“Made on Haida Gwaii” Series, Part 1
Tlell, Haida Gwaii CANADA- March 22, 2012
by April Dutheil
July 2010, Rouen France- Dressed in regalia Dana Bellis leaves city hall with other summer students after meeting with the mayor of Rouen. Complementing her Masters program, this two week course at the University of Rouen in France brought Dana together with indigenous people from all over the world to study the Position of Indigenous People in International law.
“One of the best things about me is being from Haida Gwaii” says Dana Bellis who recently returned from the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in Vancouver. Jaad Gudangaa ‘laas (Happy Lady), also know as Dana Bellis attended George M. Dawson High School in Masset, learning determination and hard work from an early age, “I always felt I had the support of the teachers and the community, but I also had to do it myself.” The islands have given Dana incredible gifts, “the islands foster an independent, creative and confident determination”, and for this she pays tribute to the Haida community and the island people.
Immersed in the field of consulting in policy development and community-engagement, Dana has been fortunate to work with Indigenous health and government organizations, energy companies, and the aboriginally owned and operated Indigenuity Consulting Group. Energized by the opportunity to work and engage with the community, “I am continually in awe of the people from Haida Gwaii, they have the innate ability to shape the world, making it how they want it to be”.
While earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Women’s studies from the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, Dana played rugby with the UNBC Women’s Rugby Team. As part of the team’s community involvement, Dana coached the UNBC Girls Mini Rugby Team and helped to inspire confidence and healthy living among the young girls she coached. Dana later traveled to Kenya, learning about community development first-hand and Finland, studying circumpolar history.
Exploring the islands as a child and visiting Europe at age 8, Dana’s curiosity recently took her to Norway. At Tromsø University, the only university in the world above the Arctic circle, Dana studied reindeer herding history and it’s relation to gender and policy, obtaining a Masters degree in the Philosophy of Indigenous studies. Along with an offer to publish her research, Dana considers this to be one opportunity, among many which have shaped where she is today.
But you won’t find her biggest accomplishments on her resume. Named Jaad Gudangaa ‘laas, Dana considers striving for happiness to be central to a good life. Working from Haida Gwaii fosters a work-life balance like none-other, “I can work during the day, then relax with friends and family, baking cookies for the Masset soup kitchen and sewing quilts for charity”. Dana also notes the career benefits of being on island, “Where else in the world can you be mentored by such amazing professionals? Here you can literally look up someone’s name in the phone book and be talking to a top negotiator or business leader in Canada, and they want to talk to you, where else can you do that?”
When asked about what’s next, Dana has a list full of things that excite and energize, among that list is assisting with organizing the upcoming Potlatch for the Residential School Survivor Totem Pole Raising in Masset, attending the 2012 Aboriginal Opportunities Forum in Vancouver and contributing to conversations on ways to improve community access to energy, social value and opportunity in the North. Inspired by the confidence of Haida Gwaii and curiosity “I love to see where things go, where a good idea can take you”, says Dana.
Current location: Masset
Philosophy: Work hard, be honest, and when in doubt be kind.
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.