Posted August 29, 2016 5:33 PM
On Wednesday afternoon, with the afternoon sun heavy on our shoulders, we laid a dear relative - Cheeky, a grizzly bear - to rest.
Many of you will remember the story of Cheeky, killed in the remote estuary of Kwatna in 2013 by trophy hunter and NHL hockey player Clayton Stoner. Cheeky's story was captured in the film Bear Witness, which launched an Indigenous-led campaign to end trophy hunting for bears in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Three years and a court case later, Cheeky's "trophies" - his skull, hide, and paws - have been rematriated. Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai'xais, and Wuikinuxv collaborators on the campaign gathered at the place where Cheeky was killed. And in the quietude of that meadow, we did what was in our power to set his spirit right.
. . . . .
Justice for Cheeky is not justice for all bears. Trophy hunting, though banned by Indigenous nations in the Great Bear Rainforest, remains legal under colonial law. The BC Government still condones the trophy hunt, flying in the face of public opinion, sound science, economic sense, and the fundamental values and laws of the Indigenous peoples whose homelands form the geography of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Putting Cheeky's spirit to rest doesn't change the reality that living bears face when the fall hunt opens in September. But what we have done for Cheeky is a promise to all bears. We are still here, with our bodies on the land, with our ceremonies in our hearts, fighting for justice for our ursine relatives.
The story of Cheeky, told and retold over the last three years, has become a story that many of you have helped us to carry. We are grateful for that, and we want to give you closure on the chapter of our fight that concerns this bear.
. . . . .
We drummed and sang to Cheeky's spirit. We called his spirit home to his broken body. We brought back the tangible things that were taken away from him. We honoured the intangible things that could never be taken away from him, and committed to carry his teachings with us. The way our peoples have always held close the teachings given to us by our relatives in the animal kingdom.
And now, Cheeky is among the ancestors that we can call on to strengthen us. What we did in Kwatna was good medicine for Cheeky, but it was also healing for all of us.
Cheeky is home. He is whole again. And the gift he has given us is profound. He has reminded us of the sacredness of our relationships to the places and species that teach, strengthen, and sustain us. He has given us strength to continue our fight, for the sake of all the other bears in all the other estuaries. For the sake of future generations of bears.
. . . . .
The smoke from our fire carried our prayers and our intentions up with it. And as the heavy sun set, we - with a little more peace in our hearts - fell to strategizing for all that is to come.
Because it's not the Great Bear Rainforest without bears. Because the Great Bear Rainforest is not saved so long as bears are being hunted to the ground for sport.
We hope you will be with us in the days to come. We hope you will carry the story of Cheeky, that you'll write it on your heart, not as a sad footnote - but as a token of strength. Carry that story like a prayer and give thanks for the gift he has given us.
Trophy hunting is closed in the Great Bear Rainforest, on the strength of the original law of the Indigenous nations whose unceded homelands sustain people and bears alike. Pledge to respect that law. And follow the fight until we win.
Posted November 11, 2015 1:34 PM
Our social media presence may have been hibernating, but we have been working hard behind the scenes to end trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest. Here's an excerpt from a newsletter we recently published and sent to the coastal First Nation communities we represent. Download the newsletter (PDF).
A Strong Presence to Protect Bears
When the trophy hunting season opens this fall, Coastal First Nations will once again use whatever non-violent means necessary to prevent bears from being needlessly shot.
As a first step we are prepared to approach any hunters in our territories to inform them of the trophy hunting ban and ask them to respect it. But, if necessary our people will occupy watersheds where hunters plan to hunt and deter any bears before they are harmed.
“If I have to stand between feeding bears and people with guns, I will,” says Kitasoo/Xai’Xais Chief Councilor Doug Neasloss, who has also worked as a bear viewing guide in his territory. “But this year I hope visitors to the Great Bear Rainforest leave the guns at home and bring their cameras instead. If they do that, I’d be happy to introduce them to some truly magnificent bears.”
In other words, trophy hunters should know that we’re not going to make it easy for anybody to kill a bear in our territories.
Bear Viewing Guides Set Deadline of September 10 for Chance to Trade Hunting Tags for Once-in-a-lifetime Trip
Posted September 01, 2014 1:18 PM
With opening day of the fall bear hunt fast approaching, professional First Nations bear guides are reminding BC hunters of their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to trade in their grizzly hunt tags for a chance to shoot bears with cameras, not guns.
Resident hunters who have successfully applied for a Limited Entry Hunt (LEH) authorization for a grizzly bear in regions 5-08 and 5-09 are invited to send in their tags by September 10 to be in the draw for a trip for two to Spirit Bear Lodge, an award-winning bear and wildlife viewing resort in Klemtu BC.
