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Guardians of the Coast: British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations Join Forces to Safeguard their Waters

Source: Hakai Magazine/Shanna Baker - September 11, 2017 in Adventure

Guardians of the Coast: British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations Join Forces to Safeguard their Waters
Photo: Kalamazadkhan/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Skipper Bob Martin strides through the cabin and, before stepping up to the controls to ease the Northern Lights away from the dock, turns back to the group: “Don’t forget,” he says with mock solemnity, “you guys signed peace treaties, so no one’s going to kill each other on the boat down there, right?” Four Haida men chuckle as they duck into the cabin from the stern.

“Not yet—the day hasn’t started,” one of them retorts.

They greet the two men from the Tsimshian community of Metlakatla—located just northwest of us here in Prince Rupert, on British Columbia’s north coast—already on board before sliding into upholstered bucket chairs. Ross Wilson, a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation who works for the Metlakatla Stewardship Society, finishes untying the ropes and hops in last, the ninth on board.

Generations ago, to get to the BC mainland, Haida people would have paddled across Hecate Strait from the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, their home turf 75 kilometers to the west.

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