Empowering Native Leadership in the Sciences: Hydaburg students travel to annual conference

A Reflection written by Sonia Ibarra, PhD Candidate, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Over the last two years, I have been very fortunate to attend the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Conference alongside bright young students from Hydaburg, AK.  In November 2016, we made our way down to chilly Minneapolis and were welcomed by many warm faces, hugs, and songs that echoed the values of many Native peoples throughout the U.S.  AISES is a unique scientific conference that reminds me that

1) We need to increase Native voices in the sciences and

2) We need to rekindle the understandings of our ancestors in solving contemporary problems.

 For me personally, accompanying students at AISES was a big deal because I value organizations that provide multiple roadmaps for increasing diversity of perspectives, worldviews, and values in the sciences.

As a graduate student who has had the opportunity to attend and visit various universities through coursework, internships, and research experiences, one thing that I have personally noticed is that little diversity exists within higher education.  Native Americans represent 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, yet less than 0.5 percent of all U.S. scientists and engineers are Native American (King 2013).   Therefore it is critical that we address ways of creating opportunities for indigenous youth that both acknowledges their value systems while helping them navigate and train for the outside world.  AISES does both of these things by integrating strong diverse cultural values into a scientific conference.

 At AISES, indigenous and non-indigenous scientists learn about and showcase cutting edge research, high school and undergraduate students have secured scholarships, internships, and jobs, and support networks can be created and expanded. This year one Hydaburg high school student (Navaeh Peele) received a laptop award for her exceptional poster presentation and one Hydaburg undergraduate student (Sarah Peele) received a travel award. AISES also provides experiences for indigenous students that undoubtedly helps them become leaders and scientists in various capacities.  Capacity-building is a foundational way to plant a sustainable idea for the future.  AISES helps plant this seed by empowering young indigenous scientists.

When we think about the sustainability of our decisions, the way we live, and the jobs that employ us, we should always think about how we plant seeds for our future.  Opportunities like AISES and nurturing hands-on science experiences for our youth can help plant seeds that will help Southeast Alaska become a better place for the next generation.  Let’s work together to support our upcoming leaders and scientists.

 

King, H. (2013) Native American perceptions of scientists: An ISE research brief discussing Laubach, Crofford, & Marek, “Exploring Native American students’ perceptions of scientists.” Retrieved from http://relatingresearchtopractice.org/article/276

Foreheads Together, Breathe in, Move Forward: Reflections from a Global Gathering

Written and photographed by Bethany Goodrich

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Indigenous leaders from across our planet united in O’ahu this September. Foreheads together, they shared a breath during an opening ceremony for the E Alu Pu Gathering. E Alu Pu translates in Hawaiian to Move Forward together and this gathering was hosted by Kua Hawaii  prior to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress to do just that. This intimate traditional Hawaiian greeting called ‘Honi’, helped introduce over 150 people from around the world together at this pre-gathering.

The delegation from British Columbia, Southeast Alaska and Washington state attended this global gathering together.


I traveled south to participate in both the E Alu Pu Gathering and IUCN World Conservation Congress as a representative of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and Sitka Conservation Society. The World Conservation Congress is an IUCN event held every four years to bring together leaders from around the globe to map a course forward for our peoples and planet. I joined a delegation of indigenous leaders and environmental advocates from Alaska, British Columbia and Washington. This cross-boundary collaboration was funded by the Nature Conservancy’s Emerald Edge program.

The north shore of O’ahu shares many similarities with the rural island communities where we work across Southeast Alaska. The cultures, the languages, the faces and customs differ of course, but the thick ties to land and ocean are common. We fill our bellies with food pulled from the sea and gather nutrition from the forest. We live vibrant lives connected to the health of our coastline in everyday ways. Sadly, this lifestyle and way of being in intimate balance with the seasons of a local landscape is disappearing across the globe. It has not been completely eradicated though and this gathering brought together people from Papua New Guinea and Malawi to Alaska and Molokai, who share environmentally grounded lifestyles and rich cultural histories.

