Nuu-chah-nulth dual designation and management of the Tang.ɢwan · ḥačxʷiqak · Tsigis MPA

The much-anticipated official Canada-First Nation designation of the Tang.ɢwan · ḥačxʷiqak · Tsigis Marine Protected Area (MPA), under the Oceans Act, is in the planning stages for spring 2024.

The MPA designation is a collaboration between the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN), the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC), Pacheedaht (PFN) and Quatsino First Nations (QFN), to protect rare, culturally and biologically significant seamounts and hydrothermal vents.

Equally notable and significant is the decision that was made back in October of 2022 that saw the Nuuchah- nulth Council of Ha’wiih support the designation and establishment of this MPA under their own authority, recognizing a portion of the area as Nuu-chah-nulth territory and title to the territory as an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA).

The Council of the Haida Nation House of Assembly has also designated the portion of the MPA lying within Haida Territory as a Haida Heritage Site under the authority of Haida Law. Each of the other respective nations have or are in the process of designating under their own authorities as well.

Although the establishment of this Marine Protected Area has been a collaborative process between DFO and the Nations with Indigenous expertise guiding the work, the very nature of the Oceans Act MPA framework continues to be steeped in colonial mechanisms, language and processes.

Western science, legislation and policies continue to threaten true co-governance of MPAs. Dual designation as an IPCA under Indigenous law and authority is an action that can enhance and augment protection and conservation.

It does so by recognizing the significance of Indigenous values, culture and ways of being. It is a modern application and mechanism to uphold what Nuu-chah-nulth have been doing since time immemorial; governing their territorial waters in accordance with their own laws.

According to the 2018 report “We Rise Together Achieving Pathway to Canada Target 1 through the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in the spirit and practice of reconciliation,” produced by the Indigenous Circle of Experts, IPCAs can “promote greater recognition and support for existing Indigenous rights, responsibilities, and priorities in conservation.”

While the Tang.ɢwan · ḥačxʷiqak · Tsigis MPA is not solely an Indigenous-led Protected and Conserved Area, it will be co-managed by all three of the respective nations alongside DFO. This management agreement ensures nations will have significant representation at the decision-making table.

The MPA Management Board will consist of two representatives each of the CHN, NTC, QFN and the Government of Canada, and one representative of PFN for a total of nine representatives.

Last October, at the Council of Ha’wiih Forum on Fisheries meeting, Archie Little of Nuchatlaht First Nation and Luke Swan of Ahousaht were chosen to serve as the Nuu-chah- nulth representatives on
the Management Board.

The Management Board is intended to serve as a forum for the nations and DFO to exchange views and provide advice on the planning, operation, management and use of the area.

When asked about his thoughts of serving on the Management board, Little said, “It’s helping DFO to manage, we’d be a part of the process to do things better. We have that say now.”

“To me, it’s connecting First Nations Management process, which is different than money and politics. It will change the mindset of the decision makers; they will now have to try and do better. Whether it’s through indigenous management, science or education, we’re part of it now. We can give direction,” he added.

Little indicated he also looks forward to the process of establishing an official name and planning a celebration for the Nuu-chah-nulth designation of this MPA. He would like to see Nuu-chah- nulth names given to the seamounts that the MPA is serving to protect.

“The language gives us connection, to be a part of that so it won’t get lost.”

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