Koeye Watershed, Heiltsuk First Nation Traditional Territory (Photo: Markus Mauthe)

Often the world-renowned Great Bear Rainforest receives a great deal of attention for its natural beauty, its magnificent old-growth rainforests, the unique calls of eagles and ravens, the powerful presence of grizzlies, black bears and elusive spirit bears, the precious runs of salmon, and the moving grace of orcas and humpback whales.

To some degree there is general awareness of the diverse First Nations’ cultures that have called the region home for millennia – the Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Kitasoo-Xai’xais, Haisla, Homalco, and another twenty or so great coastal Nations whose traditional, unceded territories make up what we have come to know as the Great Bear Rainforest.

However, we know very little about the many people who have been key to helping ensure its protection from industrial logging by being directly or indirectly involved in the Great Bear Rainforest conservation agreements. Giving voice to these many people would be a huge and worthy project, though one we could not possibly undertake. So, inspired by these collective efforts, we decided on a much more modest approach and thus began a project focused on a few key people whose perspectives perhaps illustrate some of the diversity of views across the rainforest.

Voices of the Great Bear Rainforest

“Voices of the Great Bear Rainforest” actually began as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Greenpeace back in 2011. What started as a three week adventure in Amsterdam to Vancouver, from Terrace to Hartley Bay, into Bella Bella and ending in Powell River (clearly not all these places are part of the Great Bear Rainforest!), culminated in a 60-second 40th anniversary video that’s been aired hundreds of times on public television throughout the US and Europe. The tour also resulted in a series of video vignettes based on the original interviews.

This week sees the release of the third installment in the series, with a focus on the key role activists and volunteers played in the early days of protecting the Great Bear Rainforest. Spotlighted here are Terry L. Brown and Jude Abrams, an inspiring couple who are also filmmakers and naturalists.  They tell their story with passion and conviction on why they stood with the Nuxalk First Nation on King Island to protect the Great Bear Rainforest during the heat of blockades in the 1990s. One of the stories they recount includes Terry, a self-described amphibiographer, dodging a falling 200 foot old-growth tree as it was cut to the ground!

Flying from Hartley Bay to Bella Bella (Photo: Eduardo Sousa)Explore episodes one and two at the end of this installment. Hear from Patrick Armstrong, spokesperson for Coast Forest Companies Initiative (CFCI) in the first episode. In the second, watch Executive Director Art Sterritt of Coastal First Nations – Great Bear Initiative speak to not only the importance of protecting the rainforest but also how in doing so provides economic opportunities and cultural revitalization for First Nations.

Filming Patrick in Stanley Park (Photo: Nola Poirier) Filming Art in Terrace (Photo: Nola Poirier)

Behind the scenes - My favorite memory

Maybe the most memorable for me was all the interesting locations that we visited and theFilming Art carve in his studio (Photo: Eduardo Sousa) challenges that arose in filming various individuals. With Patrick we had him sitting on a twisty and pointy old tree trunk in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, constantly challenged by the noise of floatplanes overhead and by a tour guide from the nearby aquarium using a PA system that boomed through the trees. Our small crew of three flew up to Terrace to interview Art at his home and there we had to work with nefarious mosquitoes while filming in the nearby woodlot – but interviewing him while he carved part of a large totem pole was a real gift.

Terry and Jude live and do their diving on the Sunshine Coast and so we trekked there to catch them in action – finned wetsuits and all! Especially memorable was the forest in which we filmed them – I found salmon bones at the bottom of an old cedar tree, and this is very common in the Great Bear Rainforest as well, for bears will take salmon from the river into the forest, eat them and leave the remains at bases of old trees, fertilizing the soil in the process, nurturing greater growth.

Our intrepid crew filming near Bella Bella, Heiltsuk First Nation Territory (Photo: Eduardo Sousa)

We have a few more ‘voices’ of the Great Bear Rainforest to release over the coming year, so I won’t spoil it for you by reflecting on those now. Suffice to say that the individuals, their thoughts, perspectives, actions that have been captured in this series are as inspiring, as diverse, as the great, Great Bear Rainforest itself. We hope you join us and follow the Voices.


Eduardo Sousa photo (Photo: Andrew Norton)Eduardo Sousa is senior forests campaigner for Greenpeace on the Great Bear Rainforest and Clayoquot Sound campaigns.