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For days, the group talked climate and how changing seasons are shaking century-old traditions off kilter. We shared fears. The first US school to be swallowed by the impacts of climate change happened last month in Northern Alaska. Uncle Leimana from Molokai expressed his concerns for poached mollusks on his coastline. Deli from Vanuatu explained the exhaustion of her work and the apathy of her country’s youth. We share successes. A woman from Rappeneau (Easter Island) announced that soon, her people will have full management of their traditional lands returned to them. Obama designated the largest marine protected area on earth during the week leading up to the conference: the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Many participants share chants and songs passed on from ancestors, parents, and tribes. We learn the process of traditional Hawaiian home building using knots, rope and branches and are taught about local resource management. We help in the restoration of fish ponds, a customary Hawaiian fishing practice, by heaving stones and building fish rearing structures.

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During the E Alu Pu gathering and over the course of four days, the group built a multinational community founded on living in balance with island earth. We left feeling humbled, motivated, and inspired by our international neighbors and were prepared to attend the IUCN World Conservation Congress with restored strength and momentum.

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The IUCN World Conservation Congress

The Conservation Congress in Honolulu brought together more than 9,000 people from 190 different nations. Politicians, entrepreneurs, environmental advocates, scientists, and indigenous leaders shared inspiration and grounded examples of success and challenges alongside E.O. Wilson, Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall. The 2 week event culminated in the ‘Hawaiian Commitments’, a series of international agreements that help guide the way we as individuals, communities, private institutions, public institutions and nations prioritize sustainability efforts moving forward.  

The Congress’s theme this year was ‘Planet at the Crossroads’ in recognition of the harsh decisions that need to be made if we hope to prosper as a civilization on a finite planet in the long term. The commitments stressed seven key areas. Many of which have direct relevancy to our work in Southeast Alaska. To read the commitments please check out the link here.

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Key Take Homes for the Southeast

Overall, a key take-home from the conference and gathering was the power of local grassroots community organizations and indigenous leadership in charting a sustainable path forward for our planet. Rooted to local rural communities, our SSP partners are on the frontline of environmental challenges and can therefore adapt and respond in ways that national and international institutions cannot. Localized resource management, community visioning, land-use planning, energy efficiency measures and sustainable subsistence practices are all examples of community actions that can positively impact our world and climate.

Thanks to the work of so many dedicated partners, there are plenty of success stories to call upon in these areas. Southeast Alaska is a region rich with opportunity in ways not present in many other places across the globe. We boast large expanses of intact ecosystems, natural resources, renewable energy options, a vibrant and hardy culture and resourceful residents. In Hoonah, the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership is integrating traditional knowledge and employing a local work crew to study, monitor and direct the management of the local landscape. Hydaburg Cooperative Association, the tribe in the largest Haida community in Alaska, monitors and records important anadromous stream habitat to direct local development in a way that protects and prioritizes salmon. The Sitka Tribe is integrating subsistence practices and western science to manage shellfish harvesting, understand PSP and encourage healthy safe gathering. The Sitka Conservation Society and Nature Conservancy are working to help transition regional timber management to a sustainable industry that maximizes benefits to our communities and ecosystems in the long-term.

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Of course, there is plenty of untapped opportunity too. In our neighbor across the border, British Columbia, all First Nation communities boast Marine Plans that outline local resource management activities. The Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards Program (SEAS) in British Columbia, exposes youth to traditional resource stewardship at an early age by integrating stewardship activities directly into classroom curricula. The IUCN Congress also examined looming threats to natural resources. The United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work group expressed concerns about mineral mines in Canada threatening Southeast Alaska’s salmon stocks. To be sustainable in the long-term, our communities need to become more self-sufficient. We need to localize our energy and food systems and support diverse and robust economies. There is still work to be done.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress and the E Alu Pu Gathering helped chart a path forward for our planet. Of course, there are many uncertainties with that path but it’s a solid start. When thinking about that path I keep thinking back to the Hawaiian greeting that began my trip. Foreheads together, we must approach one another as partners with eyes open, acknowledging the work to be done. We must face our challenges together, step outside our comfort zone and acknowledge the work head-on. We share this planet, and by building lasting relationships and by pausing to take a breath together, we can move forward in solidarity toward a more prosperous and sustainable way of life.

