Indigenous Leadership Initiative: Anchored in Indigenous Culture

Small Business Canada

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative strives to strengthen Indigenous leadership on the land and advance Indigenous-led conservation initiatives across Canada.

Indigenous Beginning

Indigenous communities across Canada are committed to supporting and advancing initiatives for conservation and sustainable development that Indigenous people lead. Many Indigenous Nations believe this effort is essential to creating their nation and are actively exercising their rights and duties over native territories.

A group of Indigenous leaders came together to fulfill this objective and progress these initiatives by collaborating with the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC), the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Hewlett Foundation, the Moore Foundation, and Ducks Unlimited.

In 2013, they launched the Indigenous Leadership Initiative to strengthen Indigenous nationhood and fulfill Indigenous responsibilities to the land.

Leadership Initiative

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative helps the Indigenous community uphold their cultural responsibilities to protect the environment. By creating Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, establishing a nationwide network of Indigenous Guardians programs, and assisting land use planning, they are committed to enhancing Indigenous nationhood and Indigenous leadership on the land.

They are committed to strengthening Indigenous nationhood, upholding Indigenous responsibilities to their lands, and fostering the development of new generations of Indigenous leaders. In addition, they support communities in acquiring the skills and capabilities necessary to become fully respected and on an equal footing in Canada’s political, social, and economic development.

As an Indigenous-led organization, the Indigenous Leadership Initiative is committed to strengthening the influence of Indigenous Nations in making decisions about the future of traditional lands. Their senior leaders have extensive experience in national commissions, the federal cabinet, parliament, Indigenous leadership and governance, territorial and provincial government, and the international sphere.

They use this knowledge to promote Indigenous nationhood, view nationhood holistically, and believe healthy lands support healthy individuals, families, and communities. They find connections between powerful nations to create a more equitable and sustainable society for everyone. 

They also strive to resolve existential threats like climate change and biodiversity loss and pave the way for peace, nation-to-nation relations, and a stronger foundation for Canada. They are an initiative working to build this future. 

As members of the IBCC, their work is rooted in the boreal region, the country’s major ecosystem, and the world’s largest remaining intact forest. They partner directly with Indigenous Nations on land use planning, Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, and other stewardship responsibilities. 

They collaborate with the Crown government to ensure recognition and secure funding for the Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and Indigenous Guardians programs. In addition, they convene leaders, Elders, youth, Guardians, scientists, government officials, and other decision-makers to support the movement for Indigenous-led conservation and nationhood.

Indigenous Initiatives

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative approaches their work with respect for ceremony and the responsibility to care for the land. 

  • Indigenous Guardians

Indigenous Guardians support Indigenous Nations in upholding the duty to protect their lands and waters. They act as the traditional territories’ “eyes and ears.”

Guardians are skilled professionals that oversee protected areas, restore animals and plants, check the water quality, and maintain a close eye on development. In addition to connecting youth with Elders and providing training that equips young people to become the next generation of educators, ministers, and leaders, they are crucial in developing land-use and marine-use plans.

  • Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas

Indigenous nations designate areas for conservation as Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. These grounds support both the well-being of the world and Indigenous communities.

For thousands of years, Indigenous people have taken care of this continent. Today, many Indigenous Nations supervise using the Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA) as their tool. Indigenous Nations decide which lands and rivers to include in IPCA after careful community planning. They reflect Indigenous customs and laws and ensure Indigenous Peoples can continue connecting to these areas.

  • Indigenous Land Relationship Planning

Several Indigenous nations are embracing land use planning or land relationship planning as a tool for determining the future of their territories within a context of cultural responsibility. 

Communities decide which lands they want to protect and which might be open for development through community meetings, interviews with Elders, youth, and other land users, and thorough data analysis. These land-use plans offer clarity to governments, allies, and industries.

  • Governance that Supports Land Management

For Indigenous Nations to manage their lands sustainably, they require strong, independent governance systems anchored in their culture. The Indigenous Leadership Initiative helps countries renounce their colonial government structures and reclaim their right to self-determination.

The Indigenous Leadership Initiative collaborates with a wide range of partners to enhance Indigenous-led conservation and land management. 

They collaborate with dozens of First Nations, supporting their leadership on the land and providing technical assistance and support for land use planning, Indigenous Guardians programs, and other Indigenous-led conservation efforts. 

They serve as advisors on the First Nations/Federal Pilot Working Group for Guardians. To preserve lands and biodiversity, they collaborate on 23 of the proposed 27 Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas financed by the Canada Nature Fund.

Together, the Indigenous Leadership Initiative forms strong nations. To learn more about their programs, visit their website at 

Indigenous communities work toward the sustainable development of their culture and land. To read more about these organizations, subscribe to Indigenous SME Business Magazine and for the latest updates, check our Twitter page @IndigenousSme.

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