Leona Irons from Curve Lake First Nation near Peterborough, Ontario, is Executive Director of National Aboriginal Lands Managers Association (NALMA), an organization with two decades operating the Professional Indigenous Lands Management Certificate Program (PLMCP) at a post-secondary level in Canada.

"At NALMA, we deliver Level 2 of PLMCP in Canada. Level 1 is delivered by post-secondary institutions like Vancouver Island University (VIU), University of Saskatchewan (U of S), and Algoma University in Ontario, and a new program delivery coming in French at Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue in Quebec."

NALMA is a professional organization raising professional standards in First Nation land management, providing national certification to land managers in a two-year course. Land management certification is delivered in two levels: Level 1 via post-secondary institutions under Memorandums of Understanding; and Level 2 delivered directly by NALMA to those who have the pre-requisite level 1.

Irons explains that the course qualifies people primarily to manage land under the Indian Act and other related land regimes. Having certification enables land managers to effectively manage their lands and create a cooperative setting for economic development.

"There are three types of land regimes in Canada. There are those that exist strictly under the Indian Act. There are those working under Sectoral Self-government; and there are those who operate under Self-government," says Irons.

Irons notes the PLMCP launched in 2004, and, to date, there are 197 certified land managers from all across Canada.

NALMA is made up of eight Regional Lands Associations with 234 members at large. The first cohort at VIU in B.C. (

The program at VIU focuses on land use planning. "We found good partners at VIU who adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of our PLMCP."

Dr. Pamela Shaw, Director of Professional Indigenous Lands Management Certificate, and VIU’s Master of Community Planning Program, says, "This year, in the aftermath of the heightened restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Certificate program was held on line instead of face to face.

Dr. Shaw says there are so many issues pertaining to management of Indigenous land and property. At the same time, so many communities exist under different governance structures. "We have a lot of ground to cover in the courses in the Certificate Program, and we have  amazing faculty at VIU who are teaching these courses.”

Dr. Shaw says VIU is delighted to work with NALMA on ensuring that students have a solid background in professional lands management. Most of the students who have enrolled in the program so far are already working full-time as lands managers or coordinators, and Shaw notes that the students bring their own backgrounds and experiences into the program. 

"Students can choose to complete only their VIU Professional Indigenous Lands Management Certificate or they can ladder this Certificate into the NALMA Level 2 Training. We are excited to be a partner with NALMA in delivering this education and look forward to the course offerings next summer. We anticipate that the first class will be held face to face on the Nanaimo campus, then the following five courses will proceed online.  This format has worked very well this year, and we hope it makes the program accessible to learners all across Canada.”

Freelance Writing by Malcolm 'Mack' McColl in 2022

NALMA Raising Professional Standards in First Nation Land Management