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Annual Retreat Helps Chart Path Forward for Partnership

By Alana Peterson

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One key element to a successful partnership is communication. In the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, our partner organizations model deliberate communication that results in action. We meet on a monthly basis through Google+ video hangouts where we share ideas and information to strengthen our collaborative efforts. We also participate in daily dialogue on our Google+ community page. Our blog posts, emails, phone calls, and community visits all contribute to a network of individuals and organizations that are highly collaborative, sharing resources, and learning from each other along the way. Finally, we commit to communicating through in-person visits as frequently as possible and commit to two full partnership meetings twice a year (once in fall and once in spring).

This year’s autumn retreat took place in Hoonah, Alaska from October 3-7th. We used this time to develop year-long work plans for our individual and collective projects, learn about projects in Hoonah, and strategize ways to grow and strengthen the partnership in 2017.

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Our retreat included a site visit to the new deep water dock and Icy Strait Point, a cruise ship destination that includes adventure options, a zip line, restaurants, a museum and shops. The group was not only inspired by the expansive project that is unique to see in a small SE village, but was also excited to learn about how cultural values and the community have been a priority through the development and implementation of the tourism site. Our group was led by a local Huna Totem shareholder, Brittany who started working at ISP as a ticket taker, and has moved up in the ranks to now working administrative functions in the office. It was clear she has pride in her work, and impressed our entire group in her knowledge and ability to answer all of our questions. We learned that decisions at ISP are made based on a filter of authenticity. Icy Strait Point was built to be as true to the culture and community it represents as possible.

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We also spent time learning about the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, a powerful new model for land management in SE Alaska.

The retreat also included a day-long workshop for community engagement. The workshop, led by Element Agency, gave each partner new skills and tools to plan successful community events such as meetings, workshops, etc. We put the new tools to use by planning and facilitating a community meeting in Hoonah. The goal of the community meeting was to introduce our partnership and outline the current projects in Hoonah. We then opened up discussion to the participants to learn about priority projects that the community has identified, and support those efforts through the SSP network. The meeting concluded with a beautiful performance from the Mt. Fairweather dancers who also prepared a tasty dinner for the event.

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Other outcomes of this years retreat included a review of 13 successes from last year’s projects. Between all SSP partners, over 50 projects are taking place in 2017. A full list of those projects can be viewed by clicking here. The partners also dedicated four hours to identifying four priority areas to strengthen the SSP in 2017, they include:

(1) Promote the SSP collective impact model and Triple Bottom Line approach to economic development in each of our communities through direct outreach.

(2) Catalysts & Partners will engage the community, new partners and new demographics to increase community ownership of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership.

(3)  All partners will work towards making SSP self-sustaining by improving and implementing our metrics to communicate success for potential funders and by building capacity to fundraise within partner organizations (this includes capacity building activities).

(4)  All partners will demonstrate success in projects this year through strategizing community outreach through each communications output and achieving one clear project success in each community this year.

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For each of these four initiatives, each participant wrote down one or two actionable steps they will take as individuals this year to move the partnership forward on each initiative. Though tired and drained from a long week of collaborative work, each partner left Hoonah reinvigorated and excited about the year of work ahead.

Yakutat Travels to DC to Discuss Broadband

Written by Paul Harding

The mission of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLBC) is to promote public policies which improve the broadband capabilities of schools, libraries, healthcare providers, other anchor institutions and their surrounding communities.

Trip Goals
The purpose of attending the 2016 SHLB conference was multi-fold:
1) To be better acquainted with the new E-Rate program rules, regulations, and federal guidelines.
2) To connect with FCC advisors and attorneys in order to better facilitate the current fiber optic project in Yakutat.
3) To develop a network of business and advisory peers that can assist in the complicated process of navigating ‘E-Rate waters’.
4) To promote the current fiber optic project in Yakutat in order to facilitate the RFI and RFP process.
5) To better assess the fiber optic project master plan for Yakutat by means of openly discussing Yakutat’s special geographic and financial hurdles with business leaders, FCC Advisors, FCC attorneys, and technical administrators.
6) To better understand all the nuances of the procurement process within the E-Rate, USAC and FCC arena.

Workshops attended

While there were a number of plenary sessions and workshops offered during this conference, it was the workshops that yielded the majority of useful information. As such, I will only highlight some of the more interesting and notable issues that came up.

