Tagged: Tofino

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.

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

Meares Island Big Tree Trail near Tofino

Lights, Camera, Clayoquot Action!

Clayoquot Action was stoked to host and coordinate logistics for filmmakers Jacob Wise and Rebecca Billings from Ithaca, New York. The pair are working to create two feature-length documentaries about the ancient rainforests of Vancouver Island.

The first film will be an investigative piece about the rainforest and associated environmental issues. The second will be a nonverbal documentary that evokes the wonder and beauty of this sadly endangered environment. The two films will work as companion pieces to each other.

In March, they spent 17 days on Vancouver Island gathering footage, and are currently back to complete the task. While in Tofino they were able to join a traditional dugout canoe tour with Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations member Tsimka Martin. They also attended Clayoquot Action’s Clayoquot Summer 20 Years After presentation, joined a whale watching tour, and got to fly over Clayoquot Sound on a classically beautiful summer day! Continue reading

Clayoquot Sound sea kayakers in Tofino harbour. Sander Jain photo.

Introducing Clayoquot Action

Joe Foy, the Wilderness Committee’s National Campaign Director, has been the driving force behind many of their campaigns, including the Stein and Carmanah Valleys. Joe’s passion for the wild is inspired and informed by the thousands of hours he has spent exploring BC’s wild places.

There are few places on the planet that vibrate with an awe-inspiring abundance of life in the way that Clayoquot Sound does.

Moss-hung ancient forests grace the land, with some trees as tall as a skyscraper, as wide as your living room and as old as a European cathedral. Clayoquot’s many bays and inlets team with fish, seabirds and whales. Black bears roll rocks on the beaches, looking for tasty seafood snacks.

When European traders first sailed into Clayoquot Sound in the 18th century, Nuu-chah-nulth villages had already been there for many centuries.

Several decades ago, the Nuu-chah-nulth people launched a successful court challenge to prevent logging that threatened the forests of Meares Island. Around the same time the Tofino-based group Friends of Clayoquot Sound was formed to counter the push by multi-national logging companies who wanted to clearcut the region.

The 1990s saw the largest anti-logging protests in Canadian history happening in Clayoquot Sound.

Today, new threats stalk Clayoquot. Oil tanker traffic, salmon farms and industrial mine proposals threaten to undo the good work of generations of Clayoquot defenders.

But now, 20 years after Clayoquot Summer 1993, a new local group – Clayoquot Action – has been formed to help face these new challenges head on. Clayoquot Action’s founders, Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck, were key organizers of those 1990s protests. For the past 25 years they have lived in Clayoquot Sound as keen kayakers, naturalists and ecotourism operators. Dan and Bonny know that although environmental challenges are global by nature, the best place to bring about change is locally, at the community level.

Clayoquot Sound is such a special place. And with the help of Clayoquot Action – may it ever remain so.

Please support Clayoquot Action’s efforts generously through the giving of your time and/or donations.

For the wild…
Joe Foy
Wilderness Committee National Campaign Director

Salmon Confidential inspires Clayoquot Action!

Clayoquot Action hosted filmmaker Twyla Roscovich and wild salmon researcher and advocate Alexandra Morton in Tofino in April. The pair toured BC this spring with Roscovich’s new film Salmon Confidential. They spoke to a sold-out house at the Clayoquot Community Theatre in Tofino after being welcomed to the territory by members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations.

In the film Alexandra Morton calls for citizens to stand up for wild salmon by forming Departments of Wild Salmon in local regions. Clayoquot Action is responding to this challenge by launching our Wild Salmon Virus Sampling Project.

Salmon feedlots, like any factory farm, are breeding grounds for disease. When a salmon feedlot has an outbreak, billions of viral particles are shed every hour. These particles are carried far and wide by ocean currents. Because wild fish breath by passing water over their gills, it’s not difficult for viruses to enter their bloodstream and voila! the disease has transferred from farmed to wild salmon. The solution is simple: remove salmon farms from wild salmon migration routes. Act now to protect Clayoquot’s wild salmon!

Beginning in late summer and early fall, Clayoquot Action volunteers will hit the rivers to sample wild salmon for the presence of viruses introduced by salmon farms. Stay tuned for further details…