In Defense of the Bears in Haida Gwaii

In Defense of the Bears in Haida Gwaii

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John Ahni Schertow
May 28, 2009

No one knows for certain how many Black Bears are in Haida Gwaii, off the coast of British Colombia. But the Haida People are all too aware how many have been killed ever since the owners of Tlell River Lodge received their first professional guiding license from the Provincial government, 32 years ago.

“Over 1200” Bears, says the Friends of Taan, a network of individuals from Haida Gwaii dedicated to protecting the bear, which the Haida know as Taan.

Also known as Ursus americanus carlottae, the bears of Haida Gwaii are an endemic subspecies that you can’t find them anywhere else in the world. And they are spiritually important beings to the Haida.

Speaking on this, an ally from Poland mentions Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, pointing to the word “belief”.

According to Haida belief, killing a Black Bear is tantamount to rape. 1200 bears, then, is equivalent to 1200 cases of rape against the Haida people.

“For the Love of Bears”

For the past 14 years, the Haida have been working to stop this from happening.

At first, the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) passed a resolution to halt the commercial and recreational slaughter. Around the same time, in 1995, a survey by Angus Reid showed that 91% of British Columbia citizens were opposed to bear hunting.

The government ignored both the study and the resolution.

Ever since then, the Haida People have been organizing protests and media campaigns, publishing ads in newspapers, setting up petitions, and leading other efforts to stop the hunt.

A lot of environmental organizations and individuals like Jane Goodall have expressed their support of the Haida—But even so, after all this time and effort, the government has continued to do blindly renew the licenses year after year. By the looks of things, without even so much as considering a limit on how many bears can be killed each hunting season.

A Reasoned Alternative

For all intents and purposes, we might as well be talking about Britain, 200 years ago… in Africa.

How long before the Taan becomes extinct?

We need to make sure this doesn’t happen. But, more than saying “no”, we need to encourage something to replace this useless and archaic industry.

The above-mentioned petition offers a reasoned alternative. It suggests we should encourage Tlell River Lodge to make a transition from recreational hunting to sustainable tourism, citing a recent economic study that showed the latter to be far more profitable.

Surely the government would support this? If there’s any meaning to their rhetoric about a “new relationship” with First Nations, they must.

What You Can Do

To express your support for the Taan and for the Haida People, please take a moment to sign the petition.

It is also important that contact the government and the license holders directly, expressing our concerns, and encouraging them to abandon the hunt.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, Office of the Premier,
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, BC, Canada V5K 5J5
Ph. 250-356-2933 Email, GORDON CAMPBELL

Guide Outfitters Assoc. of BC., PO Box 94675 Richmond, BC, Canada V6Y 4A4
Ph 604-278-2688 Fax 604-278-3440 Email:

Prophet Muskwa- Pacific Outfitters, Box 6677 Ft St John, BC. Canada V1J 4J1
250-789-3282 or 250-789-9494 E, KEVIN OLMSTEAD

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