E-Rate and Fiber Build-Out workshop

This particular workshop was an amazing insight into USAC’s development and operationalization of the E-Rate process in toto. Everything from how to issue an RFP, evaluating competing bids, and structuring one’s application to maximize the chance for approval was covered in depth. This particular workshop was quite valuable as the lead writer of the E-Rate rules and regulations, Chas Eberle (Attorney Advisor, FCC), was present and available for questions. Also on the board was Joe Freddoso (Advisor to USAC).

Of the many topics covered, the primary tenets of what I found to be of interest revolved around the basic notions of:
• Cost defensibility
• Cost efficacy as it intersects with functionality
• Value to/for a community vs. cost effectiveness
• Cost reasonableness vs. a quality build, all against the backdrop of the notion of ‘community benefit’ and ‘projected community growth’.

Financing and Fiber Construction Build vs. Buy: What are we in for once we ask this question?

The primary discussion during this workshop centered on ‘cost value vs. community benefit’. E-Rate’s central focus in bringing fiber to communities is the ‘lowest possible cost’, and this issue came up many times during this workshop. And while there was much discussion regarding what community benefit was derived from narrowly defining the cost allocation of a project, the usual response from the board was, “those are the rules.” Although seemingly unhelpful, this sort of response generated yet more discussion regarding the FCC guidelines for the E-Rate program such that the principle attorneys later remarked that they would need to revisit some of the more restrictive guidelines and review their utility. Despite the overwhelming time spent on this issue, there was time allotted for discussing the different types of builds that are permissible through E-Rate: dark vs. lit, self-provisioned vs. leased, priority 1 vs. priority 2.

Ask an E-Rate Attorney

Given the previous discussions that had be circulating in previous workshops, the clear point of contention for most attendees was the issue of cost efficacy vs. community value. While much of the time was spent attempting to pick apart E-rate’s cost allocation process by getting FCC advisors and USAC attorneys to voice an explicit equation by which to determine the intersection of community value and cost reasonableness, ultimately USAC attorneys begrudgingly ceded that there must be a cost defensibility. When questioned further on the meaning of this phrase, one of the attorneys simply stated that the cost of any project must be able to be defended given the number of anchor organizations and people served. It was later decided amongst attendees that your ability to argue a case need merely be par with the cost of the project and given the how many organization and people are served.

Discussion

Following the SHLB conference, I was able to spend about an hour with Mr. Freddoso (Advisor to USAC), Kela Halfmann (E-Rate Coordinator, SERRC), and John Harrington (CEO of Funds for Learning). During this time I was able to discuss the current geological and fiscal hurdles that Yakutat faces and ask how we might best work around/through some of these issues given the parameters of the E-Rate program guidelines. In Addition, we discussed additional funding through organizations that support the development of telecommunications infrastructure – i.e., USDA, Health Connect Fund, Broadband USA, and Community Connect. There was also some discussion regarding the master plan for the fiber optic project in Yakutat and plentiful reasons I ought to consider narrowing the scope of the project to better ensure our success in bringing fiber to the community.

I also spent much time with talking with individuals from the FCC, USAC and SERRC regarding the procurement process and the necessary strategies for getting companies to come to the table and bid on an RFP. There was also much discussion on whether or not a pre-meeting with potential builders/vendors could yield any results in conjunction with either an RFI or RFP.

I was lucky enough to garner the attention of a publicist who had much advice for me regarding the RFP process. We discussed at length one of the on-going problems that Yakutat tends to have given the small size of our town and the limited number of vendors we have in town as a result of our population: monopolies. A number of promising suggestions were made on how to better navigate the RFP process on a project of this magnitude such that we are able to ensure we find ourselves with very few bids

Conclusion

After having discussed the logistical issues that Yakutat is facing in the technological, geographic and economic arenas, I have decided to modify the fiber optic master plan to better demonstrate an understanding of the complexities that this project faces. As such, I will immediately dissolve the current consortium between Hoonah, Yakutat, Pelican and Gustavus. I will, then, set my focus to creating a consortium between CBY, YTT, the school, clinic and, potentially, a library. Following this, I will prepare and submit an RFI that will attempt to yield information on Yakutat’s current distance from the pre-existing fiber line, cost for connecting to said fiber line (the build), and cost of service. Additionally, given the structure of the new consortium which will now include in-eligible E-rate participants, I will have E-rate determine what percentage of the project they will fund. With this information in hand I can better determine what amount of monies will be required to satisfy the balance of this project. With this new configuration, the fiber plan will more adequately fit the cost reasonableness of a project of this size and will ensure our success during the E-Rate funding process.

