Youth Knowledge Weaver Leads Restoration & Reclamation within W̱SÁNEĆ 2022 Summer Student Programs

This summer, the WLC’s Hannah Morris, in her role as Youth Knowledge Weaver, is leading the W̱SÁNEĆ 2022 Summer Student programs to support youth in learning about environmental restoration, to connect with other W̱SÁNEĆ youth as well as traditional W̱SÁNEĆ territory.

On a beautiful July day W̱SÁNEĆ Youth, led by Youth Knowledge Weaver, Hannah Morris, out on Russell Island with the HLRS (Cowichan) and W̱SÁNEĆ sea garden restoration team

Hannah Morris is the Youth Knowledge Weaver at the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council (WLC). As a part of this position, she organizes restoration and reclamation work in collaboration with Parks Canada. She is passionate about reconnecting W̱SÁNEĆ youth with the traditional places of their ancestors. 

For the summer program, Hannah is planning several day trips to one of the traditional sea garden sites on Sidney Island. The activities and frequency of these summer trips will vary and are available to W̱SÁNEĆ youth with an interest in restoration and traditional knowledge keeping. In the months of June and July, there was continuous bivalve monitoring, a survey of the general health and abundance of clams, during low tide in the sea gardens. 

This initiative is the beginning of many initiatives intended to reclaim and restore the ancient W̱SÁNEĆ sea and land management practices. The sea gardens in W̱SÁNEĆ territory are over 3000 years old. Traditionally, W̱SÁNEĆ people would build and maintain a rock wall that creates a reef-like habitat to support clams, kelp, fish, and other food sources to thrive. As Hannah describes it, the process of restoration and clam garden maintenance involves “Cleaning up the top of the kelp beds to keep the clams breathing, flipping the sand, cleaning the beach, and putting our footprint back in our territory.” Other sea garden maintenance activities include fluffing the sediment to ensure adequate levels of oxygen reach clams and other shellfish.

While Parks Canada also has a monitoring project on the beach at the sea gardens, Hannah has also brought in traditional Knowledge Holders as part of her initiative. Elders will participate by bringing their valuable knowledge and experiences relating to W̱SÁNEĆ land to share with the youth and Western Scientists. Hannah’s work unites W̱SÁNEĆ community members of all ages around common goals, especially that of reconnecting with traditional cultural, knowledge and territories. 

These trips to traditional territory were planned after many months of meetings between the WLC and Parks Canada that took place earlier this year. In her role as Youth Knowledge Weaver, Hannah is actively making new connections and working hard to expand these types of opportunities for youth. For example, Hannah is currently in talks with Tsawout fisheries and Shauna Johnson, the WLC’s Marine Use Planner to include W̱SÁNEĆ youth and elders in other restoration and cultural activities within the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR).

Indeed, the sea garden restoration project is just one of many youth oriented initiatives organized by the WLC. Another initiative, underway for its third year, is the SX̱OLE (Reef Net Fishing) Project, centred on the traditional fishing practice outlawed by the colonial government for one hundred years. The reef nets were an important economic engine in W̱SÁNEĆ culture, providing an ample, sustainable food source. In this youth-led initiative, Knowledge Keepers work with youth to research, source materials, develop and launch a historically accurate reef net.

Another WLC project, the Fur to Forest initiative, is an additional opportunity for youth to participate in restoration of W̱SÁNEĆ land. The project centers around controlling invasive fallow deer species populations to facilitate the restoration of native plants within the delicate forest ecosystems. Relating to this initiative, Hannah is actively meeting with a social scientist at Parks Canada, to provide summer students with the opportunity to visit, restore, harvest, and monitor the Sidney Island environment. 

This partnership with Parks Canada, and other initiatives like it, are a core strategy in meeting the WLC’s goals. Developing co-management agreements with organizations, the government, and corporations who currently operate on W̱SÁNEĆ land and seas will increase W̱SÁNEĆ self-determination and ability to exercise Douglas Treaty Rights

These Youth Led initiatives also help the WLC achieve its mandate in that restorative environmental activities strengthen W̱SÁNEĆ people’s connection to W̱SÁNEĆ land, traditional practices, and knowledge, guided by W̱SÁNEĆ ancient methods of managing the environment. 

In addition to helping to execute the WLC mandate to promote W̱SÁNEĆ culture, youth-led initiatives are also critical to build trust and connections amongst W̱SÁNEĆ youth from different communities. Strengthening the bonds of youth to each other and culture are important steps to ensure the W̱SÁNEĆ worldview and natural laws will continue for many generations. Finally, this initiative works as a stepping stone to repair the relationship between Parks Canada and the W̱SÁNEĆ nation.

For youth over 13 interested in participating in youth-led restoration and reclamation work, please click here to add your name to the waitlist

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