Coastal First Nations, an alliance of Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and the Council of the Haida Nation issued a ban on bear trophy hunting on their territories in September 2012, and have came back a year later with a full campaign called Bears Forever B.C.
The campaign is multi-faceted and science driven response to the hostility Coastal First Nations were met with by the B.C. Provincial Government upon their announcement of the ban last year. The campaign specifically targets Government talking points like Premier Christy Clark’s comments that B.C. has a “long tradition of trophy hunting” – a claim organizers find insulting as their centuries old traditions strictly forbid the practice of trophy hunting.
Spokesperson and Heiltsuk Nation Councillor Jessie Housty noted that trophy hunting on the territories has been “an issue for decades.” She hopes that the unity of the campaign, mixed with their approach, will be capable of building momentum and forcing the Provincial Government to finally respect the authority of the Coastal First Nations and their ban.
Since its launch earlier this w eek Housty says that the response has been “overwhelming” and noticeably larger and more positive than last year – something she attributes to the educational work done by campaigns like Idle No More.
Housty and the Bears Forever BC campaign are calling on allies and supporters to keep the issue in the public eye. As the season starts the campaign will be taking their own outreach into high traffic hunting areas educating trophy hunters on the ban and aiming for voluntary compliance – using any “non violent means available” to stop the hunt.
“If I have to stand between feeding bears and people with guns, I will,” said Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation councillor Douglass Neasloss, who also works as a professional bear viewing guide. “But this year I hope visitors to the Great Bear Rainforest leave the safari guns at home and bring their cameras instead. If they do that, I’d be happy to introduce them to some truly magnificent bears.”
The campaign has launched with a short documentary called “Bear Witness” detailing the individual stories of bears like “Cheeky” who have been killed by trophy hunters in the Great Bear Rainforest. In three days that short documentary has already been viewed over 14,000 times.
They have also publicized a poll which indicate that 87% of B.C. residents support the bear trophy hunting ban and social media sites like Twitter have since a large supportive response to the #bearsforeverbc hash tag.
For Housty though, the campaign will build momentum no matter what the response is from the Government, as opposition to trophy hunting is a “value position” for Coastal First Nations and there can be no compromise.