The Goose Group (Yáláthi in Heiltsuk) is a cluster of offshore islands located 20 nautical miles southwest of Bella Bella. These unique islands, rich in biological diversity and cultural value, are the focus of an exciting new Qqs Projects initiative.
Throughout Heiltsuk history Goose Island has been a culturally significant site of traditional use and occupation. Indeed, many of our first generation stories and even creation stories are linked to specific places on the island.
For millennia Heiltsuk people have recognized, utilized, and stewarded the incredible bounty of these offshore islands. The surrounding waters have long been a veritable breadbasket of seaweed, abalone, cod, halibut and many other important traditional resources.
More recently, the cultural and ecological significance of Goose Island made it the ideal site for the Heiltsuk Rediscovery Camps. Operating from 1988-1998, these camps offered community youth the chance to rediscover their ancient Heiltsuk culture and traditional ways of life in a place rich with the stories of their ancestors. On the sandy beaches of the main island they spent a substantial part of their summers living off the land under the guidance of community leaders, away from the trappings of modern reserve life.
These early camps established the model for cultural camps to come later at Koeye. Many community members remember their formative days at the Rediscovery Camps, and Goose Island remains an important part of the Heiltsuk Nation’s identity.
Qqs has developed a plan to revitalize Heiltsuk presence in the island group while ensuring its preservation for future generations through a continuation of traditional teachings and broad scientific research and monitoring strategies. Our plan will be realized by the combined efforts of a suite of existing Qqs projects and through partnerships with outside organizations. Spring and summer of 2010 marked the pilot season of this long-term, Heiltsuk-driven Qqs initiative.
We believe that ecological and cultural values are inseparable. The conjunction of cultural immersion and scientific inquiry reflects our true connection to our history and our future. Goose Island will be the stage on which we will implement our newest strategy to encourage Heiltsuk youth to become stewards of their culture and their environment.
As an isolated outer-coastal ecosystem, Goose Island offers incredible opportunities for scientific study. The island group also embodies several unique cultural and ecological values. Our work is shaped by these values and informed by the various threats to those values. In particular, the menace of Enbridge proposals, climate change, offshore dragger fisheries, and invasive marine species all put the fragile Goose Island ecosystem at risk and make it a necessary focus for attention and management.
This year, through project-based research, we plan to collect baseline information on the island group that will help us articulate a long-term strategic plan. We feel it is crucial to establish a benchmark and a context for our work, and to understand the values of our outer coastal environments in order to develop the necessary tools for their monitoring and protection.
Our monitoring and research arm, Coastwatch, will be responsible for achieving our scientific goals on Goose Island. One important goal will be to produce monitoring tools for outer-coastal integrative planning processes.
Proposed areas of study are diverse and include deer population density surveys, Red Rock/Dungeness crab surveys, vegetation surveys, rock cod surveys, shorebird/pelagic bird surveys, sea mammal counts, bat species identification, hydrophone monitoring, low-tide abalone counts, and many others. For more information on projects and protocols, please contact our office.
We are also committed to ensuring a sustainable Heiltsuk presence on the island that facilitates the transmission of traditional knowledge. We believe a renewed Heiltsuk presence on Goose Island will strengthen our nation in all of its cultural and resource management goals.
With the intention of building a framework for lasting involvement, we will utilize the SEAS Internship initiative and our time-tested cultural-scientific camp model to bring young people to the shores of Goose Island and encourage them to invest themselves in its revitalization, study, and protection.
In order to facilitate a safe, secure, and sustainable presence on the islands, we will involve the Heiltsuk Cabins project in refurbishing the buildings that remain from the Rediscovery days, including a cookhouse and camp facility.
Our goal is to establish a longstanding Heiltsuk presence in the area and to ensure that a union of cultural and scientific interests continues to be a priority for future generations. Therefore, we feel it is crucial that we include our Heiltsuk youth in the decisions and initiatives that frame our work at Goose Island. Scientific study, cultural history, traditional resources, and modern-day values and threats are all important points of engagement for our youth. We aim to bring them all together in one place, at one time, in order to accomplish our broad spectrum of goals.
Due to the weather-related difficulty of reaching Goose Island and the challenges of transporting people and resources, we are seeking support in securing resources for this initiative. Presently, we are seeking stoves, stovepipe, building materials, boats, engines, and funds to offset the cost of fuel and upgrading the existing facilities. Please feel free to contact us with any leads on resources and materials!