W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary

(wh-my-eh-then: Place of the Deer)

(Formerly Mary Lake)

Kinship to the Land 

Under the kinship model, the rights of species and waters are considered, encouraging a different legal framework that protects the more than human world. By prioritizing oral histories and species knowledge of W̱SÁNEĆ Elders and Knowledge Keepers, this project offers a unique opportunity to have a new type of conversation about species at risk, one that incorporates Indigenous world views, epistemologies, and ontologies.

In 2021 we began our Kinship Species Mapping project which honours Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) and recognizes traditional food and medicinal systems in the forest at W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary.

By mapping sensitive ecosystems through an Indigenous kinship lens, interweaving W̱SÁNEĆ and Western knowledge, this work creates opportunities for ecocultural restoration, education, citizen-science research, and capacity-building in Indigenous communities. The project weaves together a diversity of world views that are an essential part of reconciliation.

A kincentric approach to stewardship mapping will focus on how to maintain and enrich the health of animal and plant communities, honouring the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation’s language of SENĆOŦEN and the deeply cyclical nature of the seasons, as characterized by the W̱SÁNEĆ 13 Moon Calendar.


Cultivating Kinship

  • Learning and Knowledge – By partnering with Knowledge Keepers from W̱SÁNEĆ Nations and focusing on input from Indigenous leaders, and honouring the SENĆOŦEN language, it aligns with the culturally supportive reclamation of language. Viewing education as a tool for positive change, this land stewardship and mapping project creates mutually beneficial knowledge building and training. This provides education about species identification, mapping, and stewardship/ habitat monitoring through a Kinship and Citizen-Science model for W̱SÁNEĆ youth and other participants.
  • Equity and Inclusion – This project is guided by our ongoing consultation (since 2016) with our First Nations partners and follow protocols for respectful and healthy engagement to be shared consensually with other communities.
  • Connections and Community Building – We are supporting First Nations by hiring Elders, Language and Knowledge Keepers as well as highlighting/celebrating their knowledge systems. There have been experiential activities led by Elders and knowledge keepers, sharing a unique opportunity for place-based, ecocultural learning.


SENĆOŦEN language teaching tools developed for W̱SÁNEĆ youth.

  Listening to the Land through Story Walks with W̱SÁNEĆ Elders


Supporting a W̱SÁNEĆ Elder Advisory Group to create a community-informed process for the medicinal plant-centred project (focus on sensitive ecosystems)

  • Create culturally safe spaces on the land at W̱MÍYEŦEN Mary Lake for W̱SÁNEĆ Elders & Knowledge keepers to provide mentorship opportunities to teach other Indigenous, as well as non-Indigenous settler and newcomer Seniors about species-at-risk, habitat protection and biodiversity through an Indigenous lens.
  • Create a protected record of Elders’ traditional knowledge for future generations (with a focus on species-at-risk through the lens of the W̱SÁNEĆ 13 Moon Calendar)
  • Create intergenerational opportunities for W̱SÁNEĆ families to re-experience culturally and ecologically significant lands from which they were forcibly disconnected through colonization for over 135 years

This research project creates opportunities for community engagement in land use governance, management, and decision making interwoven with culture, language, and place-based knowledge. The project builds ongoing relationships in a wide, enduring circle amongst traditional knowledge keepers, western biologists, and younger generations.

Gratitude for the Program Funders (2020 to present)

W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary

1772 Millstream Rd,
Victoria, BC V9B 6E4

[email protected]

W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary Society 1772 Millstream Rd.
Victoria, BC. V9B 6E4
Registered Charity BN: 11894 6953 RR0001

WSÁNEC Coast Salish

W̱MÍYEŦEN Nature Sanctuary lies within the traditional territories of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) Coast Salish Peoples.

​We recognize the integral role the ancestors of the WSÁNEC Coast Salish Peoples play as past stewards of the Highlands lands.

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