four teens on a rocky beach
SEAS Students at Work SEAS interns dig through an ancient shell midden site looking for artifacts in the Kitasoo/Xai'xais Nation of the Great Bear Rainforest. © Jason Houston

Investing in People

The Next Generation of Indigenous Leaders

We support community-led Indigenous youth programs across Canada.

Our Goal

We support Emerging Leaders programs that connect Indigenous youth to who they are and where they come from. These programs strengthen connections between youth and their territories, cultures and communities and support them in developing the confidence and skills necessary to become the future stewards of their lands and waters and leaders of their communities.

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When we asked our Indigenous partners how we could best support them, their resounding answer was investing in youth. 

Our Emerging Leaders initiative is a key piece of our organizational priority to support Indigenous authority. The initiative does this in two ways:

  • Enhancing Indigenous Stewardship Capacity
  • Building and Sustaining Indigenous Leadership

By Communities, For Communities 

The youth programs we support are designed, led, and championed by the Indigenous communities they are meant to serve. This model allows programs to reflect unique cultures and identities, respond to local challenges, and adapt to community-specific factors.

Emerging Leaders programs also catalyze broader change. Many communities report that these programs contribute to health and well-being and result in educational outcomes. They also foster cultural resurgence by placing added value on community knowledge-holders, strengthening land- and marine-based cultural practices and creating opportunities for traditional knowledge to be shared across generations.

How We Support Emerging Leaders Programs

  • Jamie Mason enjoying the ride on the boat returning from a Súa and SEAS internship field trip in the Great Bear Rainforest.

    Community Toolkit

    We developed this resource to support communities wishing to launch their own on-the-land Indigenous youth programs. Download the Toolkit

  • Traditional Canoe.

    Making the Case for Support

    Our program evaluation found that 70% more youth now visit culturally important places within their territories thanks to the SEAS youth program. Download the Summary

Program Examples


Launched with support from our global affiliate in 2009, Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) uses hands-on internships and other educational experiences to help First Nations youth connect with the landscape and culture of their traditional territories. 

Opportunities for students in Kindergarten through high school vary from community to community, but they can include:

  • nature-based classroom and outdoor activities
  • interactive technology that brings nature to life in the classroom
  • school-wide nature events and contests
  • mentors from the local professionals and elders community
SEAS Community Initiative SEAS Community Initiative is helping First Nations students in the Great Bear Rainforest take an active role in learning about the lands and waters of their traditional territory.

Through SEAS, students witness the salmon life cycle by visiting a river during spawning, understand bear safety and ecology, and learn traditional plant medicine. Students research herring harvest, recipes, ecology, and history, and use remote cameras to capture wildlife on film for interpretive trail signs.

To complement activities in the classroom, nonprofit organizations and band councils offer summer internships so high school students can work alongside professionals in their traditional territory. Interns complete valuable trainings and work alongside resource officers, guides, and other mentors. In the fall, interns are encouraged to pursue their interests and may be matched with a mentor when they return to their high school or post-secondary programs.

Misipawistik Pimastisimeskanaw

Misipawistik Cree Nation’s youth program Misipawistik Pimastisimeskanaw builds on 30 years of culture camps and on-the-land programming in our territory on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Our program connects youth to traditional practices, teaches the Cree language and builds intergenerational connections. MCN would like to thank and acknowledge the many supporters and funders of this program.

Misipawistik Pimatisimeskanaw Misipawistik Cree Nation’s youth program

Nahidik Research Vessel

In October 2019, the Nahidik research vessel set sail on Tu Nedhe (also known as Great Slave Lake)—the deepest lake in North America and one of the world’s largest freshwater bodies. The crew of scientists also includes five students from nearby Indigenous communities. To make the educational program aboard the Naidik a reality, Nature United collaborated with partners from the Northern Youth Leadership and the Arctic Research Foundation. During the one-week expedition, youth interacted daily with hydrographers, technologists, conservationists, and professional mariners, gaining a new level of understanding about the innerworkings of a ship’s crew.

NWT On the Land Collaborative

Nature United is a funding partner for the NWT On The Land Collaborative, which provides centralized access to funding and other resources for on the land programs in the Northwest Territories. In 2019, the On the Land Collaborative helped fund 48 educational, youth programs.

Download a list of online learning resources, collected by our Emerging Leaders program coordinator.