Tagged: Ahousaht First Nations

Moving mountains

In 1990 I took 3 months to circumnavigate Vancouver Island by kayak as a transition to my new life in Tofino. Coming around Estevan Point from the north, I caught my first glimpse of Flores Island, in Ahousaht First Nations territory. At that point I’d been paddling past horrendous clear cuts for over a month—most of the mountains on the west coast of Vancouver Island were logged bare during the 80s. Flores Island stuck out like a gem. There is something about seeing a landscape not dominated by industrial humans. It is so rare to see on Planet Earth at this point—it’s an incredibly healing sight. It is not the same as a landscape where the devastation has been carefully hidden by engineers trained in hiding damage. Terms like ‘landscape logging’ or ‘Visual Quality Objectives’ do not encompass the fact that the beauty of a landscape is more than just visual. You can feel when the land is whole—the word whole has the same roots as the word heal.

In my first decade of paddling, I visited much of the BC coast. I would paddle in a locale once or twice, get to know a few place names, and think I was becoming familiar with the land. But I knew nothing of the indigenous names; or history of the people who had lived there for millennia—who still know the stories of the land, the connections of families, and are responsible for stewardship of that place, to hand it on to future generations in good condition.

Nowadays it is pretty rare for me to tie my kayak on a car to travel somewhere else. I tend to paddle right off the beach where I live, go as far as I can and still get back home in a day—Big Wild days. If I can get away for a week or more, it’s up the inlets to the backcountry river valleys.

There are several mountains which dominate the view from Tofino. Straight north is one called Wah-Nah-Jus in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations language, also known as Lone Cone. To the east is Hilth-hoo-is, named by early colonialists after a fur trader called Colnett. These two mountains make up the Meares Island Tribal Park. To the west is a mountain known in Ahousaht language as Chitaapii—in English, Catface Mountain.

Hishukish tsawalk—everything being one and interconnected
For twenty five years I’ve lived in the shadow of these three mountains. Nuu-chah-nulth thinker N̓aasałuk (John Rampanen) spoke in Tofino a few years back. He said in part “Our people are people of the land, and of the water. We are closely connected, our concept of hishukish tsawalk—everything being one and interconnected—has a deep significance to us as individuals, and as families and as communities. We understand and appreciate that there’s a spirit in the land; there’s a spirit in all that surrounds us. And we are but one spirit—the humans, that are surrounded by many other spirits that share this particular space with us. And each of you are a spirit that shares the space with us as well. So we are all people of the land; we are all people of this land—we share this space together.”

It’s a concept now beginning to be understood by Western physics. In school many years ago we learned about electrons orbiting an atomic nucleus much as planets orbit stars. Turns out reality is a bit more complicated. Particular electrons have a habit of being associated with particular nuclei, but could be far away at any given time. The atoms in the forest around my home are sharing space with my atoms. As Walt Whitman put it back in 1855: “Every atom belonging to you, as good belongs to me.”

Travelling under human power means I can only get so far away from home and back in a day—twenty miles total on a good day, so ten miles out. As my body travels slowly through the Sound, the mountains I am so familiar with begin to move. By the time I’m enjoying a picnic on some remote beach, or perched on a rock way up an inlet, I have a very different view of these mountains than when I began. It’s fun to spend time behind a mountain that I live in front of.

As the day winds down and I begin to paddle home, the mountains begin to move again. I can tell when I’m getting close to home, not just in the two dimensional world of my place on the nautical chart, but also in three dimensions. The peaks of Wah-Nah-Jus and Hilth-hoo-is climb higher and higher as I approach, then settle into a position which feels normal as I return to the beach where Bonny & I live. Finally the cedar forests surrounding our cabin climb high, blocking out any view of the mountains—but I can still feel them looming above, less than a mile away, dominating my space. Then I feel that I’m back home.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Bingham Canyon Open Pit Copper Mine

A tale of two mines

An open-pit copper mine in the heart of Clayoquot Sound? A historic gold mine re-opened using modern technology to scour out minerals the old-timers couldn’t get at? Is this the best we can hope for, almost 25 years after the Clayoquot Summer peaceful protests put the region on the map of global ecological hotspots?

Imperial Metals sparked controversy this month when interviewed by CBC for a story on mining. When asked about Imperial’s Clayoquot Sound claims, Vice President Steve Robertson said “those mining projects are very valuable to the company, we feel they’re high priority projects”. Robertson was formerly the manager of Imperial’s Mount Polley Mine, until their tailings dam failed catastrophically in 2014, spilling 25 million cubic metres of toxic tailings and slurry into pristine Quesnel Lake—one of the biggest mining disasters in the world. Continue reading

Ahousaht First Nations vision

Ahousahts’ vision

Hereditary chiefs typically designate a speaker to speak for them in public. This is because when they say something, it can’t be taken back. So I was curious when I heard Chief Maquinna from Ahousaht was going to speak at a Raincoast Education Society event in Tofino about old growth forests—how was this going to work?

