By Ayla Bennett
It was my first time assisting in instructing a CABIN training course, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The attendees of the first course were from three different First Nations groups—most lived in or near High Level, AB but a couple had travelled from the Northwest Territories to attend. Our goal was to empower the course participants to be able to carry on their own monitoring efforts.
Through my training and experience using CABIN protocols, I knew there would be a lot of information to get across to participants. I wondered whether they would be interested in the material and whether I’d be able to explain the protocols in a way that made sense. I also wondered how certain protocols (i.e. invertebrate collection) would work on the lazy, deep northern Alberta rivers, so different from the cold, clear, freestone creeks I know in southeastern BC. But what didn’t occur to me until I met the first group of participants was that I would learn way more than I could possibly teach!
When I arrived, I met a group of enthusiastic and keen individuals who were truly driven to make a difference in their communities. Some held positions related to water quality, such as water quality sampling or water treatment, and were interested in learning about other protocols. Some wanted to increase their water literacy and saw this course and an excellent learning opportunity. Other participants had concerns about a local water quality issue and were taking the CABIN training so that they would be able to take immediate action to care for their streams. In fact, the Keepers of the Water—the organization that helped to facilitate the High Level CABIN course—are already involved in a scientific study in partnership with academic scientists to explore water quality impacts in their area.
The level of knowledge held by the course participants about the local environment and their connection to their surroundings has inspired me deeply. What truly resonated with me was how important this local knowledge is in order to conduct holistic water quality monitoring. I felt privileged to be able to share some knowledge with this amazing group of people, but what I will always remember is what they taught me through their openness and deep connection to place and culture.