Applied Reconciliation: Indigenous Partnership Building

Applied Reconciliation: Indigenous Partnership Building
Applied Reconciliation refers to our water stewardship actions in Canada’s unceded traditional Territories of Indigenous People.


Applied Reconciliation refers to our water stewardship actions in Canada’s unceded traditional Territories of Indigenous People. We work to align our water stewardship with Indigenous People’s priorities to develop a cross-cultural approach to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous People, government and policy makers. We value intergenerational work, Indigenous ways of knowing, and the interweaving of this knowledge for collective water monitoring priorities.


Meaningful collaborations and partnerships with Indigenous People regarding water stewardship priorities.


Relationships are the foundation of Living Lakes Canada’s approach to water science and stewardship.  

Living Lakes Canada was built on relationships, which are the core of our strategy for achieving water sustainability; relationships with local communities, Indigenous and settler, as well as relationships with the lands and waters where we carry out our water stewardship activities. This is the story of how the relationships we have developed foster our collective successes in water stewardship through applied reconciliation; reconciliation between Indigenous and settler communities and reconciliation between all people and the planet.

  • 2024 - Living Lakes Canada is working with Upper Nicola Band and the Government of Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada to develop a State of the Watershed report with restoration recommendations for the Nicola Watershed. This work will involve lake water quality investigations, cyanobacteria monitoring, Foreshore Integrated Management Planning, river and stream health assessments, biodiversity baseline studies, and invasive species habitat assessments to get a holistic picture of the health of the watershed.
  • 2024 - Living Lakes Canada is collaboratively raising funds with local partners in the Yukon Territory including the Government of Yukon and local First Nations governments to support their lakes monitoring initiative that Living Lakes Canada has been facilitating. The request follows the “Celebrating The Lakes” event convened by Living Lakes Canada in December 2023 where a community-led data portal with a focus on Indigenous data sovereignty and governance was a main recommendation made by participants.
  • 2024 - Living Lakes Canada has partnered with the Piikani Nation to pilot new groundwater detection technology for the establishment of a community-focused groundwater monitoring framework in Alberta. This project is using the Oldman River Watershed as a pilot area, with the intention of expanding into the Bow River Basin and the rest of Alberta in the future.
  • 2024 - Living Lakes Canada delivered an environmental DNA (eDNA) training to Simpcw Resources Group and Simpcw First Nation in collaboration with Jared Hobbs (J. Hobbs Ecological Consulting Ltd.) and the Helbing lab (University of Victoria) as part of the iTrackDNA project. Participants learned applications and considerations of using eDNA methods while gaining practical experience with sample collection.
  • 2023-2024 - Living Lakes Canada has been building collaborative relationships with other environmental stewardship NGOs that prioritize Reconciliation in the quarterly dialogues led by Watersheds BC. These conversations explore how NGOs can apply UNDRIP to our environmental stewardship work.
  • 2023-2024 - Living Lakes Canada is monitoring stream flow on Madias Creek in the Upper Kootenay Hydrologic Region at the request of ʔakisq̓nuk. Living Lakes Canada has also selected monitoring sites in the Lower Columbia-Kootenay Hydrologic Region based on feedback from Okanagan Nation Alliance.
  • 2022-2024 - Living Lakes Canada continues support for yaqan nuʔkiy in monitoring two sites on the Goat River in the Creston Valley where agricultural pressure, forestry and climate impacts are affecting water supply, as well as monitoring tributaries and groundwater levels, which are contributing to their study.
  • 2022-2024 - Living Lakes Canada is continuing to monitor groundwater, stream flow, lake level and climate with Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi 'it to support their restoration and watershed stewardship initiatives.
  • 2022-2024 - In partnership with the Upper Nicola Band, Living Lakes Canada co-developed and is field testing the Indigenous Knowledge and Values Framework for Foreshore Integrated Management Planning on Nicola Lake, showcasing how Indigenous Knowledge and Western science can holistically align and be applied to decision making together. The framework is a template for the application of Nation-specific Indigenous Knowledge. For example, this pilot project was guided by the Syilx foundational captíkʷł (oral story) of the Four Food Chiefs. Each chief represents a different perspective that, when combined, creates a balanced approach.
  • 2023 - Living Lakes Canada delivered iTrackDNA field trainings in British Columbia with Blueberry River First Nation in Fort St. John and Gitanyow First Nation in Hazelton to support ongoing eDNA projects and explore the potential for future ones. In these sessions, inter-generational Indigenous community members were trained in Targeted eDNA field sample collection. Participants deepened their proficiency with the methods and improved their internal capacity for the fieldwork.
  • 2023 - In close collaboration with the Government of Yukon, Living Lakes Canada led the first phase of relationship building to explore lake monitoring in the territory, which involved nine First Nations and other Indigenous groups from the Yukon and Northern BC. A key focus of this project was to understand the contributions from both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to lake stewardship and to report back to participants (read the Sharing Back report).
  • 2023 - Living Lakes Canada delivered a range of water monitoring trainings to six First Nations across Western Canada. In the Canadian Columbia Basin specifically, we assisted in organizing two youth Water Gatherings led by the ʔaq̓am Guardians in Training that combined Ktunaxa culture with Western science water monitoring workshops. This youth-led project enabled Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to learn together about water stewardship from both Western Science and Ktunaxa perspectives, and facilitated cross-cultural relationship-building between participants.
  • 2023 - Living Lakes Canada hired an Indigenous Youth Ambassador who, in addition to attending conferences and presenting at our youth-focused events, wrote the multi-media column series “The Youth Perspective” that combined youth and Indigenous storytelling on important topics related to freshwater conservation. The Youth Perspective has been published on platforms across Canada, including The Starfish Canada.

