Social Return

Social Return is one of Firelight’s four founding principles.
It can be difficult for communities to find funding for some projects which are culturally, politically, or ecologically important. Twice a year our Social Return Program funds community-based projects or programs with partial or full funding up to $15,000. 

The projects that we fund must have high cultural significance by design and must meet at least two of the following criteria: community-based; of cultural or ecological importance; legacy project; giving back to the community.


Carolyn Whittaker
MSc Natural Resource Mgmt.
Phone: (250) 590-9017

2017 Social Return Projects 

Firelight is excited that we will be funding the following four projects through our Social Return Program in Fall 2017:

Westbank First Nation, “Syilx Forestry Standards Toolkit”

The Syilx Forestry Standards Toolkit will produce a community-driven stewardship tool with multi-generational effects. By meeting and listening to community members across Syilx territory, this project aims to create a set of standard forestry practices to be implemented in the territory that reflect Syilx culture, values, language and stewardship concerns. The Toolkit will incorporate nsyilxcən, the Syilx language, and will use traditional place names to help inform decision-making. This project will create a set of “rules” for forest operators in Syilx territory, protocols for implementing Syilx law, as well as tools for data collection and monitoring efforts. This research will culminate in the publishing of a final report and toolkit which will be made publicly available to both the communities and forestry companies.

Stellat’en First Nation, “Stellat’en Head Start Dakelh Language Guide”

Stellat’en Head Start Curriculum Guide — developed by Stellat’en’s Language and Culture Centre — is a teaching tool that provides educators with materials to teach youth about Dakelh language, cultural knowledge, and skills. The materials include guides for language teachers, and a workbook for students at the grade 9 level. The goals of this project are to build confidence and self-esteem in Stellat’en youth, and to revitalize the dakelh language as youth use it among themselves and with family. The objectives are to give teachers and families materials with which children and adults can learn Dakelh language, in forms that also help them learn about their culture, identity, and home environment. With a draft curriculum guide already completed, funding will go towards the final stage of implementation, publishing and distribution into schools. With roughly 30 fluent speakers, this project will work towards bridging a generational language gap on the way to revitalizing the Dakelh language.

Kwikwetlem First Nation, “Reclaiming Our Medicines: Community Capacity Building Around Traditional Plants” 

This project will build the capacity of Kwikwetlem community members relating to traditional knowledge transmission of culturally important plants and medicines. The two main objectives of this project are to plant a traditional medicine garden within the community, as well as to incorporate mentorship from local knowledge holders in the area so that Kwikwetlem members will be confident, comprehensive, and self-sufficient in their knowledge about local plants – returning this traditional knowledge to the community where it was fractured by exclusion from their traditional territory in the Coquitlam Watershed. This project aligns with the community’s goals surrounding health and wellness and cultural revitalization.

Tsawout First Nation, “Traditional Foods Knowledge Transfer and Indigenous Foods Gathering”

This gathering aims to encourage youth to learn about Indigenous food practices while celebrating these foods with the wider community. Tsawout will be hosting a multi-day event in March of 2018 that begins with youth learning traditional food skills from knowledge holders in the community and culminates with them using those skills to prepare a feast where all South Island Nations will be invited to participate. The project will provide a fun and interactive space for youth to participate in food, land and cultural activities. Access to traditional foods is more than just eating the foods of our ancestors. It reconnects us to the land, it addresses our food security and food related health challenges, it helps build community and shares cultural stories and information. By celebrating and practicing these skills, this feast will also support First Nations communities in building their capacity around healthy food initiatives with a focus on Indigenous foods.

Past Social Return Projects

Dasiqox Tribal Park, “Talking to the Land” (2017)

As a part of cultural revitalization activities, the Yunesit’in and Xeni Gwet’in First Nations will be facilitating language learning and traditional knowledge sharing to reinforce place-based relationships and to provide community members with opportunities to practice Tsilhqot’in ways of life on the land. Intergenerational nature walks for community members will focus on teaching community members Tsilhqot’in place names and medicine picking, and will also assist in the creation of two new language resource documents to support educational activities in the future.

