Part 7 of the “Made on Haida Gwaii” Series
June 28, 2012
By April Diamond Dutheil
The Made on Haida Gwaii series tells the stories of fifty talented young people who call Haida Gwaii home. In this vast country, our major urban centres tend to soak up most of the attention. This collection of success stories, about young people living on these beautiful but remote islands off the Pacific coast, aims to disrupt the dominant myths of what it means to grow up in Canada’s North.
“I’ve attained some academic success, helped facilitate dialogue on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal - and hopefully some broader environmental concerns. I find my work meaningful and rewarding. And, of course, I’m a proud and devoted Aunt!” answers Valine Crist as she shares some of her greatest achievements.
Skeena River, May 25th, 2012: Valine with 7-month-old nephews, Cohen (left), Asher (right). Photo credit: Sheri Disney.
“This was the best place to grow up,” says Valine Crist, who recently moved home after spending ten years studying, working, and traveling. “It was magnificent to spend weekends berry picking and camping,” she continues, “Nothing can compare to the comforts and securities of Haida Gwaii.”
Earning an undergraduate degree majoring in Psychology and Anthropology from the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, Valine will soon complete a Master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Victoria.
Capturing the current realities faced by British Columbia’s coastal communities, Valine’s research is timely and cutting-edge. Her thesis examines how communities come together against threats of large-scale development projects.
Passionate about ecological sustainability and motivated to understand how people interact with the environment Valine notes that, “On Haida Gwaii we have a very strong connection to our home- understanding, appreciating and valuing this has influenced my identity and my values,” she says.
Today, Valine works for the Council of Haida Nation as a writer for Haida Laas and has helped to coordinate the Enbridge Joint Review Panel hearings on Haida Gwaii. When asked what are some lessons she’ll take away from the process, Valine says that, “Regardless of who you are or how long you’ve been here, people from Haida Gwaii are very passionate. I’ve also learned just how powerful an alliance of people can be, it’s absolutely inspiring.”
Motivated by her community to make a difference, Valine found outside experiences reinforced her work in environmental justice.
Valine spent time in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, exposing her to parallel environmental and development concerns faced by Indigenous peoples worldwide. “I visited communities affected by destructive resource extraction,” she says.
“In the Peruvian highlands, communities are losing access to their local water sources because of Canadian owned mining companies; irresponsible waste management contaminates local agricultural areas; unsustainable logging. They’re the same stories, different parts of the world,” Valine explains.
When asked what drives her towards this work, Valine answers, “Humans continue to over-exploit our environments, we’re exacerbating natural climate cycles and if we don’t act, we place ourselves at risk of facing environmentally catastrophic events. That’s not to say it’s hopeless though,” she asserts.
“Being aware of your ecological impacts—your carbon footprint, your water consumption—these are just some of the ways that you can start making a difference,” says Valine.
But the way in which people create positive environmental change may differ in regards to a number of factors, including ones’ economic, social and geographical realities.
Valine illustrates what differing access to resources may look like in northern rural communities compared to the city. “I use public transit in Victoria,” says Valine, “but on Haida Gwaii I rely much more on my car.” In comparison “it’s easier to recycle and buy ‘eco-friendly’ products in a city, but here at home, eating locally and ethically is easier,” she says.
No matter where you live, there are opportunities to make positive changes.
Imagining Haida Gwaii in fifty years Valine sees renewable energy solutions, strategic water conservation, and environmental stewardship as key to the Islands’ role in increasing self-sufficiency.
“We’re in a very advantageous position to act as responsible stewards and lead by example; we have been doing this and will continue to,” she says.
Philosophy: With some integrity, ingenuity, and commitment, we can remedy our current environmental state. That’s our obligation to future generations.
Source: Haida Gwaii Observer, Rabble.ca, Project Gwaii