Tagged: John Rampanen

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.

Tore Bongo presents Alexandra Morton petition to King of Norway

Alta reflections

The indigenous people of northern Europe are called Sami. They are known for herding reindeer on the tundra. What we learned while in Norway is that the coastal Sami culture centres on wild salmon, much like coastal Natives in what is now called British Columbia. These two species, with their predictable migration patterns, provided the protein on which a rich culture was founded—the Sami.

The Alta River in northern Norway is famous. The stretches downstream of Northern Europe’s biggest canyon teem with big salmon, and have been a mecca of sports fishing for many years. The reindeer herds also come to the banks of the headwaters to calve in the rich pastures.

A major dam on the Alta River?
Back in 1970, the Norwegian government announced plans to build a major hydroelectric dam on the Alta River. Questions about the reindeer, the wild salmon, or interference with Sami rights were not even considered. What became known as the Alta Controversy began as a conflict between the Sami and the Norwegian government. The Sami village of Masi was to be flooded, and people rightly feared extensive disruption of the environment. Eventually the resistance morphed into a People’s Movement which became a nationwide flashpoint for a growing awareness of the need to protect the environment and uphold indigenous rights. Continue reading

west coast kids near tar sands

Ocean Beaches, Tar Sands


John Rampanen is a member of Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations. He lives with his family on the land in Clayoquot Sound. They are currently visiting northern Alberta.

I come from a world away. Pristine waters cascade down scarred mountainsides into seemingly endless ocean waters. I am Nuu-chah-nulth. My people have forged a life on the bountiful western coast of Vancouver Island since time immemorial. Recent history has introduced a plethora of environmental concerns stemming from the over-exploitation of natural resources. Forestry, fishing, mining… these are the profanities uttered unto our land that have continuously caused audacious destruction to the land, waters, animals and peoples.

Today, I am in a foreign land. A visitor that has retraced the steps of my wife’s Cree lineage to the marshy woodlands of northern Alberta. My home is on the ocean-side but her roots run deep throughout this territory. Together we seek out knowledge and truth from a way of life that is nearly forgotten. As we walk upon this strange and altered land we pick up little bits and pieces of a world that was once full of life and beauty. A way of life that was once in tune with the surrounding environment. We quickly discover that these two worlds are not so different.

Our arrival in Northern Alberta is ushered in with torrential downpours of rain. A blessing for us, as it reminds us of home and the ocean, but in this far off land it is an omen and is met with fear and uncertainty by the locals. As the waters rise, so too does our consciousness. Tarsands development, profit before land and people, destruction of the lands and waters comes at an unexpected price. Earth Mother has a way of reminding us that we are not always in control. There are powers beyond our measure… powers that have the means to correct manmade mistakes… and that power has awoken.

naas-a-thluk “takes care of the day”
(John Rampanen)
Spring/Summer 2013

http://www.healingwalk.org. On July 5-6 people will come together from coast to coast to join First Nations and Metis in the Healing Walk, a gathering focused on healing the environment and the people who are suffering from tar sands expansion. 
#IdleNoMore #INM #SovSummer #HealingWalk