BCLSS Highlights First Nations LakeKeepers Program

BCLSS Highlights First Nations LakeKeepers Program

The BC Lake Stewardship Society is pleased to report on our First Nations Lake Stewardship & Monitoring Training Program (First Nations LakeKeepers). The BCLSS has been conducting LakeKeepers Workshops for many years, primarily for people living on lakes who want to conduct water quality monitoring and better steward their lakes.

The BCLSS LakeKeepers 1.5 day training course provides participants with a greater understanding of lake ecology and health. Human impacts to watersheds and lakes are also covered. This knowledge increases the ability of citizens to steward their lakes, as they are equipped with a better understanding of the watershed and potential land-use impacts. There has been a wide range of participants with different interests in lakes.  Many participants are interested in stream health as well, so the training has been expanded to include streams. More information can be found at https://www.bclss.org/programs#lakekeepers

Recently, BCLSS has had participation from First Nations communities throughout BC. From the Skwah in the Lower Mainland, to the P’egp’ig’lha in Lillooet to the South Dakelh in the Cariboo, to the Kitsella in Terrace, our LakeKeepers workshops have been enthusiastically received. BCLSS partnered with several organizations to deliver these workshops: BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Skeena Wild, Skeena Knowledge Trust, Living Lakes Canada, and the individual First Nations Communities.  Many of these workshops have significant participation from the youth of these communities. There is strong interest among many First Nations who have established or are starting Guardian Programs.  

Participants at the Sqwah Lakekeepers Workshop calibrate a multi-parameter field instrument that measures Temperature, Dissolved Oxygen, pH, and Conductivity, and take measurements of water collected from the Hope Slough. The Dissolved Oxygen was found to be barely above the minimum levels needed by fish, triggering interest by the Sqwah in conducting more monitoring to determine why the oxygen is so low. 

Greatest thanks to Living Lakes and the BCLSS for providing water quality training within our community, and offering our youth a strong direction towards land stewardship, like our ancestors once had in the past,” said Slade Williams, a training participant from the Skwah Lands Department.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust partnered with BCLSS and Kitselas Five Tier System (K5T) and the Lakelse Watershed Stewards Society. The classroom portion was held at the K5T facility, and the field portion took place at Lakelse Lake. Kitselas Nation provided their beautiful canoe for the field portion of the workshop. Valerie Joy Wright from the Lakelse session said that she “Enjoyed the workshop immensely! Interesting and relevant information!”.

The classroom portion of the workshop included an introduction to lakes, an overview of how to develop a lake sampling program, a summary of water quality parameters, and some hands-on training with lake sampling equipment including zooplankton nets, Secchi disks,

Workshop participants identifying zooplankton captured in a lake (the animal component of the planktonic community). Plankton are aquatic organisms that are unable to swim effectively against currents. Phytoplankton are the plant component, commonly known as algae.

water sampling bottles, multi-depth samplers, and more. During the field portion of the workshop, participants learned how to collect water samples, take dissolved oxygen and temperature profile measurements, and sample for aquatic plants and zooplankton. This hands-on experience kept participants engaged and reinforced the material covered during the classroom session.

Participating in this training course provides participants with credibility when undertaking a monitoring program. The technical field skills taught in the course ensure that participants are collecting high quality data when conducting monitoring on their own. The data collected can then be used to determine trends in water quality and shared with decision makers.

At the opening of the training session with the Sqwah First Nation, Lester, an elder who has been fishing the lower Fraser and tributaries for over 70 years, gave the group valuable information on how things had changed as a result of human developments on the watershed as well as the effects of the ‘atmospheric river’ of 2021 on the Hope Slough. Hearing this history was enlightening to the youth participants in the workshop.

I came to the training session as the instructor not knowing much about the Hope Slough and historical fish usage of the Hope Slough. I had been unable to find much information and was very pleased to have so much valuable information provided by the elder at the outset, a great example of Traditional Environmental Knowledge linking with the western science concepts to be presented in the course,” said Norm Zirnhelt, BC Lake Stewardship Society Training Instructor.

P’egp’ig’lha workshop participants go over calibration results and lake water quality measurements with Seton Lake as the backdrop

In Lillooet, the P’egp’ig’lha First Nation hosted the workshop with participation from the neighbouring Tsalalh from Seton Lake. “This was an awesome course. Instructors were awesome and helpful. I would recommend this course to others who want to know more about the land,” said Foster Thom, a Tsalalh Lands Guardian.

During the field portion, there was strong interest in calibrating and using water quality field instruments.

In addition, there was much interest in furthering stewardship activities with other area First Nations in the area in 2024. “I would like this training component with St’at’imc Nation(1) as a collaboration unit and involve all communities. We need collaboration with all First Nation communities for spring lake turnover and fall,” said Denise Antoine, P’egp’ig’lha Natural Resources Specialist.

Participants at the Southern Dekalh Nation Alliance conduct water quality monitoring field measurements during the field portion of their LakeKeepers Workshop

In Quesnel, there were attendees from Lhtako Dene Nation, Nazko First Nation, Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation, and Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance (SDNA) and included two technical representatives of indigenous communities (Lhtako Dene Nation and Nazko First Nation). The Nazko First Nation is monitoring a new mine within their territory. “All the necessary contents and elements of Lake Water monitoring have been covered… Course itself has been excellent, said workshop facilitator Nobi Suzuki, Wildlife Ecologist/Lands and Resources Department Lead, Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance.

BCLSS has been honored to provide this training and learn from the participants as well! Anyone interested in the BCLSS First Nations LakeKeepers Program can contact the BCLSS office info@bclss.org or visit our website https://www.bclss.org/programs#lakekeepers

If you would like a LakeKeepers Workshop in your community in 2024, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can get you on a list for potential funding.


Participants preparing to take a Zooplankton sample at Lakelse near Terrace

The Kitellas K5T Program provided their canoe for taking water samples during the field portion of the workshop.


Zooplankton sample ready for examination



1 The St’át’imc are the original inhabitants of the territory which extends north to Churn Creek and to South French Bar; northwest to the headwaters of the Bridge River; north and east toward Hat Creek Valley; east to the Big Slide; south to the island on Harrison Lake and west of the Fraser River to the headwaters of the Lillooet River, Ryan River and Black Tusk. The St’át’imc Nation is composed of eleven distinct and self-governing communities, including the Líl’wat Nation, which is a distinct Nation with linguistic, cultural, familial and political ties to the St’át’imc Nation. Source: Squamish Lillooet Regional District





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