Saturday, 5 March 2016

Travelling to the Edge of the World


It's nearly a year since I set off for the remote islands of Haida Gwaii off the northernmost coast of British Columbia.  I thought I was going to write a few poems, hug some ancient trees, enjoy some profound peace and quiet, learn more about Haida mythology, and get in touch with the soul I'd lost in corporate Britain. What happened was quite different.  The people I met, and the stories they told me, led me to write another book - part travel journal, part history.


Some books just demand to be written, and Travelling to the Edge of the World was one of them. It was written out of passion and commitment. Like most First Nation people of north America the Haida were the victims of cultural genocide, perpetrated by a colonial government, on an almost unbelievable scale. It was referred to as the 'Great Dying' and it reduced a population of more than twenty thousand down to only five hundred.  Bill Reid - one of the most famous Haida artists - wrote that 'It is one of the world's greatest tributes to the strength of the human spirit that most of those who lived, and their children after them, remained sane and adapted.'
One of the rotting totems at Skedans
I was taken to see the abandoned villages of the south islands, with their fallen houses and rotting totems and I met the young people who spend weeks voluntarily living in primitive conditions to protect their heritage from looting and vandalism. The Haida have survived and today they are one of the most prominent First Nation people leading the environmental movement in Canada to prevent their homelands from being exploited and polluted by oil companies and large corporations who don't have to live in the environments they destroy.

The Haida have produced what they call their 'Land Use Vision' - a document which embodies the principle of Yah'guudang, which is about 'respect and responsibility, about knowing our place in the web of life, and how the fate of our culture runs parallel with the fate of the ocean, sky and forest'. The 'Land Use Vision' is a blueprint for our survival.  The Haida still know how to live in harmony with the world around them without destroying it. They have important things to teach us.

A wild and beautiful place - Inner Passage from Cormorant Island
And I met some wonderful people - a nonagenarian still running his own business, helped by a twelve year old boy; a poet married to a bank robber; an ex coastguard turned environmental activist; as well as artists and artisans, loggers and fishermen. British Columbia is a wild and wonderful place. But beware - there are bears in the woods!

A black bear I encountered on the beach


Travelling to the Edge of the World is available as an ebook, for an introductory offer.  The paperback and i-book will be released at the end of March.  You can buy it here. 


4 comments:

  1. Great and thrilling share. I really like the way you wrote the article. Your writing style is really nice and thank you so much for the great information

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  2. Congratulations on the book, Kathleen

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