Time seems to replicate its intricate yet predictable arrangement. Probably, here is where the saying that history repeats itself comes from. Only a few decades after the War in the Woods, a series of blockades regarding the clearcutting in Clayoquot Sound, the protests against old-growth logging have fulminated on Vancouver Island again. Fairy Creek protests are a symbol of resistance but also a subject that triggered many people’s connection to the land. One of them is MJ, the Experiential Education Coordinator at Pearson College, more recently a houseparent of one of the student residences. In an interview with First Person magazine, MJ shared about her initiation in Fairy Creek blockades and the journey of developing a bond with the land.
For MJ, this experience was brought to her life by chance. On the 9th of August 2020, the weekend of her birthday, MJ was invited to a Facebook event which, according to her, sounded nerdy. She contemplated whether it is worth investing her time in something that was framed as a camping opportunity. Nonetheless, MJ decided to show up two minutes before the people would leave for Fairy Creek, having no idea how this experience would impact her. Somewhere in the southwest of Vancouver Island, near Port Renfrew within the unceded territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation, people have gathered with a blazing desire to protect the upper Fairy Creek valley that was threatened by nearby logging. MJ says that it was depressing for her to realize that the same fight was being fought for thirty years even though it is a matter of fact that resources aren’t replaceable.
The night when she was checked in, her heart was enveloped by a feeling similar to the one MJ was saluted by when she arrived in Canada. She felt like she could not properly orientate in space, as every step she took represented the discovery of foreign land. Stumbling her feet onto the sacred profoundness of Fairy Creek, meeting people, and asking questions gave her the sense of Fairy Creek being a microcosm of a world of “borderline magic which encompasses everything I was looking for about indigenous knowledge, people, solidarity, what means to be part of an intersectional movement” says MJ. Moreover, she declares that even though people claim to feel being called, it is only when one goes there they can properly sense the uniqueness of the ecosystem.
Although she poured her heart into those days spent there, MJ did not feel comfortable and content with being associated with the Fairy Creek blockade because she was acknowledging that the participants didn’t have a deep connection to the First Nation of the region. Nevertheless, during a time when the veils of ambiguity that used to cover Indigenous history collapse, people have the opportunity to receive the knowledge the Indigenous communities are willing to share regarding nature and the connection to the land. This is when the healing ceremonies embroidered lasting ties between people and the forest. MJ tells with passion and gratitude in her eyes about the healing ceremonies held by Grandma Rose, involving two important trees: grandma tree and grandfather tree. “The entire relationship to the land is entirely shaped by this experience,” affirms MJ, “this is why I want Pearson students to see it.”
In this context, Pearson students had several opportunities to get educated on what is happening at Fairy Creek, being invited to reflect on their connection to the land through the lens of what they’ve learned. These opportunities were introduced to the Pearson community through the possibility of participating in the LAST Stand Rally and March that happened on the 27th of March, in front of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, as well as engaging in UWC Day activities that provided insightful information about the background and the current situation of Fairy Creek.
Ben Ruddock, a second-year student at Pearson College from the United Kingdom, shares that learning more about Fairy Creek by taking part in both events outlined above helped him reflect on deforestation worldwide and in the UK, in particular where most of the forests across his country and the world have been decimated and replaced by concrete towers. Ben considers that many people still perceive Fairy Creek as a small price for a large economic gain, even though it holds a greater value than “just chopping wood for paper.”
Having the days of our lives chained together on an unceded territory it is easy to forget that the weight is carried by land where we are uninvited guests. It is easy to ignore the waters that host us every time we paddle on Pedder Bay or attend classes in the Floating Building. It is almost a learned behavior to connect to another frequency of our thoughts when the land acknowledgments echo in the Maxbell Theatre. But just because we don’t hear the murmurs of the woods when we walk on the Galloping Goose trail or understand the agitated utterance of the Pacific, does not mean that the land we stand on does not feel our feet. This incorporates the reason why people are being immersed in the incomprehensibly abstruse connection to the land while learning about it because they finally recognize the “clay” they were sculpted from.