Guardian and Watchmen programs
Based on the Australian model, the Indigenous Guardians program supports Indigenous land management and oversight in their territories based on a cultural responsibility for the land.
The program provides training and career opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to work as equal partners with governments and industry on the protection and management of land and resources.
Three human figures wearing high hats are often carved at the very top of Haida poles. These Haida watchmen once stood sentinel over the village. The symbol of the three carved watchmen was adopted by the Haida for the Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program at Gwaii Haanas.
The Watchmen offer a first-hand introduction to Haida culture. They are Haida men and women of all ages who share their knowledge of the land and the sea, as well as stories, songs, and traditional foods.
For many visitors, meeting the Watchmen is the most memorable part of a trip to Haida village sites.
As the traditional guardians of the lands and waters, Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, and Pacheedaht Guardians work with Parks Canada to care for the trails and protect the land and visiting hikers. An encounter with a West Coast Trail Guardian might include a story told by the fire, a song, or a simple exchange between hikers and Guardians that will create a memory to last a lifetime.
Broken Group Islands Beach Keepers
The Broken Group Islands are made up of over 100 islands, islets and scattered rocky outcrops, surrounding the Reserves and traditional territories of the Tseshaht First Nation and Hupacasath First Nation. Toquaht Nation and Uchucklesaht Tribe also have treaty rights within the park.
The Broken Group Islands are rich in human, natural, and cultural history as well as resources. Parks Canada works closely with the Tseshaht First Nation to care for this place and share its significance with visitors. Beach Keepers, who welcome visitors and provide advice and safety information, continue a legacy borne out of ancient protocol.
Inspired by other Guardian and Watchmen programs at cooperatively managed places, Parks Canada is currently working with the Franklin Interim Advisory Committee on the development of a Guardians Program for the wrecks of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in 2018.
This summer, community members from Gjoa Haven and Parks Canada staff will be visiting proposed Guardian camp locations near both wreck sites.
The Guardians program will involve Inuit in the protection and monitoring of the wreck sites and contribute to further integrating Inuit knowledge into Parks Canada’s operations. The Guardians will be working closely with Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team during their work at HMS Erebus this summer. They will help scout potential locations and establish trial base camps that could be used to support future archeological work.
Eventually, the Guardians will play a key role in hosting visitors to the wreck sites – sharing knowledge and Inuit culture and presenting the Franklin story as well as monitoring the two wreck sites.