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In a section focused on biodiversity and the climate crisis, the 2021 federal budget shared in April contained a clear line: “Support Indigenous Guardians.” It was an explicit reference to the Guardians programs caring for lands across the country. The Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI), which bolsters Indigenous nationhood and culture via land stewardship and care, helps support the growing Guardians movement.

The nature conservation budget item, which proposed $2.5 billion over five years for climate and environmental work, acknowledged what has already been plain knowledge for centuries: Indigenous communities know best how to take care of the land and water. Guardians programs train individuals to be “the eyes and ears” of the land, speaking for their traditional territories in determining land and water use. Most importantly, the programs are run by and for Indigenous nations and their lands, rather than handed down from the federal government.

As the ILI’s Ethel Blondin-Andrew told Canada's National Observer earlier this year: “We have the fundamental traditional knowledge, we don’t have to build that. We can share it with (the rest of Canada). But prime minister, we need that money.”

As the climate crisis worsens and biodiversity is increasingly threatened, the need for strong, Indigenous-led stewardship has never been greater. How do we support this work?

Valérie Courtois and Dahti Tsetso, the ILI’s director and co-director, join Canada’s National Observer founder and editor-in-chief Linda Solomon Wood for an hour-long Conversations event on May 13 at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET. You can register for the event here.

Courtois, a member of the Ilnu community of Mashteuiatsh, brings to ILI her experience as a registered professional forester, along with roles as forestry adviser for the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and forestry planner for the Innu Nation.

Tsetso, Tłı̨chǫ Dene from Fort Simpson, N.W.T., helped to establish the Dehcho K'éhodi Stewardship and Guardians Program, along with the Edéhzhíe Dehcho Protected Area and National Wildlife Area, which is more than twice the size of Banff National Park.

How does Indigenous leadership and conservation figure into Canada’s climate future? Join Solomon Wood with Courtois and Tsetso for this exciting Conversations event. Subscribers are encouraged to send questions ahead of time to [email protected] for consideration.