I have been following the work of the Orca Protection & Rescue folks in Friday Harbor from afar as I found myself volunteering to help some old friends from the Gitxsan (www.gitxsan.ca) communicate through the internet… like I know? Anyway, I do have a bit of experience setting up off-the-rail activist Live Streams around the world. So I figured what the hell.
Now I am sure that few of you know the First Nations Gitxsan. If you are Americans, surely not but in my life experience they have always showed up in my life to help with what many believed were “against all odds” adventures. Now I have a liking for that attitude myself, so back in 1991 when they decided to capture a Spanish replica Columbus ships on the way to the USA to celebrate 500 years of discovery, I was all in. Fortunately for them, I was a heavy breather at Sea Shepherd way back then, and Watson was a want-be-Indian for some reason so the SEA SPEPHERD II was their ship of choice. They leased the ship for one dollar to carry out their plans. Now why a bunch of forest natives want to go on a couple week cruise in rough waters is beyond me, and you can image the fun… Robert Hunter wrote about some of it in his book RED BLOOD for the historical record…
I had a ball, but my friends did not fare so well at sea. My only comment is that if I got sea sick just once, I’d be saving trees… It appears to be miserable although I have my theories, but that is a story for another day. At the time I didn’t get to know many of the activists, but I did get to know Gordon Sebastian, Art Loring, and Ralph Michele. Ralph’s nickname was tiger, and Gordon was a lawyer… enough said. Art was just a man with a mission. I was taking their orders after all so I always welcomed their presence on the bridge. Other then driving the boat, a bridge is usually hours of boredom punctuated by moments of share terror, so you talk. Even the kids talk sometimes as their cell phones don’t work. Heaven for me, hell for them.
So I spent hours each day watching as is the job of the bridge crew, and we talked. I asked questions about their families, their culture… you name it. When I heard the atrocities their thousand year old culture had suffered since “whiteman” arrived, and purposely tried to kill them off… a hundred plus years later, it was still happening in 1991. The Canadian government policies were still present then, and still wreaking havoc today. The horrific “Residential Schools” where children were kidnapped from their parents to destroy their language and culture weren’t closed until the 90s. That this was happening in 1991 outraged me. You see I come from Cape Cod where the famous Turkey eating Pilgrims celebrated with, and then wiped out the very natives who sustained them in their first year. My town was proud of their ancestors… me, not so much. I don’t think I have white guilt, but none the less in 1991 I said if they ever needed my help, to ask. This last winter they asked. I’m retired and had the time so I went… It was a very successful start.
Most people who follow me know that I am sort upset with open-pen salmon farms. I have travelled the world and witnessed firsthand how their introduction has led to death of wild stock, cultures, eco-systems… you name it. Oh, the INDUSTRY will give their side. It’s opinion by “biostitutes” . I’ve seen it first hand. The fact is: farmed salmon is carp for the wild oceans and shitty food in my opinion. I feel it is healthier to eat the plastic it is wrapped in. If you are going to eat salmon, and I do, then make sure it is wild. Farmed salmon will cause the extinction of a species… maybe many species as nature is intimately connected on so many levels. It is not the panacea it has been to sold to us as. There is nothing healthy , glamorous, or green about it. Really; look it up.
Anyhow back to the subject at hand as I have digressed. In 1991 a Gitxsan gentleman by the name of Art Loring walked on board the replica Columbus ships in Puerto Rico and claimed them for the Gitxsan, Wet’suwet’enpeople much as the Spanish Seafarers had done to them 500 years earlier. As crazy as it sounds, it worked as the Spanish noticed and signed an apology… major celebrations were cancelled.
This seminal event by the Gitxsan changed history. We ,my tribe, started thinking about the million slaughtered natives this “discovery” began. We colonialists wishfully learned from that experience, but I’m not sure. As I head to make a similar stand for orca protection, I’ll think about Art Loring and the present Gitxsan Hereditary Sim’oogit in their struggle. We at http://www.gaianetwork.net side with the whales, the salmon, and ourselves. The Gitxsan are with us presently securing their fish tenure on the Skeena River in their territories. I support their efforts. Maybe, just maybe my tribe ( K’amksiwaa ) will listen and realize these people not only have territorial and constitutional rights… it’s their land, their river, their fish, their moose ,and their mountains. Why is it so hard for people like me to understand trespass? Why the arrogance? I always ask my friends if they’d be cool with Gitxsan trapping in their back yards? And if they thought that ok, wouldn’t it more civilized if the property owner was at least asked? I think most of us learned the answer in kindergarten. Hell yes!
Well the Gitxsan have closed the Skeena River as it flows through their territory and they have pronounced it off limits to recreational fishing. Maybe you haven’t heard? It doesn’t surprise me as I don’t think the Feds or Provincial hotshots believe them. Well I, as an outside observer of Gitxsan culture, would advise the government to pay attention. I believe in the Hereditary Chiefs’ closure, and I believe they will do it. It seems to me the government better start putting their money where their mouth is. The Trudeau government is preaching reconciliation. Time for them to put up or shut up too. And while you are at it Mr. Trudeau, can you shut down the salmon farms, clean up the tar sands, and start paying attention to First Nations elders who have kept their conservation and cultural morality for thousands of years. Maybe it is time for all of us to stand up for the future. Get your noises out of your phones, your asses off the couch, and practice a bit of your inner “wild”. The bears need your help, the salmon need your help, and the orcas need your help. Save them all and we save ourselves. Think of that when you hug your grand kids or send your own children off into the world. Change is difficult, but I have found it worth everything. The time is NOW for all of us.