Great Bear National Forest - Sacred Spaces, Day 5

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Sept 23, 2007 (Early Morning) - Hartley Bay: Home of the Gitga'at

Boats in Hartley Bay

The knock on our boat cabin's door came at 7AM. It may not seem early, but life on the sea can lull you into this restless slumber. I turned over to face the little window in the bedroom. It was cracked open slightly. The first night I figured out that I could use my cocoa-brown twisty tie to prop the window open enough to keep the moisture out and the warmth in.

Today would be the day we go to Hartley Bay - where 180 members of the Git'gat live. Most of the population comprises of children and they have a nice education system and community for the younger generation. In the morning we met with Danny, who heads up the salmon repopulation program. He has a modest operation, funded by the state, that he has been running for over a decade. Fish repopulation is needed, but only puts a band-aid on the actual problem: Over-fishing. Since salmon live in the open ocean and spawn in the freshwater rivers, most of the damage is being done by open ocean commercial fisheries owned by one principle fish monopolist in the Pacific Northwest. This yields further problems, including low pay for workers, many who are of the First Nations. Salmon fillets have dropped as demand increased and they are practically given away for pennies on the dollar. Makes me wonder who really is making the money however, especially when we pay $6.99 - $14.99/lb for fresh wild caught Pacific salmon. Time for some fair trade, First Nation line-caught salmon. What do you think about that?

After Salmon Fisheries 101, we talked with the former ch
ief about the Ecosystem Based Management program that is being implemented in the area. The Git'gat are anti-Atlantic salmon farm fishing in the area because it is destroying the unique genetic makeup of the wild populations as well as transferring diseases (like lice) to wild fish.

Heavy talks. Later let up for some incredible bear viewing - both black bears and Spirit (Kermode) bears. Check out some photos below.

"The country knows. If you do wrong things to it, the whole country knows. It feels what's happening to it. I guess everything is connected together somehow, under the ground..." - Larrine Williams, Koyukon Elder, 1975

Hartley Bay

Danny takes us through his salmon repopulation operation
Marven took us out to view some black and spirit bears later

Sept 23, 2007 (Early Morning) - Hartley Bay: Home of the Gitga'at

Copper Woman is a very special component of First Nation history in the Northwest

Eagle totem pole

The sacred white spirit bear in the Git'gat Bighouse

Sept 23, 2007 (Early Afternoon) - Black Bear Encounters

The very attractive orange peel fungus (Aleuria aurantia)

The salmon in the stream.

Sept 23, 2007 (Early Afternoon) - Kermode (Spirit Bear) Encounter

"Come into the water," the young woman invited, and the bear walked into the water, and they swam together, and they splashed each other, and the girl fastened her fingers in the bear's thick fur..." - excerpt from Song of Bear, Daughters of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron (retelling of NW Coast Indian myths)

Spirit Bears hold a special place on this island. The "white" bear is not albino, it is a recessive trait of a black bear. For every 10 black bears on the island, there is 1 white bear. It is endemic to only a couple islands in the Great Bear region and is not found anywhere else in the world. We saw this one right after the first black bear.

What can you do to save the Kermode Bear? Sign this petition.

Vancouver will be the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Spirit Bear will be the Olympic Mascot in order to raise awareness about the newly-formed conservation lands of The Great Bear Rainforest. This initiative was largely supported by the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition.

Sept 23, 2007 (Late Afternoon)

On the way back to our boat, Marven brought our attention to this tiny little Spirit Bear that emerged from the forest. This little girl is from a mother who refuses to eat fish. Instead they strictly feast on barnacles and berries, something relatively uncharacteristic of bears in this area.

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