Meet Michael Desjarlais, Tsartlip’s Ecological Restoration Coordinator

Learn more about Michael and the work he’ll be doing. Click play to view the short video, or read the transcript below.

Interviewer: Can you tell us a bit about who you are and where you’re from?

I am Michael Desjarlais. My mother is Salish from Tsartlip. My father is Salteaux, he was born in the Winnipeg area.

Interviewer: Can you share a bit about your background & experience?

I’ve done a lot of things, a lot of education. I’ve always gone to school regardless of whatever job I had. I came from a strong background in Marine and a strong background in safety. So those are the two things that I’ve really been practicing. I went to school initially for counseling and family science. I started my master’s in counseling psych at UBC, but it was a five year master’s program. I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t. I mean, that was after your undergrad. So I left that and worked, and I was making some pretty good money doing the job I was doing, and I was miserable. So I finally left there and went recently to Camosun College, did a trades program for Bridge Watch rating program, and that’s where I arrived. I’ve always had a strong interest in ecological restoration, pollution mitigation, being on the water, seeing something that’s wrong and fixing it.

Interviewer: What is your role at Tsartlip and what will you be doing in the Stewardship Department?

Okay, I’ll start with my title. It’s Ecological Restoration Coordinator, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a capacity building position, which means I don’t have to know everything about ecological restoration. I don’t have to know everything about the marine world, the biological part of it, but I have to be able to put those pieces in place to do this role that I’m in now and that is ecological restoration with Tsartlip First Nation.

Interviewer: What kind of impact do you hope to have during your time here?

I guess for our community. What would I like to see? I would like to see something like Todd inlet. To look at that project 10 years from now and go, Yeah, look what these people accomplished. If that’s where I could come out of at the end of my role here, I would be quite happy.

Interviewer: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

On weekends, I fish, I spend time on the beaches. I do a lot of stream walking. Prior to this role, I spent time out on Mayne Island, some of the other islands, clam digging. And over the years, and I guess because as I get older, I’ve seen changes in my lifetime. So one of the things that I enjoy doing is documenting, and now I’m learning to document those changes in a more scientific way. So my time off is exactly the same as my time on my job is supposed to be seven hours a day, but on weekends I’m fishing, I’m walking the rivers, I’m going and picking up garbage along the beaches or documenting large marine incidents that require stewardship, our work. Honestly, I think if I won the lottery today, I would continue doing what I’m doing.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you’d like community members to know?

Going back to my not growing up with the language, because I grew up off reserve. My parents, because of residential school and enfranchisement and Bill C31, no fault of my parents, my parents did their damnest to feed us and make sure we were safe every night, provide some activities for us and teach us in the best possible way they could. And I guess where I would like to come out of that is say I admit upfront that I don’t have the access to the language and the traditional knowledge that a lot of our people grew up with. And I guess people, if they would like to be patient with me and see that I’m making mistakes and happily correct me, that’s fine.

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