Centre of Indigenous Land Stewardship

A Global Centre of Excellence

The Centre of Indigenous Land Stewardship (CILS), at UBC Forestry, aspires to be a global centre of excellence, bringing Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge and land ethics together with natural resource science and management. By openly sharing information and ideas, land stewardship systems will be built that are grounded in holistic land stewardship and earth-based community values.

Our Goals:

  • bringing the best people/minds together to advance land stewardship systems and practices
  • delivering high quality education and research
  • preparing students for working in dynamic environments

“Stewardship” is the ethical approach to planning and management of lands, in this case an Indigenous earth-based land ethic.

“Stewardship systems” is the governance system (e.g., structure, decision making), management systems (e.g., tenure allocation, compliance), planning framework (e.g., types of plans, planning methodologies, monitoring and update, implementation) and resource development practices (e.g., standards, oversight) that translate a land stewardship value system into reality.

“Earth-based land ethics” is behaving in a manner that is consistent with the belief that humans are a small part of the earth – equal to and dependent on other living things.

Why a Centre?

The Centre of Indigenous Land Stewardship is a hub for collaboration, between peoples from around the world – with different knowledge systems and experiences to catalyze new ways of thinking and practice. It is symbolic of the circular nature of earth-based thinking typified in many Indigenous cultures by the teachings associated with concepts like the ‘medicine wheel’, the circle of life, and Tsawalk in Nuu-cha-nuulth, where everything is connected.

The Centre will take a comprehensive approach to address topics in the areas of understanding land ethics, governance development, institutional development, planning methodologies, community engagement and external relations.

The Centre of Indigenous Land Stewardship will adopt a unique approach that:

  • uses a distributive learning model that engages others in the research, design, and delivery of the Centre’s offerings as opposed to the more common centralized delivery model;
  • accumulates and shares wisdom through research, dialogue and interaction with various practitioners among all involved as opposed to the more common individual expertise and lecture learning model; and
  • will be governed by a board that is deeply Indigenous based, has a more global perspective, understands earth-based land ethic and is familiar with distributive learning models.

The Centre will start as largely an institution without walls that will focus on supporting those who are actively creating and implementing these types of land stewardship systems while minimizing the time that they need to spend attending centralized education. This is a relatively new and rapidly evolving field of study that also requires personal interaction amongst and between knowledge holders, practitioners, students, and other learning institutions to accelerate the development of collective wisdom and accumulation of knowledge and experience, and to ensure that the learnings are internalized and adopted as successfully as possible. Virtual technologies for hybrid and multi-access learning, mobile teaching methods in-place and focused “together time” on the land, will be used.

Areas of Activity

Advanced Education

The Centre will primarily focus on delivering formal education programs at the degree or advanced degree levels. 

Learn about the Bachelor of Indigenous Land Stewardship Program starting in September 2024.

External Support

The Centre will retain in-house experts and have formal affiliations with certified consulting firms who will provide support to communities, companies, and other external practitioners as they develop their land stewardship systems.

Extension Training

Training will be provided to numerous target audiences including professionals, communities, and education institutes to help them understand, apply, and teach the learnings of the Centre.


The Centre will conduct both standard research and applied, action or participatory research to help advance its knowledge and experience in the range of subject areas that it will address.