Our Voices

Antje Rilk

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Supports Indigenous Guardians

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative is honoured to receive a grant from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in support of Indigenous Guardians Programs. The foundation is committed to promoting conservation, defending Indigenous rights and addressing climate change. Indigenous Guardians Programs advance all of these aims, and the grant will help strengthen and spread this powerful model of Indigenous stewardship in Canada.

Guardians help Indigenous Nations care for the land, as is their sacred responsibility. They enforce both Indigenous and Crown laws. They study wildlife, test water quality and monitor industrial projects like mines, forestry and commercial fisheries. They manage Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and implement Indigenous land use plans. And they help make communities more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Nihat’ni Dene guardians help manage the land and water for the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation in the NWT. (Photo by Pat Kane)

Their work is guided by western and Indigenous science. Wisdom keepers call on them to manage the land based not only on what the data say today, but also on what cultural teachings envision for future generations.

The grant awarded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will advance this work. It will support communities in the Northwest Territories and Manitoba as they embark on setting the conditions for success for Guardians programs.

Together we will explore the role of regional hubs within the National Indigenous Guardians Network. Guardians programs working within a similar landscape can benefit from sharing data about caribou, salmon or other migratory species, communicating about shifting conditions like fires or algae blooms, and creating education and training programs on common concerns. Collaboration across communities will create the most efficient use of funds and the deepest exchange of knowledge and will create the conditions to demonstrate the Nationhood-building benefits of guardians.

We are grateful to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for their support of Indigenous Guardians—and the lands they care for. Guardians do this work not just for the benefit of their communities, but for all who depend on clean waters, abundant animals and a stable climate.

Tshinishkumitin, LDF, for contributing to the realization of our collective dream of having strong Indigenous Nations enabled to fulfill their cultural responsibilities to lands and water and the species that rely on a healthy environment.