Rediscovery co-founder Thom Henley returns to Haida Gwaii with new memoir

Henley to speak in Old Massett Thursday night and in Queen Charlotte on Friday

Thom Henley, known for co-founding Rediscovery and his key role in the 14-year mission to establish Gwaii Haanas, says begrudgingly that the system works if grassroots groups are willing to make it work.

Henley is back in Haida Gwaii to talk about his autobiographical book, Raven Walks Around the World. On Thursday, he will give a 7 p.m. reading at the Tluu Xaada Naay Longhouse in Old Massett, and on Friday he will give a 7 p.m. reading at the Queen Charlotte community hall.

In 1970, a 22-year-old Thom Henley left Michigan and drifted around the northwest coast, getting by on odd jobs and advice from even odder characters.

He rode the rails, built a squatter shack on a beach, came to be known as “Huckleberry” and embarked on adventures along the West Coast.

Eventually, a hippie named Stormy directed him to Haida Gwaii.

While kayaking the remote area around South Moresby Island, Henley was struck by the clear-cut logging and desecration of ancient Haida village sites. Henley collaborated with the Haida for the next 14 years to spearhead the largest environmental campaign in Canadian history and the creation of Gwaii Haanas.

He was formally adopted by the Haida and bestowed with the new name, “Yaahl Hlaagaay Gwii Kaas” (Raven Walks Around the World).

“You know the chances of that happening were so slim,” said Henley about Gwaii Haanas, adding that a tree farm licence is sacrosanct.

“So if the Haida, especially Percy Williams hadn’t deferred logging for Burnaby Island, if it wasn’t for the citizen effort, that world class intertidal zone, all intertidal life, would be buried under three to five feet of dead trees and yet Parks Canada puts it on its poster.”

Henley said Parks Canada now takes credit for Gwaii Haanas, and while it kind of acknowledges the Haida blockade, at no point did Parks Canada support the fight for Gwaii Haanas because it didn’t want to take on the forest industry.

“The nation should be proud of it,” he said, about the fight for Gwaii Haanas.

“That’s where it should begin: at the grassroots local level, not environmentalist groups coming in from the big city.”

Canadians are incredibly fortunate compared to other countries in the world where the same thing is virtually impossible, said Henley.

Everywhere in the world sees people facing the same issues of big development projects that might be needed but the people also have concerns and don’t feel they have a voice, and in almost every case they’re losing their fight, he said.

The only place citizens are actually turning things around is from Vancouver Island up to Haida Gwaii and inland to about Smithers, he added.

“You have to have meaningful input from citizens whenever they feel they’re being dissed from discussions, you have pushback,” said Henley. “I think you would see a lot more cooperation if people felt their voices were being heard. It shouldn’t have to be this constant competition.”

The underlying question is what direction do we want to be going as a nation? Are we going to hang onto LNG or go in new directions?

“I’ve got a friend who lives near Kispiox. He plugs his car in. It’s a solar powered car. He can go from Kispiox to Burns Lake or Prince Rupert and back,” said Henley.

“This is a guy living in the bush. Where’s the auto industry?”

Resource industry jobs aren’t the only jobs, he added.

Just because we have a lot of gas resources and fish doesn’t mean we take it all out to make an economy, said Henley.

“We need jobs but the boom-bust mentality is not a healthy one,” he said.

A Haida elder in Sandspit was told by a logger that the environment in the hands of the Haida ruined his livelihood and community.

The elder said there was nothing across the inlet from Sandspit and then there was a logging camp.

“She said ‘if you are a community, where is your graveyard?’” said Henley about what the elder said to the logger.

“If you don’t care for a place enough to be buried there or have your loved ones buried there, you don’t care for it. It does not speak well for stewardship. Get the money and run, that’s the attitude.”

To build a sustainable real community, people have to love it enough to want to be buried there, he added.

And he is glad there’s opportunity for change in Canada.

“I don’t know of a better country. There’s no place I’d rather live,” said Henley.

“We do have a process which we can work within the system and eventually bring about change.”


Harbour Publishing photo Author and activist Thom Henley recently published a book about his involvement in establishing the Gwaii Haanas National Park on Haida Gwaii.

Just Posted

Council briefs: The Village of Queen Charlotte

More money for village in third-quarter, new equitable gift giving policy

William Griffin arrested in Houston homicide

RCMP have now arrested William Griffin, the man wanted in connection to… Continue reading

Family of Terrace man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Coast Mountain College’s indigenization efforts recognized at international symposium

Collaboration and community are key to Indigenous reconciliation in education, CMTN says

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

Maddison Yetman had been looking forward to voting in her first federal election since junior high school

Rowing Canada, UVic investigate celebrated coach for harassment, abuse

Lily Copeland says she felt intimidated and trapped by Williams

Cleanup in the works after tanker truck fire leads to oil spill in B.C.’s Peace region

The province said the majority of the spilled oil likely burned away in the fire.

BC VIEWS: Action needed on healthcare workplace violence

While we’ve been talking about it, the number of B.C. victims has only grown

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

Dr. Day said he illegally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 in order to create more operating-room time

MacLean says “Coach’s Corner is no more” following Cherry’s dismissal from Hockey Night

Cherry had singled out new immigrants in for not honouring Canada’s veterans and fallen soldiers

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Series of land-use fines inspire owner Michael Poole to sell the roughly 20-acre property.

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Most Read