Jason spent last week in BC's Sacred Headwaters, where he and his comrade Karen Tam Wu traveled to film a short documentary featuring the region's community. It's currently threatened by industrial development, including 'fracking', in its pristine, ecologically-important land.
1. Jason, thanks for joining me. Could you tell me a little about what you do at ForestEthics? And when you're not at ForestEthics, what do you like to get into?
I design stuff. I do the Facebook page. And I am assistant to the Executive Director. When I'm not at work, I generally prefer getting into a pair of zebra-print satin pajamas.
2. No way, me too! So this is your first video production trip to British Columbia's Sacred Headwaters. Were you apprehensive going into it?
I was mostly excited, but there was certainly a fair share of apprehension as well, most of which centered around the idea that I wasn't entirely sure what I was signing up for, plus the inevitable self-doubting chorus.
3. The Headwaters are in a remote corner of BC, and they aren't so easy to reach. Can you tell me how you got there, and describe some of your first impressions?
Well, sadly the road to the Sacred Headwaters was actually underwater, so we never got in. It is still really difficult for me to accept that. But the main objective for this project was to get to the communities located closest to the Sacred Headwaters, the Tahltan First Nation communities of Iskut and Telegraph. We were looking to interview members of the Tahltan Nation within those communities. To get there, my trusty companion, Karen Tam Wu, and I flew out of Vancouver, BC to Smithers, BC on a two hour flight. We drove through the town of Hazelton to our friend Shannon's house who was graciously supplying us with some equipment. We then went another five to six hours on a variety of ever-degrading roads to the town of Iskut, including a 45-minute "short-cut' comprised of a pot-holed dirt road running through dense forest.
4. Sounds like quite the journey. I understand there was flooding, and that your phone went for a swim?
As I mentioned, the road into the Sacred Headwaters was underwater, so the only way in was ATV, which we didn't have. We were mainly tent camping and one night I woke in a shallow pool of water with my phone underwater. Certainly makes you appreciate your bed.
5. So, what sort of development issues are the Tahltan First Nation facing in their territory? How long have those issues been around?
Well, this is a complex question. Like most other aboriginal peoples, they have been dealing with 'development' issues since they crossed paths with white folks. They have been reduced in the past 100 years from a nation of tens of thousands of members to a nation of about 2,000. At a lowpoint, their population hovered at 300. Since 2004 they have been actively working to keep Royal Dutch Shell out of their ancestral hunting grounds (the Sacred Headwaters) after Shell was awarded tenure of 400,000 hectares by the BC government for coalbed methane extraction.
6. What was the feeling you got when you departed from the Headwaters?
It was quite a mixed bag. I was excited to get home. I was grateful for the experience of being in a beautiful region I hadn't previously visited and talking to a people I had never met. I was disturbed with history and its repeating pattern of schoolyard-bully tactics. I was grief-stricken with the things we have all lost. And I was inspired by the beauty of the landscape and the grace of a people who keep fighting for the things they believe in in a world that continues to push in on every side.
Interview by Claire Rosenfeld.