Graham Abel is a highway hero single-handedly capturing escaped garbage from the ditches and roadway between Prince Rupert and Port Edward. On May 11, he said it was just something he was taught to do as a child to keep the community clean and green.(Photo: K-J Millar/the Northern View)

Graham Abel is a highway hero single-handedly capturing escaped garbage from the ditches and roadway between Prince Rupert and Port Edward. On May 11, he said it was just something he was taught to do as a child to keep the community clean and green.(Photo: K-J Millar/the Northern View)

Heart of the City – Graham Abel, Highway Crusader

Cleaning up the highway one piece of garbage at a time

Who is the lone crusader seen climbing out of ditches and gathering wayward garbage along Highway 16? Witness accounts, social media posts, and phone calls to The Northern View resulted in the investigation as to who this highway hero is and what he is trying to accomplish.

While there was no superhero cape evident, Graham Abel had a glint in his eye as he spoke about his quiet endeavours for cleaning up the garbage along the stretch of highway just outside of Prince Rupert.

His goal he said, is to clean up all the way to Port Edward.

“What I’m doing is to help Prince Rupert grow and glow,” he said.

As a youth he grew up in Gitsegukla which means ‘People of the sharp point mountain,’ he said. Maternally he is from the Gitxsan Nation and his father was Objibway from Ontario. Graham said when he was three months old, and his brother was almost 16 months old they were given to his great aunt to be brought up learning traditional ways and customs.

“We were raised by her, and it was our duty as we were growing to keep busy, keep active. We would hang fish, collect fish, go chop wood, go hunting, go trapping. In the wintertime as the season changes, there was always something to do.”

Every year in the springtime they would volunteer themselves to beautify the outside of the communities and off the highways to upkeep the natural essence of the forests. Graham wants to continue that around Prince Rupert.

One hundred per cent completing the feat by volunteering his time alone, he started cleaning up garbage in his own neighbourhood near Eight Ave. East making it to Industrial Road in just five days.

He said at that point he had collected just under 20 garbage bags full of items, some of which he estimates had been there for a couple of years. His best find so far was a $50 bill wrapped around a stick and the saddest was an eagle which appeared to have perished from electric shock.

The 33-year old worker at Tidal Coast said he drives to work each morning dismayed at the amount of garbage he sees on the side of the road and wanted to make the community a little cleaner and greener.

At Tidal Coast he has worked his way up from being a banderman where he collected data on log numbers and species, to a graderman where he now grades the logs.

When asked what made him chose a logging career, he said he didn’t ‘choose’ it, it naturally chose him.

“I was raised in an isolated area, always around forests. Everything that was involved was natural with sustainable activities.

“We lived off the land cutting wood, going hunting, going fishing,” he said. “It was a family tradition to go goat hunting every year.”

Graham said it would take him and his family members two days just to reach the mountain goat trail where his traditional family territory is.

“It’s protected land. We do a lot of activities such as berry gathering, sacred medicine gathering with species that only grow in the mountains.”

He said for the first 16 to 18 years of his life every day they lived off the land gardening, hunting moose, rabbit and grouse. In the summertime, it was inland fishing and collecting more than 60 truckloads of wood for every sister and brother. His great aunt had 12 children in total including Graham and his brother Victor.

Back in 2005, Graham attended university to study geography and anthropology.

‘I’m pretty much a green thumb,” he said. “I love things green. I love it clean. I love to grow and glow. I love things to be naturalized because as long as things grow we have to make sure it’s going to continue to be clean and self-sustainable. “

It’s concerning to him he has to pick up after other people and gives the example of mushroom picking in the forest. he said he had to clean up after others who have left a mess because ecologically life can be destroyed in a forest from the garbage and chemicals left behind.

As a father of five, he wants his children to grow up respecting Mother Earth for what she has given. He said the extinction of many species is near and freshwater is hard to come by. He said his children know that he has been cleaning up along the highway and collecting garbage from the water-filled ditches. His partner told The Northern View that what Graham is contributing to the environment and area is totally uplifting and good for the environment. She wishes more people would be doing it.

“We are not going to be in a healthy place if we don’t take care of the land where we live,” Graham said.

“It’s in our teachings and our customs that if we respect the land, then the land will respect us. What we take from the water, the water will take back. If you hate the wind, the wind will get stronger. I love the snow. I love the rain,” he said, even naming one of his sons ‘Rain’.

Graham hopes that people will think not only for themselves but for the generations to come.

“The chain reactions that one leads, will leave a trail. The trails that follow people will leave an imprint behind them,” he said. “And the imprint starts the ripple effect.”

“The choices we’re making today will lead by example for tomorrow. And this will have the ripple effect on people and the earth, so keeping it green and clean is very important.”

Graham’s final words that he wants people to remember about his highway clean up and his duty to nature are

“When we are green and clean we will grow and glow.”


K-J Millar | Journalist
Send K-J email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Joseph Albert Brooks, 94-years-young pf Prince Rupert offers traditional prayers and smudging to the sick. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of our City: Joseph Albert Brooks keeps smudging and praying for others

94-year-old Tsimshian elder just wants some help washing his floors

Land along Prince Rupert’s waterfront, PID 012-247-391, where residents say excessive industrial train noise is stemming from, has been found to be owned by the City of Prince Rupert and is not federal land like first presented, Prince Rupert Environmental Society stated on June 17. (Image: supplied by Land Title and Survey, Govt. of BC.)
Error found on land titles map may assist city with noise control enforcement of industry

Prince Rupert residents had been told there was no municipal jurisdiction to enforce noise bylaws

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Visitors to a pop-up temporary aquarium in Prince Rupert will have the chance to see marine ecology from July 21 to Aug. 15, like this viewer watching sea anemones at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert pop-up aquarium will bring sea level to eye level in July

A permanent peak to reef ecology centre is in the planning stages by North Coast Ecology Society

Prince Rupert’s Ellen Wright and Graeme Dickens jam out during filming the two Ring System Studio concerts to be broadcast on television during June. (Photo: supplied, H. Cox)
Ring System Studio sounds on television

Two concerts by the Prince Rupert music school will be broadcast in June

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Most Read