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

Examples of Social Return Projects

Cowichan Tribes – Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cowichan Tribes Core Territory (2019)

The purpose of this project was to fill-in some of the significant gaps in language, stories and practices, and to start to heal the relationship between Quw’utsun Mustiimuhw and territory. The process involved bringing mentorees to the Gulf Islands with knowledgeable elders to learn the Quw’utsun world view of the territory by being on and learning about the land and the water.

Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) – Salmon Stories for Change (SSC) – People of the Transboundary Salmon River (2019)

SSC is a theatrical performance tour and archival collection of salmon stories from Alaskan Indigenous peoples in the Alaska-BC transboundary region, who are and have been impacted by mining development in their traditional territories. SSC shares cultural histories and stories of the importance of salmon, vital watersheds and the urgent need to protect this transboundary region. The project will build cross-border alliances by immersing audiences directly in the experiences of communities, prompting audiences to engage and act. This dual form of storytelling–both performative and archival–will create a cultural moment for change, awareness and transboundary solidarity. SSC encourages the protection of vital salmon-bearing watersheds while reinforcing the complex cultural identities inextricably tied to a sense of place amongst trans-boundary nations and communities. The protection of these waters is integral for long-lasting cultural and ecological security for future generations.

Westbank First Nation – Replanting Program (2018)

The Replanting program’s objective was to re-establish Indigenous traditional plant species back into select cut blocks within the Syilx traditional territory. This program was ecologically and culturally significant to the Syilx people. It provided an opportunity for the Syilx community to work with Traditional Ecological Knowledge Keepers using Syilx understanding, protocols and cultural practices to build capacity around traditional plants. Another goal for this project was to create a monitoring program for community benefit. This program created an opportunity for biodiversity within the natural habitat by replacing traditional plants back into the environment.

Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) – Costing Assessment for Komasket Outdoor Arbor Revitalization (2018)

The Komasket Arbor facility is a gathering place for the OKIB community and has been used for a number of different functions including: powwows, ceremony, youth and elders’ gatherings, cultural events, workshops, and music festivals. The structure of this facility is made out of large fir logs with a cedar shake roof. Unfortunately, the structure was getting old and needed to be refurbished. Funding from Firelight helped cover the cost for an initial structural assessment and allowed OKIB to formulate a work plan for the repairs.

Stellat’en First Nation, “Stellat’en Head Start Dakelh Language Guide” (2017)

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.


VANCOUVER (604) 563-2245
VICTORIA (250) 590-9017
EDMONTON (780) 760-1255