First Nations Guardians

Funding supports First Nations to exercise their rights and responsibilities to the lands, waters, and ice of their traditional territories. It does this through on-the-ground, community-based stewardship initiatives.


The First Nations-Federal Joint Working Group on Guardians (JWG) governs the First Nations portion of Indigenous Guardians. The JWG is comprised of First Nations Guardians experts and federal representatives.

Joint Working Group Vision

First Nations’ Guardians are initiatives created and defined by First Nations. These initiatives serve as an expression of Nationhood and Cultural Responsibility to First Nations lands and waters. This Nation-based model of self-determination and reconciliation is premised on a shared understanding of responsibility, decision-making, connection and respect for Mother Earth.

Our vision gives rise to First Nations, governments, and communities to honour and fulfill our cultural responsibilities to our homelands. This model enables a true Nation-to-Nation partnership with the Government of Canada and provincial and territorial governments on responsible territorial land and marine stewardship.

The JWG is responsible for setting:

  • funding priorities;
  • assessment criteria;
  • selection and application processes;
  • evaluation methods and measurement; and
  • timelines.

The JWG also wants to:

  • empower First Nations through Guardians initiatives;
  • strengthen the connection between First Nations youth, Elders and knowledge keepers; and
  • promote a Nation-to-Nation partnership with the Government of Canada.

The Joint Working Group conducted an internal evaluation of the First Nations portion of the Indigenous Guardians Pilot to support a case for long-term funding for Indigenous Guardians and their professional recognition across Canada.

First Nations National Guardians Gathering 2019

The First Nations National Guardians Gathering 2019 was held on March 12-13, 2019, in Vancouver, British Columbia. There were over 340 participants in attendance, including Indigenous Guardians from across the country, ENGOs, industry, federal and provincial government representatives, as well as guests from foundations.

The Gathering provided an opportunity for First Nations Guardians to share their stories and best practices and promote the creation of a National Indigenous Guardians Network. Participants were able to discuss their cultural responsibilities as stewards of the land and the unique relationship between youth and Elders in learning and applying both modern science and traditional knowledge in this work. The Gathering was a great success, highlighting the importance and strength of Indigenous Guardians and their contribution to building a bright future in their communities.

Indigenous Leadership Initiative videos of the First Nations National Guardians Gathering 2019:

Application process

Applications for First Nations Guardians funding are currently closed. Details about future application processes are in development with First Nations partners. We invite you to consult this webpage regularly for more updates.

Tiered Funding Framework

In previous years, funding for First Nations Guardians has been allocated using a tiered approach.

Tier 1 – Informal/New Initiatives

  • These funds are dedicated to an individual community/Nation/organization for its Guardians initiative.
  • Tier 1 initiatives are envisioned to support research and planning processes for First Nations/communities or First Nation directed organizations to undertake the steps necessary to develop what their Guardians initiative or network could be and perhaps develop proposals to help fund their initiative or network in the future.
  • New/previous applicants to Tier 1 can apply, but funding in one year is not a guarantee of funding in a subsequent year.

Tier 2 – Emerging and Established Community-based Initiatives

  • These funds are dedicated to an individual community/Nation/organization for its Guardians initiative.
  • New/previous applicants to Tier 2 can apply, but funding in one funding period is not a guarantee of funding in a subsequent funding period.

Tier 3 – Emerging and Established Regional Networks

  • These funds are dedicated to a group of communities/Nations/organizations for its Guardians Network.
  • New/previous applicants to Tier 3 can apply, but funding in one funding period is not a guarantee of funding in a subsequent period.

Common Assessment Criteria amongst Tiers

  • Has a vision for the new/emerging/established Guardians initiative
  • Identifies species of concern to the community/Nation/organization and explains why they are considered as such
  • Identifies areas of concern to the community/Nation/organization and explains why they are considered as such
  • Provides a map of area for proposed Guardians work
  • Demonstrates an expression of authority
  • Explains the community/Nation/organization’s structure and associated level of support
  • Identifies clear and measurable objectives
  • Identifies risks and mitigation strategies in relation to identified objectives (when possible)
  • Has successfully completed past projects or activities supporting the Guardians initiative
  • Demonstrates capacity-building ability
  • Demonstrates interest in supporting employment opportunities within the community/Nation/organization
  • Demonstrates interest towards Youth inclusion in the design and implementation of the Guardians initiative
  • Supports Indigenous knowledge transfer/cultural inclusion/spirituality and language revitalization efforts within the Guardians initiative
  • Demonstrates interest towards Elders inclusion in the design, implementation and decision-making of the Guardians initiative
  • Demonstrates community and leadership support towards the Guardians initiative and has plans to maintain or expand this support
  • Has existing partnership(s)
  • Demonstrates efforts in developing partnerships
  • Has a detailed work plan that provides enough details on the tasks/activities that will help to achieve the stated objectives
  • Has a detailed budget that reflects both financial and non-financial contributions to the Guardians initiative and aligns with proposed activities
  • Has invested money in the budget in support of Guardians
  • Has letter(s) of support (e.g., Band Council Resolutions, Tribal Council Resolutions, and/or other letters of support) that demonstrate the Leadership’s understanding of the role and value Guardians can play to the Nation’s decision-making, governance and nationhood

Funded initiatives

See the Indigenous Guardians map for more information on previously funded initiatives.

For more information

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