Transformation Pole, DuncanTransformation Pole, carved Harvey Alphonse and Nelson Canute of the Cowichan Tribes. Photo credit: Claire Sauvage-Mar, 2021.


The Indigenous Watershed Champions Initiative (IWCI) is a pilot program that offers culturally appropriate leadership needs for effective watershed governance in BC. 

There are a growing number of Indigenous-led and co-governed watershed initiatives across BC. These initiatives are grounded in traditional knowledge and cultural values to better cultivate Indigenous leadership and respond uniquely to the watershed challenges confronting Indigenous communities and governments. While approaches vary significantly from region to region, each Indigenous-led or government-to-government watershed governance initiative involves a broad spectrum of competencies, including:

  • identifying priority water challenges;
  • creating new decision-making tables;
  • developing collaborative plans and solutions;
  • applying Indigenous and Crown water laws and policies;
  • community engagement;
  • strategic planning;
  • cross-cultural collaboration;
  • conflict resolution; and
  • communications.

The articulation and communication of Indigenous laws, knowledge systems and traditional decision-making processes are especially critical to build Indigenous capacity for self-determination in watershed governance and for effective engagement in Nation-to-Nation processes with the Crown.

The IWCI is designed to support existing and emerging Indigenous leaders who are working at the heart of innovative watershed governance initiatives. This initiative offers participants:

  • a support network of mentors, Watersheds BC staff and advisors, and other water leaders and experts;
  • tailored support and training from staff and advisors for specific challenges or opportunities in their watershed governance work; and
  • connections to colleagues active in similar initiatives and opportunities for peer-learning.

For the duration of 2021, the IWCI is partnering with 4 participants across 2 Nations. As we learn from this evolving initiative, we hope to scale this work to involve more participants and Nations.