Plenary: Indigenous-led conservation: Worldviews and approaches for reconnecting humans and the environment

Organized by: IISAAK OLAM Foundation

Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2024, 10:00 am – 11:30 am PDT (1.5 hours)


How can Indigenous leadership infuse the conservation movement with the spirit, energy, and action required to restore the health and abundance of our planet?

The conservation sector is experiencing a paradigm shift: from the ‘fines and fences’ model that viewed humans as separate from nature, toward an understanding that ‘we are one with nature’. Accompanying this shift is increasing scientific evidence that Indigenous and local community-based approaches to conservation are as or more effective than state-led approaches in protecting and increasing biodiversity. More than 80% of biodiversity lies in places that are cared for by Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples have been generous with their knowledge and ancient wisdom to care for Mother Earth with love, responsibility, and respect in the spirit of reciprocity.

The devastating impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the lack of leadership from state governments in this difficult time has heightened our generation’s anxiety for the future. Amidst this time of uncertainty, true leadership, profound wisdom, and innovative solutions are powerfully emerging from the Indigenous-led conservation movement.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Tla-o-qui-aht Nation’s Wanachus-Hilth-hoo-is (Meares Island) Tribal Park Declaration, we look 500 years into the future and envision solutions that benefit all life. This declaration has led to the establishment of hundreds of indigenous-led conservation initiatives which represent the assertion of Indigenous governance and ongoing responsibilities for the protection and stewardship of lands and waters all around Turtle Island.

In this panel, we will share stories and approaches that illustrate how Indigenous Peoples care for lands, waters, ice, and all life and species. Be a part of reconciliation, hope, and future. Come and hear from some of the most prominent Indigenous leaders who have fought tirelessly for our mother earth, as We Rise Together.


Eli Enns

Co-founder and CEO, IISAAK OLAM Foundation

Eli Enns is an internationally recognized expert in Indigenous-led conservation. From Tla-o-qui-aht Nation on his father’s side, and of Dutch Mennonite heritage on his mother’s side, Eli promotes holistic solutions for community and ecosystem health and well-being. With a background in political science, Eli is a ‘Nation-builder’ with values and approaches rooted in Indigenous economic theory and practice.

In 2017, a decade after co-founding the Ha-uukmin Tribal Park in his own territory, Eli co-chaired the Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE) for the Pathway to Canada Target 1, which culminated with the groundbreaking 2018 report, We Rise Together: Achieving Pathway to Canada Target 1 through the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in the spirit and practice of reconciliation. IPCAs are now a central component of Canada’s conservation efforts. Eli supports Indigenous Nations across Canada to advance their conservation efforts via his roles with the IISAAK OLAM Foundation and the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership.

Nuu-chah-nulth values and concepts that guide Eli’s life and work:

  • Hishuk-ish-tsa’walk– “Everything is one and everything is interconnected.”
  • iisaak – “To observe, appreciate, and act accordingly.”

Terry Dorward

President of the Board, IISAAK OLAM Foundation

Terry is from TLA-O-QUI-AHT FIRST NATIONS from the House of Hi-you-eah which is represented by the SEITCHER family. In 2003, when he got married to Bev Dorward (Cree/Lakota) he was given the Nuu-chah-Nulth name “Seit-Cha” (One who swims around in the water).

Terry grew up in Port Alberni and was raised by his great-grandmother, Susan Marshall from Xwisten (Bridge river) of the St`at’imc nation. At an early age of 12, Terry participated in the 1984 marches and blockades that declared Wah-Nah-Jus/Hilth-Hoo-is (Meares Island) a Tribal Park. It was this profound experience that had politicized Terry to have an awareness of the struggles to uphold and protect Indigenous title and rights. Terry was an active member of various Indigenous direct action groups in the 1990s and 2000s that supported the removal of open net fish farms in Kwakwaka’wakw territories, as well defending west coast and east coast fishing rights in Esgenoopetitj and Cheam First Nations.

In 2005, Terry graduated from Malaspina University with a Bachelors of Arts with a focus on colonization/decolonization under Professor Umeek Atleo, First Nations Arts 1 program. From 2010-2016, 2018-2022, Terry was an elected councillor for Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and represented his nation at the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. Today, Terry continues to participate in Tla-o-qui-aht Hereditary chiefs meetings to support his brother Ray Seitcher who is the Tyee Hawilth (Head chief) of Tla-o-qui-aht. 

