Maria Delesalle (pictured right) and Alanna Gauthier are 2 of 3 partners for NEXUS Coastal Resource Management, a consulting company that works with Aboriginal communities in a variety of different ways.
Both Maria and Alanna recently graduated from the Masters of Marine Management program at Dalhousie University. Previous to this, Maria completed a BA in First Nations Studies and Human Geography from the University of Northern British Columbia, while Alanna has an Honours Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Dalhousie University.
These fish enthusiasts recently told me about their experience working with Aboriginal communities, and how that has helped them and their company.
Q. How does working with Aboriginal communities differ from working with non-Indigenous communities or organizations?
Alanna: I don’t think there is much difference between working with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. I had the opportunity to work and live in an Aboriginal community and I found that community members had the same priorities (have a good job, raise their children and contribute to their community) as non-Aboriginal people.
Maria: I would agree with Alanna in that there is no difference between working with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities – people are people. In the same respect, I believe a strong work ethic and cultural understanding is required regardless of the social background of the group you are working with. In order to establish a mutually beneficial work relationship, I believe everyone deserves to be treated with the same respect no matter their nationality, culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
Q. What are some things you think you can take away from your experiences working with Indigenous peoples, organizations and communities that you think will benefit you in current or future roles?
Alanna: My experience working with Aboriginal people taught me that there are many ways to view a situation. When I work with clients, that experience will benefit me as I work to provide clients innovative and effective services that meet and ultimately exceed their expectations.
Maria: Through working with Aboriginal peoples, I have learned the value of alternative perspectives or ways of going about a project/ or problem from my own. It is important to be open to learning new ways and not get blinded by tunnel vision. Being open to new perspectives allows me to provide the most effective services to my clients.
Q. As a non-Indigenous individual, did you face any challenges when working with Aboriginal peoples?
Alanna: My experience working with Aboriginal people did not provide challenges, but rather opportunities. I had the opportunity to learn about a different culture and experience another approach to managing resources. I think that we need to work together to use both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal knowledge systems to develop a new way forward to manage natural resources.
Maria: I have had nothing but positive experiences working with Aboriginal communities throughout Canada. Through every opportunity I have been able to garner a new appreciation and understanding for those communities’ knowledge systems, perspectives and values. I believe it is imperative to work together with Aboriginal communities surrounding the issues of resource management in order to positively move forward in the proper management of these valuable resources.
Q. Can you explain what you do at NEXUS Coastal Resource Management?
Alanna: NEXUS Coastal is a consulting company that provides capacity building support for co-operative approaches to coastal resource management. We provide technical and advisory support as well as facilitation services to Aboriginal communities, government, community organizations and non-governmental organizations. Maria and I are 2 of the 3 principals of NEXUS Coastal and we work with our team of associates to provide efficient and reliable services to our clients.
Q. Do you have any tips for students—Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal—for meeting their education and career goals?
Alanna: Aside from the traditional advice of hard work and determination, I would say know your values and to consider opportunities that arise throughout your education and career. Your values will guide your decision on whether or not to take the opportunity. Oftentimes, these opportunities may help you achieve your goals.
Maria: There have been 2 pieces of advice that have helped me through my education and career goals. First, don’t waste your time stressing about a project or assignment, it’s a waste of energy and time. If you find yourself struggling from writers block or just a general lack of enthusiasm about that assignment, take a break, because the longer you sit in front of the computer staring at a blank page the worse the situation will become. Know yourself and your limits of when you can be productive and when you can’t.
Second, stop and think. Give yourself the opportunity to reflect on what the problem is, and what are you being asked to do. Always come down to the basics, sometimes the scope of a problem can become overwhelming, so take the time to stop and think, what is being asked of me? How can I accomplish it?
Q. So, I have to ask…why fish?
Alanna: I still ask myself that question all the time. I believe fisheries management provides the opportunity for people to collaboratively work together effectively manage a resource that many people depend on for food, recreation and employment. I am excited to be a part of jobs which require people from different background to work together to complete. I feel that when you work with someone, it provides an opportunity to get to know someone that you would have never met outside of the job.
Maria: Fish have played an intricate role throughout my life. I grew up on the coast of British Columbia and have spent countless hours enjoying time out on the water. I spent 8 years working at a remote fishing lodge on the coast of Haida Gwaii where I managed the fish program. I spent countless hours recording the guests catch, every detail from the species to weight of the fish. Over the years I noticed a general decline in the overall size and numbers of fish being caught. After I left the lodge I knew that I wanted to move into the field of fisheries management, ideally being able to implement new knowledge systems in order to create more effective and successful management plan for this valuable industry.