Thom Henley, known for his work with Indigenous people in Canada, including the 14-year mission to establish Gwaii Haanas National Park, is visiting the Prince Rupert Public Library for the launch of his new book Raven Walks Around the World.
The author and activist will speak about his autobiography at the library on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
In an interview with Black Press before his book tour to the North Coast, Henley said that grassroots groups have the power to bring change to our communities.
The book details Henley’s life, starting in 1970 when at 22 years he left Michigan for the northwest coast, working odd jobs and taking advice from interesting characters.
In his story, he travelled by train and built a squatter shack along the West Coast. Then he meets a hippie named Stormy who directed him to Haida Gwaii.
While kayaking around the area, Henley noticed the clear-cut logging and destruction of ancient Haida sites. For the next 14 years Henley worked with the Haida in one of the largest environmental campaigns in Canadian history, leading to the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Park.
He was formally adopted by the Haida and bestowed with the new name “Yaahl Hlaagaay Gwii Kaas” (Raven Walks around the World).
“You know the chances of that happening were so slim,” said Henley about Gwaii Haanas.
“So if the Haida, especially Percy Williams hadn’t deferred logging for Burnaby Island, if it wasn’t for the citizen effort, that world class intertidal zone, all intertidal life, would be buried under three to five feet of dead trees.”
“The nation should be proud of it,” he said, about the fight for Gwaii Haanas or to save the Seven Sisters. “That’s where it should begin: at the grassroots local level, not environmentalist groups coming in from the big city.”
Canadians are incredibly fortunate compared to other countries in the world where the same thing is virtually impossible, said Henley.
The only place citizens are actually turning things around is from Vancouver Island up to Haida Gwaii and inland to Smithers, said Henley.
“You have to have meaningful input from citizens whenever they feel they’re being dissed from discussions, you have push back,” said Henley. “I think you would see a lot more cooperation if people felt their voices were being heard. It shouldn’t have to be this constant competition.”
The underlying question, he said, is what direction do we want to be going as a nation? Are we going to hang onto LNG or go in new directions?
Resource industry jobs aren’t the only jobs, he added.
Just because we have a lot of gas resources and fish doesn’t mean we take it all out to make an economy, said Henley.
“We need jobs but the boom-bust mentality is not a healthy one,” he said.