From Nov 2007 to Jan 2023, Terry was the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks Project coordinator that helped deliver cultural, educational, stewardship, and economic projects in the rainforest. Terry was one of the co-founders of the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks Guardian program that continues to monitor and enforce Tla-o-qui-aht traditional laws within the region. Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks continues to be upheld nationally and internationally as a successful, ongoing developing IPCA.

Steven Nitah

Managing Director, Canada, Nature4Justice

Steven Nitah brought his community of Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation (LKDFN) to the table with Parks Canada during his time as elected Chief. On April 10, 2010, LKDFN signed a framework agreement to start negotiations for the recognition of Thaidene Nëné. Establishing agreements were finalized in 2019. Steven remains involved as a member of Thaidene Nëné’s management board.

Steven was also a core member of the Indigenous Circle of Experts, contributing to the historic report We Rise Together, achieving Canada’s conservation goals through “the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in the spirit and practice of reconciliation.”  Steven has advised Indigenous Nations and advanced Indigenous-led conservation at the national level for  over a decade and advocated the international arenas. He is a member of the leadership circle at Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership.

Steven is currently the Managing Director of Canada at Nature4Justice, where he is exploring innovative Nature-based Solutions Financing opportunities for Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship. They have created the first 30 by 30 program to help Indigenous governments to create their own Nature-based Solutions Financing.

Dawn Morrison

Founder/Curator of Research and Relationships, Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Dawn Morrison is of Secwepemc ancestry and is the Founder/Curator of Research and Relationships for the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty. 

Since 1983 Dawn has worked and studied horticulture, ethno-botany, adult education, and restoration of natural systems in formal institutions, as well as through her own healing and learning journey with Secwepemc and Indigenous Elders and knowledge holders. 

Following the time spent teaching Aboriginal Adult Basic Education, Dawn has been dedicating her time and energy to land-based healing and learning which led her to her life’s work of realizing herself more fully as a developing spirit aligned leader in the Indigenous food sovereignty movement. 

Dawn has consistently organized time and space over the last 18 years for transformational learning in food systems networks that have been foundational for generating a body of research to support decolonizing food systems in community, regional, national, and international networks where she has become internationally recognized as a published author on the topic. 

Dawn’s work on the Third Eye Seeing Methodology is focused on creating ethical spaces of engagement that serves to balance the cross-cultural burden carried by Indigenous Peoples in the interface where Indigenous food sovereignty meets, coloniality, climate change, and the corporate control of the food system.

Some of the projects Dawn is leading include: Wild Salmon Caravan, Indigenous Food and Freedom School, Dismantling Structural Racism in the Food System, and research projects including: Mapping out and Advocating for the Establishment of Indigenous Foodland Conservation Areas, and CIHR funded Indigenous Food Sovereignty and Community Wellbeing Amidst a Pandemic, and the “From the Ground Up” Toolkit for Indigenous Food Sovereignty Train the Trainers.


Monica Shore

Co-Founder and Executive Director, IISAAK OLAM Foundation

Monica is a highly strategic, creative, and solutions-oriented leader, acknowledged for her ability to transform visions, concepts and ideas into successful programs and initiatives. She deeply enjoys building meaningful relationships based on mutual respect, curiosity, and openness to change. An experienced and meticulous program manager and communicator, Monica possesses a unique ability to weave together western and Indigenous knowledge systems in Ethical Space. 

Monica is a knowledge expert on Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas and UNESCO biosphere reserves. Reconciliation is at the heart of her work and she is dedicated to building long-lasting partnerships that foster collaborative solutions for a resilient future. 

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Monica speaks English, French, and Spanish, and is learning Hebrew and Nuu-chah-nulth to ensure that her children are connected to their cultural heritage. She currently lives with her family in the traditional territory of the WSÁNEĆ peoples in Victoria, BC.

The ‘OLAM’ in the IISAAK OLAM Foundation is a nod to Monica’s cultural roots. It comes from the Hebrew language and is connected to the Jewish ethic of Tikkun Olam, which means “to repair, heal, or perfect the world.”