Strategic Energy Planning in Hoonah

Community members clustered around tables at the Hoonah Indian Association (HIA) community building in Hoonah on Sunday afternoon. Some had already celebrated Mother’s Day in the morning and now were here to discuss energy solutions in their small islanded-grid town of 800. Hoonah became one of five high priority areas for the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory when HIA was accepted into the Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) program in 2015.

Participants categorize energy projects and goals for discussion

Participants categorize energy projects and goals for discussion

The first step of the program is to complete a three-day community meeting in order to develop a Strategic Energy Plan for Hoonah.  Many efficiency and renewable energy priorities were discussed throughout the three day meeting.

You can find energy data on Hoonah and all Alaskan communities through the Alaska Energy Data Gateway.

Community members discuss an energy vision with the help of moderator Paul Kabotie, Kabotie Consulting

Community members discuss an energy vision with the help of moderator Paul Kabotie, Kabotie Consulting

 

Trip Report from Community Exchange to British Columbia

As a participating member of the “Emerald Edge” program that is supported by The Nature Conservancy in Washington, British Columbia and southeast Alaska, Community Exchanges are facilitated each year to support shared learning between coastal communities on how common challenges to sustainability are being addressed by people throughout this bioregion. In addition to the photos included in the post below, click here to see the full photo album

I participated in an Emerald Edge community exchange to British Columbia along with community catalysts from Kasaan (Carrie Sykes), Kake (Loretta Gregory) and Sitka (Chandler O’Connell). Our friend Michael Reid of TNC Canada arranged the trip for us so that we could learn from folks in Vancouver, Bella Bella and Klemtu about their Supporting Early Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) Community Initiative program, Coastal Guardian program, Qqs Projects Society and the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department (HIRMD).

The four of us flew down on Sunday night. Michael suggested we stay at Skwachàys Lodge in downtown Vancouver. This is a “Social Enterprise” that I first heard about while taking the Community Economic Development course at SFU a couple years ago. The lodge is very nice and includes an excellent native arts gallery, as well as native art throughout the lodge, including unique installations in each room. Profits from the business are used to support an artist in residence program, many of whom have artwork in the gallery.

After we checked in at the lodge we had a very “Portlandia” experience while ordering a late night dinner at a local restaurant called the flying pig. It took the waiter about fifteen minutes to go over the beer menu, complete with descriptions of the aroma, foretaste, aftertaste, overtones, undertones, etc. that was fit for a stage. By the time the waiter got to Chandler she knew to head him off before he got started and just asked for an amber. Food was good (so was the beer of course).

Michael arranged a dinner between the SSP catalysts and Coastal Stewardship Network folks in Vancouver.

Michael arranged a dinner between the SSP catalysts and Coastal Stewardship Network folks in Vancouver.

We had nothing scheduled on Monday until dinner so we each had a free day to explore the city, visit with local friends or catch up on office work. We met for lunch at a Taqueria that was a favorite for the group that participated in the CED course in 2014 (especially Marjorie).

In the evening we met with Michael, Lara and Jana for dinner and had a nice meal while we learned about the Coastal Stewardship Network (CSN) and where things are at with data management systems. We identified many common interests and discussed opportunities for a community exchange between folks who work for CSN and communities in southeast Alaska.

On Tuesday we flew out to Bella Bella. We arrived at about noon at the ~ 1,200 person Heiltsuk village and immediately jumped on a Sea Taxi to head out to Koeye (pronounced “kway”) lodge. After running for about two hours we arrived at the camp where we were greeted by Larry (Qqs Executive Director) and Chris (Koeye caretaker). The kids were all out in the field so we immediately got a tour of the facilities from Larry, including a traditionally constructed longhouse.

This is a traditional style longhouse at Koeye that the kids use for dancing, singing and other activities.

