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September 8

Our guides for this day’s adventures are picked up early at the Kitasoo/XaiXai First Nation community of Klemtu.  Chief Frances Robinson and Klemtu Tourism Advisor Evan Loveless join us while we make our way through the Fjordlands Recreational Area.  Dr. Suzuki shares personal family history and stories and describes how he became involved in environmental issues.  He discusses the beliefs of the First Nations people in the four elements of fire, water, earth and air and paints a verbal portrait of their connections to each other.  He believes that there is a “sacred balance” between these elements that mankind must learn to recognize and respect.  I leave convinced that we have much to learn from the culture and beliefs of our First Peoples and concerned that we are unwilling and unable to learn what we need to understand soon enough to change our direction.

 

Chief Robinson welcomes us to the traditional area of his people and shares the legend of the mountain where the First People came down from heaven as we quietly slip past it.  By mid-morning we join Raincoast Conservation Foundation researchers at the head of the Kynoch Inlet in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest.   Spawned-out salmon at the end of their life cycle are underfoot everywhere, both in and out of the water.  At least four of the five salmon species are heavily active here and thousands continue their struggle up the swollen stream.  A merlin falcon waits quietly in a tree top for its prey, while graceful, silent eagles and hundreds of screaming gulls circle and feed noisily on eggs and carcasses.  Two of the team’s researchers stand in a stream bed and describe for us the research they are doing on the rodent and songbird populations here in the heart of the rainforest.  They want to identify which birds in the region are sedentary and which ones are simply migrating through.

  

Chief Cecil Paul and his flock
An unusual podium to present research
Ashore
Spawned out salmon at the end of their lives
Wendy Artz

Back on the boat Dr. Paul Paquet and Dr. Robert Wayne, stripped to their long johns to dry out, inform us about the Coastal Wolf Project they are currently involved in which is attracting international attention.  They are studying the genetics of the coastal and island wolves, as well as the relationship between the wolves and the grizzlies.  Much of their research is gathered through examination of the feces and they have found evidence of wolves on every island that they have checked.  We are also introduced to the fascinating world of paleobotany, the study of fossil plants.

 

Longhouse and totemBack in Klemtu, after dinner, Chief Frances Robinson welcomes us to his hometown and invites us to visit the stunning new longhouse which the community has built to rekindle the cultural traditions and spirit.  The longhouse is a 20 minute walk through the village and well worth the trip.  It is stunning and smells strongly of cedar.  Chief Robinson is endearingly proud of the structure.

 

September 9

Gale force winds offshore cause another change in plans and we anchor in the shelter of Pruth Bay and disembark at Calvert Island.  We trek across to the west side of the island to enjoy invigorating breezes and pounding surf on the Pacific west coast.  The hardier passengers accompany the keen and energetic Briony Penn on a hike through the island’s bogs while the rest of us are content to walk the sandy shore checking out the birds and gathering shells.  We are joined by an enthusiastic young canine that romps and frolics joyfully and bestows a wet kiss on me.  It is apparent that he has been recently gnawing on the remains of a dead whale.            

Peace on the beach

Pacific Ocean beach

           A morning discussion led by David Suzuki opens our minds to the idea of making personal changes in our lifestyles at home that would have small but long term impacts on the sustainability of the environment.  Suzuki’s passion for his topic is inspiring and very moving.  We view a very moving video of his daughter, Severn, making a presentation to an environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1993.   Indeed, Dr. Suzuki takes a short break to gain control of his own emotions before he declares himself to be very proud of his daughter.   He then goes on to describe the work of the David Suzuki Foundation. 

 

Briony Penn and Bill Turner explain the relevance of our next stop, describing Bill’s involvement in negotiating the acquisition of the once privately-owned lands and fishing lodge within the Koeye River Estuary.  The purchase was finally made for $1 million and the lands were turned over to the Heiltsuk First Nation.  It is the only estuary along the west coast close enough to the ocean to allow viewing of both whales and grizzlies.  The site is a place where Heiltsuk children spend summers learning the old ways and we see signs of cedar bark harvesting on some of the trees.  The camp is also open to children recovering from chemotherapy.

Through The Smoke. A Work In ProgressThroughtheRainForest2.JPG (241417 bytes)Our ship at anchorLarry

We land on a beautiful sandy beach.  A short walk through the lush mossy green forest, gently lit by filtered light, takes us to a traditional longhouse.  This longhouse is much more rustic than the one at Klemtu and is being built using only wood recovered from fallen logs and utilizing many of the old techniques.  The roof is still only half finished and requires 350 more nine-foot cedar shakes to complete.  The skills to create these shakes have nearly disappeared and the making of them is a considerable challenge.  The air is redolent with the smells of cedar, wood smoke and the ocean and we are welcomed by the council, elected chief and the hereditary chief.  The early-morning passing of an elder has required special permission from the family of the deceased for them to participate in today’s events and for our visit to take place as planned.  The Heiltsuk singers and drummers share some special songs with us including a crying song to honour the Heiltsuk elder.  After the ceremonies, we are free to wander the site, check out the bunk houses and walk the trails while we wait our turn to go up-river in the DIBs.

 

We watch a film introducing us to the U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay which we will visit tomorrow.  All passengers are encouraged to participate in the silent auction to raise money for the return of the G’psgolox Pole.  There are many, many beautiful items and bidding is competitive.

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