» ‘People of the Inlet’ assert their vision in the Indian River Valley Ecotrust Canada
With the mountaintops of Tsleil-Waututh Territory in Indian Arm as a backdrop, Chief Leah George-Wilson tells a group of visitors about her First Nation's vision for their territory. "It is our community's goal to put the Tsleil-Waututh face back on the territory," says George-Wilson, a member of Ecotrust Canada's board of directors. "We've been here since time out of mind."

For most of the twentieth century, the community witnessed industrial degradation of the rich natural resources of the Indian River Valley, the core area of the Tsleil-Waututh Territory. “The valley had been heavily logged right from the river banks in one continuous clear-cut, with a series of eroded logging roads zigzagging up the steep hillside and landslides trailing downhill,” says Doug Hopwood, a professional forester with Ecotrust Canada.

In the 1990s, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation began implementing an ambitious strategy to regain control of the heartland of their territory. They envisioned a holistic, integrated approach to resource management focusing on the health of the valley and all of its intrinsic values. Because of Ecotrust Canada’s experience promoting conservation and local community control of natural resources, the Tsleil-Waututh recognized the organization as a valuable partner for achieving their strategy.

This strategy focuses on the restoration and healing of the land. For the past ten years, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation mapped their interests and vision for the territory, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). With planning expertise from Doug Aberley and additional GIS training from Ecotrust Canada, Tsleil-Waututh members created a bioregional atlas, another tool to help further the community’s interests.

George-Wilson says that partnerships remain an integral part of their strategy. “We are currently striving to have the entire 20,000-hectare watershed managed in an integrated and holistic manner. Ecotrust Canada plays an important part in this plan. As Tsleil-Waututh people, it is our responsibility and obligation to be stewards of our land and water. Our community takes this obligation seriously. We know who we are; we are the Tsleil-Waututh, the ‘People of the Inlet’.”