What can First Nations do to lead or participate in watershed governance?

For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have honoured, protected, and managed their lands and waters according to traditional laws and governance structures. Water is viewed not only as a source of life for all living things, but as inherently alive and with spirit. First Nations exercise rights and responsibilities related to water and engage in water governance in various ways, including:

  • Exerting inherent (Indigenous law) jurisdiction and authority in their territorial lands and waters, for example, by declaring water policies, laws, and strategies
  • Asserting Aboriginal and treaty rights as per Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act (1982)
  • Collaboratively managing traditional territories (where willing partners exist) through joint planning and decision-making processes
  • Managing reserve lands, including drinking water and wastewater infrastructure
  • Building nation-to-nation relationships and agreements with Canadian (Crown) governments
  • Collaborating with non-Indigenous groups on issues of shared concern.

For examples of Indigenous-led water governance, see the First Nations Fisheries Council report Protecting Water Our Way.