Bringing a stewardship program to my home community

Summer student Robin Buss reflects on finding her passion for the land.

A hand holding an estuary plant.

Estuary plant. Photo by Alex Harris

This summer I had the opportunity to work with Raincoast Conservation Foundation in bringing a stewardship program to my home community, the Tsawwassen First Nation, and it has been a dream come true. I was able to put to good use the knowledge and skills I had been building in my 9-month Indigenous Land Stewardship program at the Native Education College and prove to myself that I am on the right path. 

I have been finding my passion for the land over the last couple years and to be able to share that passion with the youth of my community has been uplifting, encouraging and exciting. I was nervous to have such a big responsibility developing and implementing an entire program, but with the support and encouragement from Raincoast and their amazing staff, I had no problem and felt like I was right for the position. This opportunity has given me so much self confidence in my abilities to take on projects, use my communication and leadership skills and provided reassurance that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Some of my favourite moments involved seeing the faces of the youth light up while accomplishing or discovering something. For example, getting the hang of twisting the stinging nettle into cordage, recreating the mesh used to make traditional nets, or when we spotted a bird species we had never seen or heard of before within Tsawwassen Lands. Also, finding a few different small fish species in the slough by Big Splash (waterpark on TFN Lands) was a pleasant surprise, and everyone’s excitement looking at the variety of little fish species while collecting data with Raincoast staff during purse seining, was incredibly enjoyable. 

I hope to continue to have contact with Raincoast and others that have supported this pilot summer youth program, including Ducks Unlimited and Birds Canada, to continue to provide opportunities to learn about our territory. I plan on continuing stewardship no matter what, in any way shape or form that I can. I’d like to learn more about archaeology, habitat restoration for waterfowl and more about invasive species removal (plants and animals) as well as continue to expand my knowledge of the land that is my home. 

During one of the weeks, Elder Bruce Robinson from Nisga’a Nation, was available to the youth and staff to be brushed off by him. In the “Brushing-off Ceremony” cedar boughs are used to brush away emotional pain. I had an intense, emotional, but wonderful experience. Bruce told me afterward (with no prior context or discussion of the program or my role in it), that I am doing wonderful work, that I am where I am supposed to be and that I may ask the land and ancestors for help and guidance whenever I need to. It was beautiful and meaningful in so many ways to hear that from him, an experience I will hold close to my heart.

I look forward to supporting my community in their role as stewards of our lands and waters. Currently, I am the stand-in Territory Management Coordinator for Tsawwassen First Nation, where I read and respond to referrals as well as participate in field work and provide input for potential stewardship and monitoring programs.

Robin Buss
Territory Management Coordinator for Tsawwassen First Nation