“I’ve dedicated much of my working life to bears and protecting them any way I am able.” said Douglas Neasloss, Stewardship Director for the Kitasoo/Xai’xais nation, and professional guide at Spirit Bear Lodge. “Until the BC Provincial government decides to end the trophy hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest, we’re going to do whatever we can within their rules to protect our bears—including giveaways like these to our resident hunter friends.”
The grand prize includes round-trip airfare for two, five nights’ deluxe island accommodation, and daily adventures deep into grizzly and spirit bear country with experienced professional guides. In addition, everyone who submits a tag will receive thank you prizes from local businesses and organizations operating in the Great Bear Rainforest, including Spirit Bear Coffee, QQS Project Society, Wuikinuxv master carver Frank Hanuse and the Bears Forever Project.
Hunters can mail or drop off their LEH tags at the Coastal First Nations office in downtown Vancouver - Suite 1660 - 409 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 1T2.The Grand Prize Winner will be selected via random draw on September 11, 2014. Once contacted, the winner’s name will be posted on the Spirit Bear Adventures Facebook page and website.
Coastal First Nations, an alliance of First Nations on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, issued a formal ban on trophy hunting for bears with their territories in 2012. In the two years since that ban was enacted, internationally-respected biologists, professional economists and more than 10,000 British Columbians have voiced their support for the ban. Despite growing support for the ban from internationally-respected biologists, professional economists and more than 10,000 British Columbians, the Provincial Government continues to issue tags for the bear hunt.
“One of the big questions we heard when we launched this idea was whether or not anyone would be willing to turn in their tags.” said William Housty, Heiltsuk Coastwatch Director. “We’re thrilled to say we’ve already heard from several hunters who successfully applied for a tag and want to send them to us. And every single tag turned over represents another bear that gets to live on and thrive for another season in the Great Bear Rainforest. That feels like winning to us.”
The bear hunt opens on September 10 and runs through November 30.
Posted May 13, 2014 10:45 AM
Professional bear guides from British Columbia’s Coastal First Nations are inviting a pair of lucky hunters to come shoot bears in the Great Bear Rainforest – using cameras instead of guns.
Spirit Bear Lodge, a First Nations-owned and operated facility, is offering an all-expenses-paid bear viewing experience in exchange for a Limited Entry Hunt authorization for grizzly bear within Coastal First Nations territories. The winner will be selected in a random draw, with additional prizes for runners-up.
The grand prize includes round-trip airfare for two, five nights’ deluxe island accommodation, and daily adventures deep into grizzly country with experienced professional guides. Guests will learn more about First Nations culture, wildlife science – and the vibrant new economy emerging on the coast.
“It’s a fact that bears are worth more alive than they are dead,” said Kitasoo/Xai’xais Stewardship Director and Spirit Bear Lodge guide Douglas Neasloss. “You don’t have to harvest a resource to get value from a resource. Bears bring huge value to coastal ecosystems, and to my community in terms of a sustainable economy.”
Spirit Bear Lodge employs 40 people in the remote community of Klemtu. Overall, bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest pumps 12 times more money into the province’s economy than bear hunting. In fact, Stanford University researchers concluded the coastal bear hunt actually loses taxpayers money.
Coastal First Nations is an alliance of First Nations on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii. In 2012, CFN member nations issued a formal ban on trophy hunting for bears within their territories. The Province of British Columbia continues to issue kill authorizations in defiance of tribal law – and majority opposition by hunters.
“Like most hunters in B.C., I hunt to feed my family,” said Heiltsuk Coastwatch Director William Housty. “Whether you’re First Nations or not, it’s against our common values to kill animals for fun. If anyone’s still not convinced, I encourage them to leave their guns and come see these beautiful coastal grizzlies from our perspective.”
The prize offer applies to LEH hunt numbers 3005, 3006, 3007, 3008, 3128, 3129, 3130, or 3131, covering regions 5-08 and 5-09. Anyone holding a valid authorization is encouraged to contact Spirit Bear Lodge. This year’s LEH deadline is May 23rd. The trip would take place in September.
Posted March 17, 2014 12:11 PM
When this project launched last Fall, Forestry Minister Steve Thomson adamantly defended British Columbia's trophy hunting industry and its contribution to the economic wellbeing of the province. Last week, he had to provide the real numbers to back those statements up. Unsurprisingly, they're not all that impressive.
While it's true that the hunting industry may provide up to $350 million annually in revenue for British Columbia, the tiny trophy hunting industry contributes only a fraction of that whole - $414,000 or about 0.11% of the total.
Stephen Hume uses this figure as the jumping off point for his latest op-ed in the Vancouver Sun. By far, it is his most devastating to date. Here's an excerpt:
"Suggest that this barbarous practice has outlived any economic rationale and government ministers froth cheerily about the $350 million that hunting contributes to the provincial economy every year and how vitally important trophy hunting is in preserving tradition.
