â€œSo what are you doing anyways?â€
People have been asking me this a lot recently. In the beginning myÂ answers were descriptions of the mechanics. We go out to variousÂ locations around the territory and set up barbwire snares. We hang upÂ a rag in a tree with a novel scent to attract bears in the area to theÂ snare. We cover a pile of sticks and moss with nasty smelling bait,Â made from fish fertilizer, to get the bears inside the snare. ThenÂ every ten days we check back for bear hair on the barbs – for DNA andÂ stuff. A perfunctory response by any measure.
As we moved from set-up to sampling my answers began to change. IÂ started to talk about what we were doing in terms of questions. IÂ attempted to explain the questions the project is asking. Words likeÂ â€˜dataâ€™ started to creep into my answers.
Then one night in the field station everything shifted. We had someÂ special guests and the room was filled with excited energy. The â€œboysâ€Â had seen four bears in Elcho Harbour. Marley, Lia and I had spent theÂ day on the helicopter. We had waded through rivers surging with thisÂ yearâ€™s melt and a solid week of rain. We hopped over mountain passes,Â climbed through bogs, and had serious equipment misadventures. It hadÂ been a pretty magical day. Everyone was stoked and stories swirledÂ around the room.
Somehow I slip into a conversation with Doug Neasloss aboutÂ traditional ecological knowledge versus science. Itâ€™s a slipperyÂ conversation with many holes to fall into. The conversation eventuallyÂ boils down to a battle royale between eight years spent in an academicÂ setting versus a life spent growing up and learning on the land. WhoÂ is the expert?
Doug and I circle around the question of validation. In this strangeÂ dance between traditional ecological knowledge and science neitherÂ side seems to be very good at validating the other. There is alwaysÂ the â€œversusâ€ in the conversation.
Suddenly I realize itâ€™s a dance. Like a waltz the dancers are takingÂ opposite steps but working towards the same end goal. We all want toÂ protect a beautiful piece of the world for future generations to enjoyÂ and protect.
The Great Bear Rainforest: a clever English name coined to inspireÂ people to take up the role as stewards of this area. To me it has aÂ much simpler name: home. I was raised in a family, community, andÂ culture that ensured I would love this place. I was taught to thinkÂ about one day being an elder who could look back on my life and beÂ satisfied with my role as protector of the future generations.
This experience has given me so much more than days out on the waterÂ and land. It has allowed me to see the other side of the story.Â Watching Lia and Marleyâ€™s faces light up watching a mama bear and herÂ cubs graze on sedges helped me to understand. The stories andÂ excitement of our guests and the crew that night in the field stationÂ helped me to understand. We all want to ensure this place is here forÂ many generations to come. Maybe I want to make sure itâ€™s here for myÂ children to harvest food and medicines and â€œtheyâ€ want their childrenÂ to still see bears, wolves, and beautiful inlets undisturbed byÂ logging, but in the end itâ€™s all the same. We want the same things.