Besides being designed to prevent that sense of repeating lessons in isolation, the Toolkit aims to inspire Indigenous communities to think big—and consider how Indigenous guardian programs can make their time-honoured work of caring for their territories that much more visible, formalized, and influential. To that end, it’s enriched by reflections from leaders like Shawn Atleo A-in-chut, a hereditary chief of the Ahousaht First Nation:
I feel pride in the Ahousaht stewardship guardians knowing we are once again, as our ancestors did, taking care of the land and waters. Knowing that by doing so, it is an expression of our laws. For generations to come the lands and waters will continue to care for us.
The Toolkit is very much an open-source project in the sense that all of the information in it is intended to be used, modified, copied, printed, downloaded, shared, and augmented by Indigenous communities according to their unique circumstances and priorities. Readers of the Toolkit are encouraged to join and contribute to its official Facebook group.
In light of the fact that the term “Indigenous Guardians” doesn’t necessarily resonate with everyone, the Toolkit emphasizes that it is really a placeholder for whatever terms Indigenous communities prefer—such as guardians, watchers, watchmen, monitors, rangers, and observers—when speaking about their members that occupy “eyes and ears” roles on their traditional territories. The real focus of the Tookit is on the practical, hands-on work that Indigenous Guardians do, and have done for millennia.
Such practicalities include the critical question of how Indigenous Guardian programs can access funding. On this, the Toolkit quotes Doug Neasloss, Chief Councillor and Resource Stewardship Director of the Kitasoo / Xai’xais First Nation:
We pursue funds from anywhere and everywhere including Band Council, Coast Funds, community fundraising, non-profit partners, and university partners. We are always looking for more secure funding for core positions.
“We are really excited to see this very impressive resource completed and launched,” Brodie Guy, Executive Director of Coast Funds. “The Indigenous Guardians Toolkit is also sure to be a definitive source for communities developing Indigenous Guardians programs, from to Pacific to the Arctic to the Atlantic Ocean.”