That was the line that environment minister Steve Thomson took last September. He was quoted citing that figure by The Canadian Press. But last week, caught in the headlights of a legislative committee examining budget estimates, he sang a different song, one that had a lot fewer zerosin it.
How much direct revenue does the province actually earn from allowing trophy hunters to go out and kill grizzlies for the pleasure of posing with their corpses for photos?
Why, it’s $414,000, not $350 million.
Considered another way, the trophy hunt for grizzlies contributes about half as much to the economy as the government apportions to 19 cabinet ministers and their deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers as an executive car allowance.
And put even more succinctly, the province’s payback from trophy hunting among vulnerable grizzly bear populations amounts to 0.001 per cent of total provincial revenue."
Read the whole piece at the Vancouver Sun, and then share it with your networks.
Posted February 13, 2014 1:10 PM
Like the bears of British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, we think your loved ones deserve something a little warm and fuzzier this Valentine's Day.
That's why, for the next three days, your donation to the Bears Forever Project comes with a limited-edition photo print by acclaimed photographer (and Central Coast Bear Working Group member) Douglas Neasloss.
The 'Thankful Bears' in the photo above were caught on film on Princess Royal Island in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their photograph has never had a print run before—and never will again—making it a one-of-a-kind gift for your Valentine.
Posted February 05, 2014 1:40 PM
Last week, the Vancouver Sun published their strongest op-ed to date on ending the trophy hunt for grizzly bears. Here's an excerpt:
"if public demand is such a key driver in changing the way government does things, why isn’t the province moving swiftly to ban trophy hunting of grizzly bears? Surveys — real opinion polls, not self-selected posts to a government website or submissions from stakeholders with a vested interest — show the vast majority of us are strongly opposed to the practice and its sanction by provincial authorities.
Popular support for trophy hunting of grizzly bears is now in free-fall and the vast majority of British Columbians want government to put a stop to it.
In 2008, 73 per cent of us were against the hunt. By 2013 the opposition had risen to 87 per cent. Furthermore, a whopping 91 per cent of the province’s hunters agree that where First Nations impose hunting bans or restrictions within their traditional territories, hunters should abide by those wishes and by any traditional laws or customs, a reminder the majority of homegrown hunters are ethical, thoughtful and sensitive to the issues.
It’s equally important to remember it’s not hunting to which so many British Columbians take exception, it’s a particular and limited kind of hunting that is not about obtaining wild meat in a sustainable, environmentally sound way, but is about killing large predators for purposes of self-gratification and self-aggrandizement."
Their final question is one we've also asked ourselves many times since starting this project:
"Given the economic benefits from the bear-viewing industry are so much greater and so much more sustainable; that the brief seasonal employment provided by a tiny cadre of guide-outfitters is so marginal; that the revenue claims for the hunt are so dubious; and that we don’t exactly have a vast surplus of grizzlies — even at the most generous estimate, humans out-number the bears by about 270-1 — why, exactly is the province so reluctant to do what British Columbians want done on this file?"
Posted January 20, 2014 6:43 PM
When our group launched last September, we optimistically hoped to end 2013 with about 3,000 new supporters.
As it turns out, we did a little better than that.
Today we're pleased to share that 7,200 people—more than 2/3 of whom live right here in British Columbia—have pledged to support the First Nations ban on trophy hunting in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Last week we asked our supporters to write letters to the editor of their local papers in support of a new economic study that shows conclusively how much more bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest contributes to the B.C. economy than bear trophy hunting. Some of you have sent us copies of your letters, and we're starting to see them published online. Here’s a snippet of what Bears Forever supporter Lindy Sisson wrote in Coquitlam’s Tri-Cities Now newspaper:
“For years, the B.C. government has said the trophy hunt in the Great Bear Rainforest is justified by science, and has treated it as a moneymaker for the province. Neither is justifiable or true. Scientists at UVic and SFU have published peer-reviewed articles based on 10 years of the ministry's own data, which they had to fight in court to obtain, that reveal a situation even worse than could be imagined.”
“…With the ministry spending more money managing the bear hunt than it earns back, there is no economic argument to continue it - so why does Minister Steve Thompson need these bears to die, rather than see the light and invest in the tourism potential they and our coast are more valuable for?”
You can read Lindy’s whole op-ed here.
Lindy’s voice is just one of 7,200 calling for Premier Christy Clark and Forestry Minister Steve Thomson to set their regulations in line with First Nations law. So far that hasn’t been enough to convince them to change their minds.
That’s why, over the next six months, we’re setting the ambitious goal of doubling the number of people who’ve signed the Bears Forever pledge. Once we reach that goal—and we’ll need your help to get there—we’ll do it again and again, until there are so many of us calling for change that the Provincial government has to act.
