Thirty years ago, on April 21, 1984, The Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations declared Meares Island as Canada’s first Tribal Park. I was there, with my husband Paul George—founder of Western Canada Wilderness Committee—and our infant daughter, Kallie. I remember people moved to tears by the inspirational speeches at the celebratory event. I remember the NFB film crew being blown away by the rainclouds parting and rainbows forming over Meares Island.
I remain inspired by that day; bearing witness to First Nations’ assertion of their right to control and protect a precious part of their traditional territories in the face of plans at that time to clear-cut the island by MacMillan Bloedel.
There have been a number of Tribal Parks established since then in Clayoquot Sound, Haida Gwaii, the Chilcotins and elsewhere—each one visionary. I believe they’re a key part of a saner and smarter way of being.
The decades I spent working with the Wilderness Committee and collaborating with the Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht and others, convinced me that there is powerful unity between First Nations and environmentalists based on a shared concern for the health of our planet, an understanding that decisions must consider the well-being of our children’s children, and a commitment to create a socially just, sharing society and an economic development path that works with nature, not against it.
To me, celebrating the Meares Island Tribal Park celebrates the hope for our future; the best of what it is to be human on this magnificent planet.