My journey into relationship with Cowichan Tribes

On the boat in Cowichan Tribes marine territory. Image: Khalid Boudreau

As someone who is displaced from their homelands, I personally have a lot to learn about how to live here in a good way from Indigenous Nations. I was lucky enough to be together in person recently with staff from Cowichan Tribes’ Lulumexun Department.

I’m feeling the gravity of it all. I’m feeling humble.

And in embracing that and my role at GSA, I am working alongside the Lulumexun Department—the branch of government dedicated to lands and self-governance—to ascertain and refine the marine priorities of the community’s youth. It is these priorities, in part, that will influence and inform how the Nation governs their marine territory.

On the water

While in community, I partook in a boat tour of some of the Nation’s marine territories. We visited an area where hydrophones are being installed as part of a conservation strategy for Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW).

The initiative, localized in the Sansum Narrows, will establish a baseline of noise emitted from pleasure and industrial watercraft in one of the most important transit areas for these whales. It will determine to what extent SRKWs may already be experiencing harmful levels of noise pollution; it will also provide interesting insights into orca behaviour.

While on the water, stories were shared with me about these homelands, including the history of some of the local mountains and boulders, reinforcing the essence of timeless teachings from people who have known these waters since time immemorial.

I could feel the care, the love, and the memory that accompanied that knowledge.

Conservation requires addressing basic needs

Healthy ecosystems are the base on which all communities depend. They can feed us, provide us water, and keep our homes safe from extreme weather. Indigenous peoples have always known that this type of thriving can only happen with this holistic vision of collective health.

Consider that stewardship of Cowichan Tribes marine territories could provide food security for the entire community—and it is one of the largest in the region, with more than 5,500 members, including a large percentage of members younger than 35. Healthier coastlines will also make those who live near them much more resilient to phenomena like rising sea levels and stronger storms.

With all of the human activities taking place in, on, and around the shores of the Salish Sea, we have to find ways to coexist with the land and these waters.

GSA’s role and my hope

The community is leading this marine initiative, and they have very clear goals. GSA is mainly partnering as a facilitator. Our role is to support the identification of youth priorities in marine planning and conservation, and subsequently to facilitate mapping out diverse pathways that will enable these options to come to fruition.

This particular piece of the process will culminate in a large youth Marine Forum in the Fall. However, my hope is that this journey is the beginning of a much longer and sustained relationship; one that speaks to the type of work that we hope to do at GSA. It is our aim that GSA continue to mobilize resources, public outreach, and supporters to advance shared values of healthy ecosystems that enable healthy communities.

Support our work with Cowichan Tribes

Sign this petition in support of restoring the Cowichan River estuary

Image of Cowichan estuary with text overlay: Support restoration of the Cowichan/Koksilah estuary

Header image: Sansum narrows, where the Cowichan Tribes hydrophone project is taking place. Credit: Khalid Boudreau


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *