It’s not hard to do things the right way, says long-time K’òmoks Guardian Watchman Cory Frank. “Based on my experience,” says Cory, “the best thing to do if you have a project or something you want to do in the territory, is come and talk to us.”
It’s a pretty simple formula for best practice on conducting business, recreational activities or yourself in First Nations territory: think ahead, and speak to the First Nation before you make any decisions or get too far along in your planning.
“We may have different views about what you want to do,” says Cory, “so it’s important to come and talk to us early on.” The big thing, he adds, is to be prepared. “Before you come to us, learn about us. Educate yourself on the issues that affect us and affect the territory here. Look at our website, look at the Ha-ma-yas website – it’s all there. It’s not hard.”
Partnerships = positive progress
In late 2016, in The Snowball Effect, Cory spoke about the high value of partnerships in successful stewardship in the K’òmoks First Nation’s territory:
“Put plainly, it’s the reason we are so successful. We work hard to maintain contact with the many organizations we are lucky enough to work with, we introduce ideas for new projects to them constantly, and we join forces to obtain funding for projects we all have the same interest in achieving. Our goals are usually the same, so that works well.”
With this in mind the K’òmoks Guardian Watchmen have continued to work hard on partnerships and outreach over 2017 and into 2018. K’òmoks are embarking this year on a study of the impact of microplastics on fish stocks with the Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards. The First Nation is also continuing to work with local stewardship group, Project Watershed, to place signage and guide tourists and school groups through the K’òmoks Estuary. “It’s a real education for people about not only the First Nation, but marine and aquatic life in the estuary,” says Cory. “People just love it, especially the tourists.”
That educational component of the job is very important, adds Cory: “We teach people about what we do and why we do it, and we also let people know if something they are doing is not preferred. That’s going really well. People are responsive to that.”
Bayside Road Beach: a successful conclusion
One of K’òmoks First Nations other successful partnerships with provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure senior biologist, Sean Wong, has also resulted in a great outcome for the First Nation and other people enjoying the beauty and peace of Bayside Road Beach on K’òmoks Estuary.
In 2016, with the assistance of Wong, the K’òmoks Guardian Watchmen oversaw a major restoration of the beach to protect further erosion of an ancestral burial site and midden at the site. A careful stabilization strategy survived the first winter, with no more bones exposed by storms and wave action.
Now, after a second winter of storms, Cory is satisfied the beach and its contents will be safe for at least another century: “The Ministry of Transportation donated more materials, and the area is now covered with grass, reclaiming about three-quarters of an acre of land. It is now totally green above the beach. You wouldn’t even know there are burials there now,” he concludes with satisfaction.
Looking ahead to another busy year
2018 promises to be no less busy for Cory and his fellow K’òmoks Guardian Watchmen. They will be busy continuing public outreach and building partnerships. Kelp and eelgrass monitoring is on the agenda, as is raising of totem poles on Hornby Island. “That’s going to be pretty awesome,” says Cory.
Along with their fellow Guardians working with other First Nations along the Vancouver Island coast, K’òmoks will also be continuing to locate, map and work on protection of precious archaeological sites in the territory. “Spending time last summer out on the islands was amazing. That is such an important part of the work. Understanding and protecting the history is what connects us to a better future for the next generation and for everyone we work with.”