Matachewan First Nation, “Elder Teachings on the Land” (2017)

Matachewan First Nation will be expanding its cultural programs to include a cultural teachings course that will assist the community in maintaining and promoting Indigenous Knowledge and ways of life through a hands-on experience on the land. Matachewan First Nation families and youth will partake in fundamental Elder teachings that will include hunting, calling and tracking, trapping, ceremonies, camping, survival skills, gathering food and medicine, and drumming

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, “Preserving Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in knowledge and practice: Documenting the construction and use of a fish wheel in the Yukon”  (2017)

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation will produce a film and written document on the construction of a fish wheel (a device for catching fish that operates much as a water-powered mill wheel) as part of broader efforts to revive and preserve Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in culture and practice. The film and written document will focus on how to build and use the fish wheel, Indigenous knowledge of salmon and salmon runs in the Yukon River, and the importance of intergenerational knowledge transmission of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in culture and heritage.

Tłı̨chǫ Government, “Tłı̨chǫ puberty rites of passage and ceremonies”  (2017)

This project will build on work previously completed with Tłı̨chǫ Elders to document and distribute information pertaining to Tłı̨chǫ women’s puberty ceremonies and rites of passage, which Elders have described as being important for young women to know in order to survive on the land and to carry forward the Tłı̨chǫ way of life. This project will produce a community report that raises awareness about puberty ceremonies for Tłı̨chǫ women and will help bridge knowledge transmission between younger and older generations.

Tlicho Birth Mapping Project (2017)

We worked with the Tłı̨chǫ Government on an ethno-historical mapping project project that explores the importance of birthplaces. For this project, four Tłı̨chǫ elders shared their stories about birthplaces and childbirth practices, in addition to mapping a number of birthplaces on Tłıc̨hǫ lands. These places and the elder’s stories illuminate the importance of learning about birthplaces and listening to their words so that younger generations may carry on the Tłıc̨hǫ way of life.

Men of the North (2016)

We are currently working with Nak’azdli Health Centre to support their program “Men of the North”. The project seeks to revive an important cultural trail while teaching men and youth how to live in the bush. This program will meet weekly to strengthen men’s connections to each other, and to promote community service and traditional knowledge.

Ethnobotanical Handbook (2016)Wild onions

Saulteau First Nations (SFN) will develop an ethnobotany handbook to assist in land reclamation after resource development within their traditional territory. The handbook will contribute to SFN’s long-term goal of sustainable landscape reclamation practices and inter-generation knowledge transfer.

Community Resilience Manifesto (2016)

Lake Babine First Nation is working to develop a resilience manifesto which seeks to build unity in and between communities affected by construction camps that are being built on their territory. Along with neighbouring communities they hope to develop joint mitigation measures to protect and strengthen vulnerable populations, such as women and youth, who will be impacted by these camps.

The Trapper’s Cabin Project (2015/2016)

In 2015 we worked with the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Tribal Council (MDTC) to revitalize family-owned trap lines. The project built and documented a network of split cedar cabins throughout the nation’s traditional territories.

Indigenous Mapping Workshop (2015)Mapping Workshop

Firelight, the Chiefs of Ontario, and Google Earth Outreach co-hosted the second Indigenous Mapping Workshop in Waterloo, Ontario. The event built on the success of the previous workshop in Victoria in 2014, and explored the ways in which mapping can facilitate the empowerment of Indigenous communities in a culturally appropriate and sensitive way, emphasizing the intrinsic interconnectedness of Indigenous peoples, culture, and land. Read more…

Indigenous Mapping Workshop (2014)

In 2014 the Firelight Group, Google Earth Outreach, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and the University of Victoria welcomed more than 100 participants to Victoria for a 4-day Indigenous Mapping Workshop. The workshop explored critical approaches to geospatial technologies and indigenous mapping. Read more…

Graves and Historic Sites Restoration and Access (2014)

In 2014 we worked with Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation to help with the restoration and preservation of graves and other historic sites. The work involved clearing, marking, and taking care of grave sites and other historic markers on the community’s territory.

The Firelight Group

Research, policy, planning, mapping, negotiation, advisory, and capacity building services for Indigenous and local communities.


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