CABIN-STREAM Indigenous trainings 2018-2022 delivered by Living Lakes Canada

  • 2022 - Based on data sovereignty principles advanced by the Water Hub, the Nicola 5 First Nations, who make up the Nicola Watershed Governance Partnership with the Province of BC, selected Living Lakes Canada through an RFP process to build their new water data portal, which is launching in 2024. You can read about this relationship here.
  • 2022 - In the Columbia Basin, groundwater monitoring sites were established in collaboration with the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it (Tobacco Plains Band) and a groundwater monitoring training was held for five youth in the ʔaam Guardians in Training program.
  • 2022 - Living Lakes Canada hosted 2 full-day Elder Engagement sessions with elders from the ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation and Shuswap Band to create the time and space for discussions around water concerns and priorities. The perspectives gathered during these sessions informed the selection of a monitoring site on Windermere Creek as part of the Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Framework.
  • 2022 - Living Lakes Canada helped facilitate the three-part webinar series Indigenous-led Water Relationships within the Columbia Basin, which was organized to create space, time and place for a Knowledge Holder and a technician from three Indigenous Peoples (Ktunaxa, Secwépemc, Syilx Okanagan) to present on their values, how they relate to water and the future of water. Over 600 people registered for the series of 3-hour webinars. The success of the event was built upon the strong relationships that Living Lakes Canada has with the Ktunaxa, Secwépemc, and Syilx Okanagan Knowledge Holders and technicians who saw the value in sharing their perspectives in this way.
  • 2021 - The Let’s Talk About Water International Film Festival recognized our short movie “Alhgoh ‘uts’ut’en (We all work together) for Water” documenting CABIN-STREAM training with the Binche Whut’en First Nation in B.C. and Living Lakes Canada’s relational approach to reconciliation.
  • 2021 - With a focus on Reconciliation and relationship building, Living Lakes Canada recruited an Applied Reconciliation Coordinator to lead our specialized Applied Reconciliation program with a specific mandate to support the organization’s meaningful collaborations with Indigenous communities, ensuring this relationship-centric lens is applied to and prioritized in all programs.
  • 2021 - Ktunaxa scholar and researcher Michele Sam delivered a series of workshops to Living Lakes Canada staff so they could learn about dismantling colonial frameworks and how to develop sustainable and respectful cross cultural partnerships with place-based Indigenous Peoples. Michele is a ‘60s Scoop survivor and also shared about her personal experiences. This led to the launch of Living Lakes Canada’s Applied Reconciliation program that focuses on building relationships with Indigenous Peoples to ensure that water stewardship carried out on the traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples prioritizes Indigenous values, perspectives, and needs.
  • 2018-2022 - Through the STREAM partnership (Sequencing the Rivers for Environmental Assessment and Monitoring) with WWF-Canada, ECCC and the University of Guelph, Living Lakes Canada trained 19 Indigenous partners in CABIN-STREAM protocols, building local capacity in aquatic health assessments. The Living Lakes Canada team travelled to deliver the trainings on partners’ traditional territories and also provided ongoing support for data collections and analysis, fostering continuing relationships with our partners.
  • 2017 - Shortly after incorporating as an independent charity, Living Lakes Canada hosted a Water Data Dialogue conference with experts from across America to explore open source data for increased transparency and data democracy at the local community level, while honouring Indigenous data sovereignty. Plenary speaker Dr Christopher Horsethief, Ktunaxa research professor, laid the groundwork for the Columbia Basin Water Hub, which is guided by the First Nations principles of OCAP® (Ownership, Control, Access, Possession). Living Lakes Canada applies the First Nations principles of OCAP® to all our work where water data is collected on the traditional territories of First Nations, and to do so, funds the certification of all staff in the Fundamentals of OCAP® course.
  • 2013 - Living Lakes Canada initiated the joint "Think Like a Watershed" conference with the Ktunaxa Nation who hosted the Salmon dinner via the Columbia Basin Intertribal Fisheries Council. Living Lakes Canada invited Stephen Kawfui, the former Indigenous premier of NWT, who attended and shared his knowledge about Indigenous-driven water stewardship initiatives. These insights also informed our Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Framework and Columbia Basin Water Hub.
  • 1994-2005 - As volunteer branch president of the East Kootenay Environmental Society, Invermere branch, Living Lakes Canada’s founder started what became the successful multi-decade campaign to save Jumbo Valley from development. Thirty years later this area known to the Ktunaxa Nation as Qat’muk, home of the grizzly bear spirit, became the Qat’Muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. This achievement was built on decades of relationship building and collaboration between First Nations and environmental NGOs who were deeply aligned on conservation and stewardship issues.
  • 2004-2010 - Living Lakes Canada initiated the Lake Windermere Project as a collaborative effort between regional Rights holders and stakeholders to save Lake Windermere in the East Kootenay, BC after the burbot fisheries collapsed. This five-year project based on multi-sector relationship building between Indigenous and non-indigenous partners won the inaugural REFBC Land Award in 2010 and launched Living Lakes Canada as a water program.

Living Lakes Canada acknowledges that our water stewardship work is carried out on the traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples across what is known as Canada. To us, this acknowledgement means that our programs are guided by the priorities of the Indigenous Peoples that have responsibilities of care to these lands and waters. Our relationships with local communities, Indigenous and settler, have been built on our shared values of healthy water and water stewardship. And it is in these relationships that we have experienced shared successes in building community and ecosystem climate resilience.


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