Human Elements: Reviving Indigenous methods of habitat restoration

The Guardian Watchmen, a group of Wei Wai Kum First Nations citizens, use traditional methods to protect Vancouver Island's fragile ecosystems.

Years of destructive logging practices and foraging Canadian geese have destroyed much of the vegetation in the estuary of the Campbell River on Vancouver Island, the intertidal grasses that line its banks stripped away.

But where there was once just mud now lies an emerging ecosystem, and it was designed with age-old technology. 

The restoration is the work of the Guardian Watchmen, a group, founded in 2019, of Wei Wai Kum First Nations citizens who work to protect the land and sea. “It's kind of an honor to work for your people to represent them,” says Guardian Watchman Program Manager Karl Smith. 

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To repair the estuary and keep the geese out, they built wooden fences that mimic the cultural weaving and technology of their ancestors. As vegetation comes back, it will protect juvenile fish in the intertidal areas. “It brings back, you know, visions of how it was once was,” Smith says. “Our First Nations relatives used this technology, and it helped them sustain life for thousands of years.”

The Guardians hope they will set an example for others, not just First Nations, to help preserve and protect their environment. 

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