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Cascadia Bioregion

A native view of humanity's place in nature

Northwest Writing and Regional Identity: Introductory Essay

interview with Guujaaw - chief of the Haida people and a native artist (of the island Haida Gwaii) by David Suzuki

In Episode One of the TV Series (Sacred Balance), David travels to an island off the coast of British Columbia called Haida Gwaii - the home of the Haida tribe of which David is an adopted son. David comes to witness a totem pole raising ceremony and to visit his good friend Guujaaw - chief of the Haida people and a native artist.
In addition to the broadcast portions of David's interview, here is more of what Guujaaw had to say:

Guujaaw on our place in nature: "We're biological beings and as biological beings we are definitely made out of the earth."
Guujaaw on the value of the hunting experience: "To be able to catch a fish, smoke it, and take it right to the point of preparation and eating it is a little different than going into a store, buying something, you don't know how it's been handled, where it's been or what's happened to it."

Guujaaw on the meaning of the totem pole: "It's all about identity - the identity of the clans, the identity of the people, the history and the relationship to the land. You know, all these different figures that are on there represent different things on our land, and over the years, people acquired the use of different crests through events that happened in their history."

Guujaaw on his hope for the future and the island where he lives: "I think, in spite of everything, we have to believe that the land can repair itself and replenish itself and that the stocks that are gone now can be replenished. I think at this point in time, at least here, the waters are clean enough and the forest does have a lot of regenerating capacity. We have lots of land on this island that's still intact. The creeks are still there, still producing salmon. So those things are real precious in this world now. The source of our life is our source of our wealth."

Guujaaw on how getting out into nature can change people: "I think it's easy to wreck this earth, but I think if people understand it, if people go onto the land, if they go onto the beach and look at all the little intricacies there, they become more attuned to the Earth and become more interested and care more about the Earth, and those people are more inclined to stand up for the Earth."