Now that the first round of field work is complete on the Heiltsuk bear project I’m finding it hard to put into words what it’s been like. Last night around a crowded dinner table a long-time friend of Raincoast, colleague and mentor – Chester Starr – asked me “How are you liking my country?”. I feel a world away from the Canada I’ve gotten to know from Victoria. Coming from England, where a walk in the rural countryside will most often be barren of trees and animals, it’s incredible to experience the beautiful surroundings and vibrant Indigenous culture.
It’s been a powerful learning curve for me so far and I’m sure this will continue. While I was mentally prepped for the project work of fixing up hair snag stations and collecting samples, I’ve also found myself learning about Heiltsuk culture. I am also learning how to complete some tasks I have no idea how to go about doing, such as my recent misadventures in fixing the dining table and prepping the boats.
Each day is exciting heading out early with totes full of equipment and brand new parts of the territory to see. A moment I’ve been earnestly anticipating happened early – on day 3. I saw my first wild bear. As we headed down an inlet we slowed and a black bear ambled along the shoreline and slowly slipped away into the forest.
I’m already sad to be leaving Bella Bella in a few more weeks, but feel lucky to have been a guest here and play a small part in this project. I’ve a new learned respect for people and place, and look forward to whatever may be in store as we proceed to the next rounds of sampling.
By Chloe Wood