This is a traditional style longhouse at Koeye that the kids use for dancing, singing and other activities.

After the tour and getting ourselves tucked into our cabins we sat down with Larry to learn more about the history of Koeye. It was an awe-inspiring story of vision, leadership and the right thing at the right time. We learned that Koeye’s origins, like the Kake Culture Camp, stemmed from Bella Bella’s interest in doing something about teen suicide in the village during the late 70s and early 80s. Larry was originally brought to the village to help combat this issue, which soon led to a program that dovetailed a “reoccupation” of traditional territory with a family oriented approach to reconnecting with traditional cultural values in several remote cabin settings. The Koeye lodge got its start by being next to one of the first 10 cabins that were built throughout the territory. After being acquired by the Qqs Projects Society and serving a number of years providing refuge and a place for families to heal and grow stronger together, the original Koeye lodge burned down. This tragedy served to further galvanize the growing circle of people involved in this good work and they were able to raise funding to scale this work up and build the village-like facilities we see today at Koeye.

Again, same scene as the last few shots but this time including the longhouse in the foreground.

Koeye longhouse near the sandy beach at the river mouth with SEAS students from Klemtu and Bella Bella returning to camp.

There are innumerable layers of empowerment work that Larry shared with us as part of the origin story of Koeye; from the way the land and original lodge were acquired and how the new lodge buildings were constructed using local wood milled in Bella Bella, to the restoration of the hereditary chiefs’ role in community governance and growing local capacity for the community to blend traditional ecological knowledge with scientific approaches to natural resource planning; and much more, too much for me to go into here. For the purposes of this brief field report I will add that about the time the lodge was being rebuilt after the fire there was a joining of forces with the newly formed Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) Community Initiative and together they became a stronghold for cultural revitalization on the BC coast.

Oblique view of Koeye settlement from the drone at about 200 feet elevation.

Oblique view of Koeye camp taken from the drone at about 200 feet elevation.

I ended up missing out on the first night with the kids because I passed out early and did not wake up for dinner. Oh man did I need it too. I was woken up briefly a couple times after the dinner hour: the first time by the gleeful laughter of the kids as they played various forms of tag just outside the cabin door; the second time by the voices of the kids singing traditional songs around the campfire.

Our second day at Koeye was another sunny one, even to the point of being hot! The kids headed out early to explore up the Koeye river and go for a swim. We stayed back and spent some more time with Larry before he took us up the river in a skiff to do some exploring of our own. What a fantastic estuary! And a sockeye system to boot! Brown bear and wolf tracks mixed in with the kids’ footprints on the sandy beaches near the mouth of the river. Dungeness crab scurried away from the boat as we plied the sandy shallows on the way up the estuary. Mergansers, loons, eagles, kingfishers, etc. all clear indicators of the riches that this watershed provides to its inhabitants. Larry dropped us off in a lush meadow at the upper reaches of where the tide influences the river, right next to a Grizzly Bear rub tree and set of “hot-feet” (my favorite kind of animal sign!). If Larry had not won over my heart by then, the rub tree and hot-feet would have certainly done the job:) While we were stretching our legs in the meadow I took the opportunity to fly the drone and got some cool video of this lovely spot.

Kids having fun during a swimming activity.

Kids having fun during a swimming activity on the Koeye river.

The Koeye watershed was designated by the Heiltsuk people as a conservation area through the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement. There is a detailed management plan (developed by the Heiltsuk Nation) for this and other areas of ecological and cultural significance in the Heiltsuk traditional territory that is implemented and kept up to date by the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department (HIRMD) based in Bella Bella. An overview version of this plan is linked in a paragraph below.

Looking down on Koeye from the drone at about 1000 feet. Note the lodge is situation in the second-growth forest in lower left.

Looking down on Koeye camp and watershed from the drone at about 1000 feet. Note the lodge is situation in the second-growth forest in lower left.

After returning from the boat ride up the river we had dinner with the kids. On this night, and over the course of the 3 days we spent at Koeye, I had conversations with young people, school teachers and SEAS coordinators that spoke volumes about the value of the SEAS program to them personally, and to the present and future vitality of their culture and communities. I was particularly struck by conversations I had with a few adults on the whale tail deck where they told me about how SEAS not only introduced traditional cultural practices to the young people in their schools, but also introduced these practices to many adults, including themselves. They described themselves as part of a lost generation; between where traditional cultural practices brought punishment from missionaries in the past and the cultural revitalization that is happening today.

