In 1984 Wanachis-Hilthhoois, colonially known as Meares Island was under threat of Clearcut logging. MacMillan Bloedel was granted permission by the provincial BC government to begin logging.
Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nation have the island within their hahuulthee or traditional territory. Both Nations united along with environmental groups and residents of Tofino to halt logging on the island.
When the MacMillan Bloedel workers arrived to begin work logging the island, they were greeted by a welcome committee. The spokesperson for this welcome was the elected chief councillor of Tla-o-qui-aht at the time, Moses Martin. A welcome comes with a responsibility to respect the values and laws of the people in stewardship authority of a place. The welcome to Meares was a welcome to a garden, with no logging allowed.
The logging company sought a court injunction against Moses Martin and anyone who would obstruct their logging operations.
Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht declared the island to be a Tribal Park, which, to this day is maintained as such. Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht also filed proceedings to block logging based on aboriginal rights and title to island.
The supreme court of Canada recognized that the land issue was unresolved, and put an injunction on the island to halt anything happening on the island until the land question was resolved. The court ordered Canada to begin Treaty negotiations with the First Nations.
To this day, Meares Island is unceded, un surrendered First Nation land. There is a different worldview and idea of land ownership among Nuuchahnutlh nations. In Tla-o-qui-aht law, land is not to be bought and sold. There is an intergenerational responsibility to a particular place. Knowledge of, observance, and sensitivity to place are key.
Since the Declaration of Meares/ Wanachis-Hilth-hoo-is Tribal park, the rest of Tla-o-qui-aht territory has also been declared in distinct sections to be Tribal Parks as well.
The Tribal Parks vision is one that requires further planning, recognition of management authority, and capacity building. Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks are held up by Tla-o-qui-aht people as a healthy way forward in a globalized world. A world where de-regulated capitalism is pushing its way through every door it can to greedily grab and extract resources. We are dealing with a Canadian Government that is industry and economy obsessed and still oppresses native people. Tribal Parks Hold the vision of land stewardship in accordance with the traditional values of Tla-o-qui-aht; which maintained health on the living lands and waters in the area for thousands of years.
Tla-o-qui-aht needs support to get the Tribal Parks initiative properly on its feet. Who jumps on board a cause without first caring about it? One way to connect with the island is to go there, to the Big Tree Trail. There, the beauty of the old Growth Forest and the way that First Nations very selectively harvested trees is visible and inspiring. This is to be a catalyst for people to care about this kind of living landscape, and to work to protect these kinds of sensitive ecosystems.
Please consider learning more about the Tribal Parks initiative and supporting it in whatever way you can.
Old Cedar on Meares Island