With earth beneath his feet, Darren Tenale loves breathing in fresh mountain air, and with it, the deep feeling of a sense of belonging.
Since November of 2020 the land guardian has been monitoring and protecting cultural resources within the ?Esdilagh First Nation’s traditional territory.
“As a land guardian, I’m out there as eyes and ears for protection, mainly for the moose population right now,” Tenale said.
“The population is currently quite scarce with human conflicts and hunters and poachers.”
Tenale said he tends to receive many calls, emails and reports from concerned residents.
He recently went to verify a report of a poached cow moose.
“When I came across the cow moose carcass, it was quite unpleasant, and it hurt me to see that happen,” Tenale said.
“While it’s possible some hunters need more education, it’s pretty saddening to see because the cow moose is the future of the population to provide more food sources, to keep that food source every year.”
Wolves are also starting to become a big issue, reducing the moose population.
As well as maintaining a presence throughout the vast caretaker area, Tenale monitors and collects data, and conducts community outreach and education.
He also builds relationships with proponents that have agreements with the Indigenous community located between Williams Lake and Quesnel, and works closely with ?Esdilagh Chief and Council and BC Conservation Officer Service to report and enforce violations of their policies and regulations.
Tenale said he is the only land guardian for ?Esdilagh right now.
The Tsilhqot’in National Government representing the Tŝilhqot’in communities of Tl’etinqox, ?Esdilagh, Yuneŝit’in, Tŝideldel, Tl’esqox and Xeni Gwet’in has rangers tasked with covering 1,700 square kilometres of Aboriginal title land within the caretaker area of Xeni Gwet’in west of Williams Lake.
“I do run into them every now and then, and we aid each other when it’s needed,” Tenale said.
In ?Esdilagh traditional territory Tenale drives a large dark blue pickup that has stickers with the First Nation’s logo and his position underneath.
More people, he said, are becoming familiar with the truck and his presence.
“Compared to last winter, I hardly saw any kind of moose–physical or visuals whereas this winter I’ve seen a great number of moose sightings which is quite pleasing to me, and it gives me more hope that my presence is making a difference.”
The Tl’esqox member previously worked with the Williams Lake First Nation doing environmental work.
Tenale said protecting a food source for Indigenous elders and people and giving back in any way that he could to community members is important to him and is what had sparked his interest in becoming a land guardian.
He resides in Williams Lake, where he enjoys spending time with his 10-year-old daughter and family.
“Since starting and doing patrols in ?Esdilagh territory it has really made me feel more connected to a lot of nature and a lot of cultural experiences that I had not so much of when I was younger,” Tenale said, noting he was primarily raised off-reserve.
“It’s teaching me a lot that I can pass down to my daughter and let her know about nature and the wildlife that we have in our traditional territories.”
Wildlife sightings, killings, hunting and any suspicious activity in ?Esdilagh territory can be reported at 778-267-8227. Tenale can also be reached on Facebook or by email at email@example.com.
To report poachers in B.C., call 1-877-952-7277, or online at forms.gov.bc.ca/environment/rapp.
Do you know someone in the Quesnel area who is worthy of being called a Hometown Hero? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org to give that recognition.
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