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Guided by UNDRIP principles, the Indigenous Watersheds Initiative (IWI) is both funding and supporting First Nation communities in British Columbia working to advance their vision of watershed health and security. IWI supports a model of watershed security that is rooted in long-term resilience, local values, and Indigenous rights and title.  


The Indigenous Watersheds Initiative (IWI) was created in 2022 to support and invest in Indigenous led watershed priorities for healthy ecosystems and communities with $15 million investment from the BC Government.  It is being delivered through a partnership of MakeWay and Watersheds BC. The funding is helping communities to support, protect, and restore critical freshwater ecosystems, build climate resilience, create jobs, training opportunities, and protect drinking water.  This watershed work also supports First Nations watershed leadership, reconnection with land and water, building intergenerational connections, and strengthening Indigenous-led organizations.  The IWI team also supports peer learning and regional convening to create opportunities to build capacity and connections within and across watershed boundaries.  


IWI builds on the learnings of the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI), a previous Provincial investment administered by the Real Estate Foundation of BC (REFBC) with support from Watersheds BC. The IWI team is grateful for the opportunity to receive guidance from members of the HWI Indigenous Leadership Advisory Circle in developing the IWI granting process, application and assessment criteria. 


IWI funding is being dispersed through two funding rounds:  


  1. Round One took place in Spring 2022 and targeted existing or previous Indigenous-led or co-led projects funded by the Healthy Watersheds Initiative (HWI). Round One is now closed and $6-million has been allocated.    

  2. Round Two focuses on First Nation organizations or communities in BC that have not received funding through the HWI or Round One of IWI. Round Two prioritizes proposals coming from regions of the province where few or no applications were received under Round One or HWI.  This includes the following watershed basins in BC:  Mackenzie, Nass, Stikine, Taku, Yukon, Skeena, North Vancouver Island and North and Central Coast.  


The application period for Round Two closed on April 24, 2023.  This will be the final granting round of the Indigenous Watersheds Initiative.  


IWI granting supports projects   advancing watershed health by: 

  • Stewarding watershed health through traditional practices, monitoring, and/or guardian programs; 

  • Securing safe and clean drinking water for all; 

  • Sustaining local and traditional food systems; 

  • Connecting communities to their watersheds; 

  • Protecting and mitigating against climate change; and, 

  • Advancing Indigenous laws and knowledge. 


Together, Watersheds BC and MakeWay are developing and implementing the Indigenous Watersheds Initiative, including grant making, supporting project teams with peer learning, reporting, regional collaboration, storytelling and connecting people and organizations.   


MakeWay is a national charity and public foundation with a goal to enable nature and communities to thrive together. MakeWay does this by building partnerships, providing solutions, grants, and services for the charitable sector across the country. As a grant maker, MakeWay demonstrates lasting commitments supporting Indigenous-led stewardship, watershed health, governance and community-led change. The unique shared platform model is also the operational home for Watersheds BC.   


Watersheds BC is a capacity-developing organization that catalyzes, supports, and strengthens local watershed governance and security. Since 2020 Watersheds BC has focused on helping advance watershed security by supporting the successful implementation of the Healthy Watersheds Initiative through a partnership with the Real Estate Foundation of BC.   Watersheds BC continues its work on HWI while building upon its learnings and successes in our work on IWI. 


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