program on the central and north coasts of British Columbia. This initiative provides a model for Indigenous led stewardship that involves monitoring, protecting, and restoring cultural and ecological values in coastal territories, and ensuring that traditional and contemporary Indigenous and non-Indigenous laws are respected and followed.
Jonny and Nolan: thank you for being a part of our team, adding so much value to this project, and inspiring Atl’ka7tsem’s communities to accomplish meaningful change and protect ocean health. The Howe Sound/Atl’ka7tsem Marine Reference Guide is grateful to be working in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation, and it is a joy to work with you in our journey to protect the aquatic ecosystem health of this beautiful and cherished region, Atl’ka7tsem.