On the water with land guardians

Written by Candace Dow

The Ross River Land Guardian canoe training was a long-awaited trip for all of us. Like so many plans from the last year, it was halted and redirected to 2022 to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. 

Over 70 communities across Canada have Land Guardian programs. Guardians are the “moccasins and mukluks” on the ground in their communities. They manage protected areas, restore wildlife and plant populations, carry out water quality control, and monitor development sites. What they do is key to responsible land stewardship and brings jurisdictional authority back to Indigenous Nations.


Photo by Adil Darvesh.

The Ross River Dena Council in southeast Yukon is working to expand the role of Land Guardians. They have completed planning and are en route to establishing an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA). Current Guardians steward their land and water, ensuring what happens on the land aligns with their values and practices.

We partnered with Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) to bring canoe training to Ross River (Tū Łī́dlini in Kaska). Y2Y works to promote healthy landscapes from Yellowstone to Yukon, including healthy communities, connectivity, and knowledge sharing.

This summer the training was met with a few challenges, but any good adventure usually is! We had such a huge snowpack last winter, bringing high water well into the summer months. And since this was also the first summer without Covid restrictions, both the instructors and participants had many things on the go!

Between the Guardians and some brave youth, 7 participants went out on Whiskers Lake for the first day of training. It is always nice to see so many youths interested and taking part in connecting back to the land and gaining some water safety skills. 

On the water with land guardians

Photo by Adil Darvesh.

We are hopeful for a final training day this fall. The goal for the final day will be to experience the river just as the Guardians would on an actual patrol. Navigating rivers can be a challenge, but with real-time training, Guardians can learn about exact locations they need to be aware of when out on patrol and safely steward their lands and waters. We are grateful to everyone that made this happen. 

To the Land Guardians, thank you for doing such important work! Happy Paddlin’