A rich sense of honor: Learning
from tribal leaders
Condensed by Native Village
In this world of climate,
economic, and institutional
collapse, what might happen if
native people were in charge?
On Haida Gwaii, an island off British
The Haida Nation
is back in
charge. They don’t just oversee
a small parcel of reserved land.
After two decades of battling
the Haida is a sovereign nation
who owns and co-manages the
Haida Gwaii consists of two main
islands: Graham Island and
Moresby Island, along with
approximately 150 smaller
islands. The total
landmass is 3,931 sq mi.
"Haida Gwaii" is
pronounced in English as
"Islands of the People"
On Haida Gwaii, an economy and way of life
rooted in place is re-emerging
and growing stronger in resource
use, land and marine management.
The vast forests
are no longer being
auctioned off to
who rapidly deplete
Instead, the Haida
Have certified their holdings
under the Forest Stewardship
Are supplying only high-end niche
manufacturers like Martin
guitars and Steinway pianos;
Are protecting cultural and
Only a few years ago,
trophy bear hunts on tribal
lands by non-native outfitters
brought in much-
needed money. Now on
Haida Gwaii, the Haida people are:
about the temperate
Protecting the hot springs,
staggeringly diverse marine
life, endemic bears, and local
artistry is now
flourishing again on the island,
supported by a new cultural
and their families on Haida
Gwaii have voiced support for the Haida Nation in
Canada's Supreme Court.
They said they would rather entrust
their future to the Haidas than
international corporate giants
or the provincial government.
“It makes sense to have people
who depend on a place also
manage its resources,” says
Guujaaw, President of the
Council of the Haida Nation.
“Timber companies just don’t
have to think about fish or the
long term on the earth-- only this
year’s bottom line.”
A native resurgence
is taking place all
along the western
coast of Canada and
the U.S. Alaska Natives, First
Nations, and American Indian
holistic land and resource
Advocating for the things we
need, like clean
water and healthy
family and personal
their communities and those
around them for recovery and
non-natives yearn for this
sort of leadership,
which is lacking in the U.S. and
“Maybe it’s not that we
don’t fit in, it’s that they
don’t fit in," said Jon
Waterhouse from the Yukon River
Inter-Tribal Watershed Council.
business model doesn’t work for
everyone. And modern culture has
lost its way.”
Native people are modeling these
leadership practices beyond
“We have no
choice,” said Gail Small,
“We can do nothing by
ourselves. We all need you,
of you, whatever race,
whatever culture. We have to
come together to protect
Small and others are bringing their communities back
from destitution, landlessness, and
near extinction. They have done
it by overcoming what Canada's
Supreme Court calls an “impoverished sense of honour”
governments who don't recognize
the historical sovereignty and
rights of aboriginal people.
insisting upon their inherent
human and sovereign rights,
native peoples are showing the
way to a more resilient world.
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