This deck is shaped like a humpback whale tail. Nice spot to watch the sunset!

This deck is shaped like a humpback whale tail. Nice spot to watch the sunset!

We also discussed how well it was working to have kids from Klemtu and Bella Bella staying together in an environment where they couldn’t fall into the trap of isolating themselves by using their electronics or even their social cliques. We talked about how present day politics between Nations and within villages can undermine the work of cultural revitalization and recognized the power the Koeye experience could have in reducing future political conflicts by helping the young people from the different villages to form bonds of friendship at an early age. Here again the SEAS coordinators and community school teachers at camp described themselves as missing out on this kind of opportunity when they were young but also appreciating their chance to form similar bonds with the coordinators and teachers from other villages today.

Kids enjoying the feel of the drone's prop wash.

Kids enjoying the feel of the drone’s prop wash as it descends from just above them.

At Koeye lodge (and the Qqs Projects Society in general), the programs are guided by principles for youth education, environmental awareness and cultural awareness. On our third day, and the kids’ third day, the emphasis was on cultural knowledge. We started out with a leisurely morning around “the big house” with the kids playing games and me flying the drone. I also had a chance to walk the property (80 hectares) with Larry to talk about opportunities to integrate some terrestrial restoration activities as part of the programming there (the property was clear-cut about 30 years back). After lunch we all headed down to the longhouse for singing and dancing. We only had about an hour before the sea taxi returned for our departure but it was clear from watching the group learning to celebrate their culture together that the enthusiasm was sincere and that the whole experience was a kind of healing and strengthening of culture that also served to nurture future leaders who will carry on these traditions throughout the BC coast.

Shot of Chandler on the back deck of the sea taxi as we head back to Bella Bella

Shot of Chandler on the back deck of the sea taxi as we head back to Bella Bella

The ride back to Bella Bella was stunning, though a little choppy. We arrived in the late afternoon and immediately went over to the HIRMD office to meet with their staff. Kelly, the HIRMD Director, was a very gracious host and fed us dinner while we learned about the amazing array of programs and projects that they are currently managing. I was particularly impressed with their stories of restoring a local sockeye run, regaining access to herring eggs, the extensive geospatial mapping of traditional use data they have achieved, and the overall level of influence this office has over the use of natural resources in their traditional territory. Here again there is just too much to go into any detail (plus our brains were packed so full by the end of the night I am certain that I can’t remember half of what we heard) but please explore these links to learn more about the many cool projects they are working on in Heiltsuk territory.

We were invited back to the HIRMD office for a breakfast herring eggs and to share some of the work that is happening via the SSP that the Heiltsuk people may be interested in. We shared the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, Path 2 Prosperity business plan competition, some good stories about salmon habitat restoration (a new interest at HIRMD), the success of the community carving sheds in Hoonah, Hydaburg and Kasaan, the development of the cultural tourism campus in Kasaan and overall how the SSP operates. Folks were grateful for the overview and were interested in doing an exchange to the north to learn more first hand.

Local school building incorporates native art in architecture.

Local school building incorporates native art in architecture.

At the end of our visit HIRMD Chair and Heiltsuk Chief William brought out a family heirloom; a Haida dancing apron that includes a Chilkat blanket woven in. He brought it out to show us because he knew that Carrie would be particularly interested in this item of shared heritage. While watching the group learn about the apron I was struck by how imaginary the border is, at least in some ways, between the US and BC; that in fact it is truly One Coast. Many nations have inhabited, and will inhabit the lands and waters of British Columbia and southeast Alaska – but a trip like this really drives home the basics about our connections to one another through the land and the sea, and our common interests in cultural diversity, youth education, wild food gathering and the awe-inspiring beauty of the emerald edge that we all have the great fortune to inhabit.

Larry's son recieved this apron, which incorporates a chilkat blanket, from his ancestors. We are at the HIRM office here.

Larry’s son William received this apron, which incorporates a chilkat blanket, from his ancestors. We are at the HIRMD office here.

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