After the uplift of the Lelu Island pole raising ceremony and feast, we drove back to Terrace the next day for our friend Bruce Hill’s memorial. It was a moving, heartfelt gathering for a man who had a profound impact on our planet and on hundreds of people he met along the way. So many memorable moments that night: Time with the Hill family and other good friends I don’t see enough, Ivan Thompson’s beautiful eulogy; Haisla elder Cecil Paul’s story of spreading Bruce’s ashes in Kitlope Lake; Bruce’s Haisla brother Gerald Amos, on the comeback trail from a devastating stroke, walking to the podium supported by his sons to say what Bruce meant to him; and Rachelle Van Zanten’s tear-streaked face as she ripped into My Country, her protest song of the North. (If you haven’t heard it, check out Rachelle’s video for the song HERE.)
I can’t remember when I’ve been on such an emotional roller coaster like those two days. So a little fresh, northern air was in order. With one day to fish, Rick Koe and I rolled east from Terrace and spent a day on the water. The river was rising and on its way out, but casting and swinging flies through runs with a good friend felt like the perfect way to wrap up my time in BC.
As my friend Yvon likes to say, victories in the conservation game are hard to come by. But after years of battling to keep Petronas, a giant multi-national corporation, from building an LNG plant on critical salmon habitat at the mouth of the Skeena River, First Nations and the conservation groups that supported them, had reason to celebrate: A clear win. Petronas gave up, bailed, and left pristine Lelu Island to the salmon and the people of the North. Above, a glimpse of the spectacular Skeena estuary as we drove through heavy rain and dark, roiling skies.
At Port Edward, the gathering crowd met a small flotilla of boats to ferry us out to Lelu. That’s Yvon and Spencer headed down the dock.
On Lelu, we gathered around a smoldering fire. As the singers and drummers started in, the rain began to let up and the sky lightened. A procession of chiefs and elders strode forward to bless the pole.
Then, with ropes and the strength of the assembled masses, the enormous, beautifully carved cedar pole was pulled upright. The clouds parted, revealing blue sky.
Great peeches were made, and cheers rose from the crowd. As if by magic, a brilliant sun beamed down on us from a bluebird sky. The pole now stands sentinel on Lelu Island, watching over the Skeena and marking the place where a great battle was won, warning others who try to harm the Skeena or its salmon that they will not succeed. Victories may be hard to come by, but they sure feel good when they happen. And what an honor to be a part of it. When we returned to Prince Rupert, the storm closed in again, as if on cue. I like to think it was our friend Bruce, who fought so hard for the Skeena, smiling down on us.
Frances Ashforth’s breathtakingly gorgeous prints make their West Coast debut, kicking off with the artist herself, live and in-person, at Patagonia Portland this Thursday, October 26th, at 7:00pm. I am honored to be introducing her and her folio, Water + Words at the event. This is a rare opportunity to meet Frances, hear her talk about her work, and view the prints–I’ve been looking forward to this for years. If you are interested in water, conservation and art, this is an event you won’t want to miss. Note: the images above and below are lousy snapshots of her work hanging in my house–they look much, much better in person. Come check ’em out for yourself!
This summer, my friend Jason Rolfe (who organizes the Writers On The Fly events) came out to the house and we spent a few hours talking. Somehow, through great questions–and skillful editing–he turned our conversation into the inaugural episode of The Fly Tapes podcast. Of course, I still cringe a bit when listening to myself, but it was a fun talk and I’m honored to kick off The Fly Tapes series. You can listen HERE or download it for free at the iTunes store. Hope you like it. And Jason, now we just need to go fish without the microphones!