About the Speakers

Val Napoleon, Indigenous People’s Counsel Law Foundation Chair, Aboriginal Justice and Governance; Director, Indigenous Law Research Unit, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria; Provost’s Engaged Community Scholar

Val Napoleon’s current research focuses on Indigenous legal traditions, legal theories, feminisms, citizenship, self-determination, and governance. Several of her major initiatives include establishing and directing the Indigenous Law Research Unit, and developing and directing the JID (dual JD and indigenous law degree) program scheduled to begin in September 2018. She works with numerous Indigenous community partners across Canada on a range of Indigenous law research projects (e.g., Indigenous water law, harms and injuries, gender in Indigenous law, and lands and resources) and also with several national and international Indigenous law research initiatives. Some of the courses she teaches are Indigenous feminist legal studies, property, Indigenous legal theories, and Indigenous legal methodologies. Val is from Saulteau First Nation (BC Treaty 8) and an adopted member of the House of Luuxhon, Ganada, from Gitanyow (northern Gitksan).

Deborah Curran, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law and School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria; Acting Executive Director, Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria

Deborah Curran is an Associate Professor at the University of Victoria in the Faculty of Law and School of Environmental Studies (Faculty of Social Sciences), and the Acting Executive Director of the Environmental Law Centre where she works with students on environmental law projects for community organizations and First Nations across the British Columbia. Deborah’s work is in the areas of land and water law, with a particular focus on environmental protection and collaborative management in water law, and municipal sustainability, which include healthy foodscapes.

Tara Marsden, Wilp Sustainability Director, Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs

Tara Marsden is a member of Gitanyow First Nation, and holds the traditional name Naxginkw. She holds a Masters Degree in Political Science, and her thesis focused on consultation on land and resource management with Northern BC First Nations. Tara currently holds the position of Wilp Sustainability Director for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs, and has previously worked for a number of First Nations, ENGOs, post-secondary institutions and the provincial government. Her areas of interest are: traditional governance, sustainability assessment, recognition and reconciliation, community-driven research, Aboriginal case law, policy development, environmental monitoring and adaptive management, and land use planning. She lives in Hazelton with her two children.

Tom Rutherford, Executive Director, Cowichan Watershed Board

Tom Rutherford, executive director of the Cowichan watershed board, has been involved in building partnerships to support community empowerment and salmon and watershed sustainability for almost 40 years. Tom had a long career with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and has also worked with Living Rivers / British Columbia Conservation Foundation. He has raised his family in the Cowichan Valley and is a firm believer that community engagement in water and watershed issues is the key to implementing lasting positive change.

Lydia Hwitsum, Principal, Hwitsum Consulting

Lydia Hwitsum is principal for Hwitsum Consulting and former chair of the First Nations Health Authority Board of Directors. She has more than 20 years of experience in leadership positions in Indigenous governance in British Columbia and throughout Canada. A citizen of the Cowichan Nation, Hwitsum served as the elected chief of the Cowichan Tribes for eight years. She served as an elected member of the BC First Nations Summit Political Executive. She has been a member of the board of directors of the BC Assembly of First Nations and was the BC representative for the Assembly of First Nations National Women’s Council.

Hwitsum has advocated for Indigenous and human rights locally, nationally and internationally. She has presented at the United Nations Permanent Forum on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and at the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She was a board member for the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development for five years and served on the board of the BC Land Title and Survey Authority. She has also previously served as Chair of the BC Capacity Initiative Council and Director on Tele’ethw Aboriginal Capital Corporation board. She continues governance and development consulting work with the Cowichan Tribes and other First Nations in BC.

Michelle Tung, Environmental Projects Manager, Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance

Michelle Tung, B.Sc., MA (Anthropology), is a Vancouver native who has followed her interests in salmon right up the Fraser. She has had the privilege of working for Upper Fraser First Nations for over the last 6 years, and has extensive experience in indigenous interests related to environmental assessment, natural resource management, and governance. One of her key roles is as the manager of environmental programs for the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFFCA), a First Nations technical organization that works to further the collective fisheries interests of Upper Fraser First Nations. She is delighted to be currently working with Nadleh Whut’en to support the implementation of the Yinka Dene Surface Water Policy.

Chief Larry Nooski, Economic Development, Lands & Trust/Natural Resources, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation

Chief Larry Nooski is the Chief of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, located in north-central BC. He was first elected to Council in 1992 and has served Nadleh Whut’en in various capacities since, including Band Manager, Councillor, Pipeline Coordinator and Chief.

Chief Aaron Sumexheltza, Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band
Chief Aaron

Chief Sumexheltza – meaning ‘living spirit’ – received his traditional name during his second term as Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band. Prior to being elected Chief in 2013, he also served as a Councillor between 2007 until 2010. During his tenure as Chief, he has been instrumental in coordinating the five Nicola Chiefs to work together on shared interests. It has been through these working partnerships among the five First Nations that has enabled the historic collaboration with the Province to jointly manage water resources. Chief Sumexheltza holds a B.A in environmental studies from California State University, Sacramento and graduated from UBC Law School with a Bachelor’s of Laws. He has been practicing law for over 11 years in BC.

Chris Walder, Nicola Watershed Pilot, Team Lead; Resource Manager, Cascades Natural Resource District, Ministry Of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, And Rural Development

Chris has been the Resource Manager for the Cascades Natural Resource District for the past 11 years managing District programs including: Corporate Services, Range, Water, Stewardship, and First Nations. During this time, he has been actively involved in managing water and land resources in the Cascades Natural Resource District, including acting as a Statutory Decision Maker authorizing the use of water and land resources. Prior to this, he was a Conservation Officer for 18 years enforcing acts and regulations related to water, air, and land resources.