Lewis George is the hereditary chief of Ahousaht, and bears the traditional title m̓ukʷina (Maquinna), which he received from his late father Earl Maquinna George. The first thing he did last week was to explain why he was speaking. Hereditary chiefs can only speak for themselves when they have good news. And Ahousaht has good news!

The Ahousaht confederacy recently announced their marine- and land-use vision for their traditional territories (ḥaḥuułʔi). The community consensus is to protect their lands and waters, including the globally rare ancient rainforests—the massive cedars and spruces—of which they are the custodians. Continue reading

Clayoquot Science Panel

(Originally published in November/December 2016 issue of Watershed Sentinel)

As I struggled to hoist myself up onto the monumental stump of an ancient red cedar, I wondered how it had come to this. Why, in 2010, were trees like this being cut down in Clayoquot Sound? A place where valley after valley of ancient forests never ravaged by chainsaws undulates downwards from the snowy peaks, to surf rolling in on mile-long sandy beaches. Continue reading

Big summer for wild salmon!

It was a big summer for wild salmon. Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society donated their vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, to BC biologist Alexandra Morton. Operation Virus Hunter was launched! The goal was to track farm salmon viruses and audit salmon farms along the Fraser wild salmon migration route.

Things ramped up in August when the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw chiefs (pictured above at a Vancouver rally) issued an eviction notice to all salmon farms in their territory, including Cermaq, the same Norwegian company operating in Clayoquot Sound. The Nation has been opposing salmon farms in their territory for decades. This summer Band Councillor Melissa Willie instructed by Chief Willie Moon to climb aboard a salmon farm to request a sample of the farm fish for testing. Their request was denied. Continue reading

Mass die-off at Clayoquot farms

The call came in at the end of a busy day last week: ‘Cermaq is experiencing a mass die-off at two of their farms in Clayoquot Sound’. By early morning the next day we had assembled a volunteer boat driver and photographer, sourced a donated water taxi, and raised the funds to fuel the boat and hire a videographer complete with drone. We set off in anticipation.

The first farm we got to didn’t seem to have any unusual activity, other than the whole Herbert Inlet was a weird murky turquoise. An employee boated over to photograph us, and a polite exchange followed. ‘We’re not sure what this colour is’, he said. ‘We’ve been seeing it for six weeks—could be Chryso’ (shorthand for Chrysochromulina, a species of algae).

The second farm we reached was the Millar Channel farm, just kilometres north of the site evicted by Ahousaht First Nations, after it was occupied by the Yaakswiis Warriors last September. There was a hum of activity: workers tossing dead salmon into totes, which were lifted and dumped into semi-trailers designed to haul away animal remains. The tubes sucking the dead fish (morts) from the pens were getting plugged up with the sheer numbers, and divers were in the pens unplugging them. Continue reading

Mining harms wild salmon

The Wild Salmon Delegation came to Norway to campaign against Cermaq’s open-net pen feedlots in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. But as the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations saying goes, hišukiš c̓aawaak—everything is connected.

Yesterday I found myself sitting inside an indigenous Sami lavvu (a teepee-like traditional dwelling) with Ahousaht First Nations citizen John Rampanen. Imagine our surprise to learn that the reindeer herder with us Continue reading

Unprecedented fish farm win!

A meteor shot thru the pre-dawn sky, burning longer than any I’ve ever witnessed. Was it a sign that something was about to happen?

We were up early to head north to Ahousaht territory to witness the removal of Cermaq’s new fish farm from a place called Yaakswiis, on the shore of Flores Island. The facility had been occupied by members of Ahousaht First Nations for 13 days, until the company finally agreed to remove the floats—at first light on Monday, September 21. Continue reading

First Nations occupy Clayoquot Sound salmon farm

Heading north from Tofino towards Hot Springs Cove, you pass by Flores Island, home to the Ahousaht First Nations. The island is breathtakingly beautiful—rounded mountains covered in ancient rainforests sweep down to white sand beaches with surf rolling in.

Cermaq, a Norwegian-based salmon farming company (recently purchased by Mitsubishi) was granted permits this summer to install a new salmon farm on the eastern shore of Flores Island, their 16th site in Clayoquot Sound.

The contentious new farm was assembled off-site, an unusual move indicating that Cermaq was expecting resistance. When Cermaq towed the assembled pens to the Yaakswiis site on Wednesday they were met by members of Ahousaht First Nations who do not want salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound. Continue reading

New salmon farm approved in Clayoquot Sound

On the Friday afternoon before the BC Day weekend, the government attempted to bury the news that a new salmon farm had been approved in Clayoquot Sound. Three other new farms were also approved for northern Vancouver Island.

The license was issued to Cermaq, a Norwegian-based company belonging to Mitsubishi. If installation is completed, the new feedlot would be located along the shores of Flores Island (pictured below), in Ahousaht First Nations territory. Flores Island is cloaked in intact ancient cedar rainforest, with many creeks supporting runs of wild salmon. Continue reading