We’re so grateful for your support. Thanks for everything you’ve done so far.
Oh, and one more thing! If you’d like to write one of your own to your local paper, please do (and cc us at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Posted January 08, 2014 9:26 AM
How much money might "Cheeky" the bear have earned for British Columbia, had he not been shot by a trophy hunter? A new economic analysis produced by a Stanford University-affiliated research institute suggests: a lot. Instead, the young grizzly was killed by NHL player Clayton Stoner, who cut off the bear's head and left his body to rot. Today, new data shows the economic benefits of trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest are so small, the activity may actually cost taxpayers more than it brings in.
"This study reinforces what First Nations in the area have been saying for years," said Kitasoo/Xai'xais councillor Doug Neasloss. "Bears are worth more alive than they are dead. That goes for our communities, the ecosystems on the coast, and now we find out it's true for the B.C. government too."
The report, authored by the Washington D.C.-based Center for Responsible Travel, calculates that bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest generates more than 10 times the employment, tourist spending, and government revenue compared to hunting in the same area.
"I've worked as a bear viewing guide for the past three seasons," said Jason Moody of the Nuxalk Nation. "Those numbers reflect what we're seeing, for sure. There's so much potential for tourism and hospitality, but trophy hunting is holding things back. And that makes it harder for First Nations to create jobs for our people that are in line with our laws and our traditions."
In September 2012, Coastal First Nations announced a ban on trophy hunting for bears in the territories of all nine member nations, which closely correspond to the area known as the Great Bear Rainforest. However the B.C. government continues to issue kill tags, claiming jurisdiction over bear management.
A poll released by McAllister Opinion Research in September 2013 showed 87% of British Columbians support an end to bear hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest. A subsequent study by a separate firm, Insights West, found that 88% of BC residents oppose trophy hunting. 95% of hunters surveyed by McAllister agreed that "you should not be hunting if you are not prepared to eat what you kill."
"This latest study raises an important question for B.C.'s minister responsible for hunting, Steve Thomson," said Heiltsuk tribal councillor Jessie Housty. "Last fall, we learned the science used to justify the bear hunt is deeply flawed. Now we see the economics are completely backward. So will Thomson do the right thing and bring B.C. government policy in line with First Nations law? Or will he let trophy hunters take more money out of taxpayers' pockets?"
Posted October 24, 2013 11:15 PM
30,000. That’s how many people have watched the documentary ‘Bear Witness’ on YouTube in the last six weeks.
Thanks to all of you, we’ve been able to reach audiences all around the world — from Fernie in BC, to Fellbach in Germany. We’re awed, inspired and motivated. But we’re also realistic.
If we’re going to bring provincial hunting regulations in line with First Nations law, we need decision-makers to understand that British Columbians overwhelmingly want to end the trophy hunt for bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. Poll results show nine in ten people in the province agree on this. But politicians don’t believe polls anymore — they believe people.
We need to meet supporters face-to-face, show the documentary to new audiences, and grow our community. It’s time to hit the road.
Starting this weekend, we're taking 'Bear Witness' on a week-long tour across southern B.C., hitting the cities of Kelowna, West Kelowna, Chilliwack, Victoria, Nanaimo and Burnaby. We’ll be meeting people in coffeeshops, at farmers’ markets, on university campuses — anywhere they’ll have us — to share stories and collect pledges.
As it happens, we’ll be collecting signatures in the ridings of the two people with the most power over the fate of bears in BC: Premier Christy Clark and Forestry Minister Steve Thomson.
If you live in any of these cities, we'd love to meet you in person at one of our FREE screenings and Q&A sessions to thank you for your support of the project so far.
Here's our itinerary:
Saturday, October 26 at 7pm
- Unitarian Fellowship of Kelowna, 1310 Bertram St
- Kelowna, BC
- RSVP on Facebook
Sunday, October 27 at 7pm
- Lakeview Heights Community Hall, 860 Anders Road
- West Kelowna, BC
- RSVP on Facebook
Monday, October 28 at 7pm
- Sto:lo Resource Centre, Bldg 10-7201 Vedder Road
- Chilliwack, BC
- RSVP on Facebook
Tuesday, October 29 at 7pm
- Room A120, David Turpin Building, UVic
- Victoria, BC
- RSVP on Facebook
Wednesday, October 30 at 7pm
- Room 109, Building 356, VIU
- Nanaimo, BC
- RSVP on Facebook
Thursday, October 31 at 12 noon
- Room 10900, Applied Science Building, SFU
- Burnaby, BC
- RSVP on Facebook
If you're not able to attend our events, but you still want to help us on this tour, we are looking for small donations to help us cover costs for handbills, custom baseball hats, clipboards and coffee for our volunteers; along with rental costs for a small projector, screen and speakers. If you're able to help us with a donation, click here.