Gwen has been working on environmental protection and management for more than 17 years.
She grew up in the Y2Y region near Nelson, British Columbia, and comes from a legacy of environmental conservation advocacy. Gwen’s passion for water and the preservation of headwater environments led her to complete a Master of Science in Renewable Resources from the University of Alberta, with a focus on forest hydrology.
She then spent a decade working for Indigenous peoples in Canada and the US. This, and her heritage as a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation of Alberta, has created a passion for ensuring that indigenous peoples are able to influence the decisions on their land. Most of the natural resource related decisions facing First Nations are related to the ability to maintain a land base necessary for the sustainability of their cultural lifeways and relationships with the land. With the preservation of cultural lifeways of indigenous people, a vast amount of knowledge about the land base and its needs and methods can be preserved and applied to environmental management, including conservation areas.
Gwen’s approach to conservation is centered on the need to create the space necessary in order that Indigenous peoples maintain their cultural relationships to the land. The applicable land management knowledge can then be shared more broadly. The concepts of conservation biology, biodiversity, ecology, hydrology and climate science, etc., offer a complement to traditional indigenous knowledge. Utilizing both science and indigenous knowledge to protect and manage conservation areas will result in the best outcome for biodiversity conservation, cultural sustainability, and the ecological and societal resiliency needed for climate change adaptation.
After working with the Mescalero Apache, the Makah Tribe and the Okanagan Nation, Gwen began consulting for conservation and indigenous groups. She was the Chair of the Syilx Working Group which conducted, from the Okanagan perspective, the South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Reserve Feasibility Study. Gwen has also worked on codifying relationships between First Nations and other levels of government, including the development of a MOU with the Canadian Wildlife Service and a First Nation, based mainly on traditional ecological knowledge, Okanagan story principles, indigenous conservation priorities, and indigenous conflict resolution. Gwen has supported First Nations in strategic planning, governance strategies, title and rights protection strategies, policy analysis and creation, relationship building and fundraising.
Gwen lives near Nelson, B.C. with her husband and four kids, loves the peace and quiet and dark, and volunteers to restore Kokanee spawning to her backyard creek.