Crew and A: Megan Humchitt
Megan Humchitt joined us aboard the Passing Cloud for the first time in the fall of 2018 as our cultural interpreter in the Great Bear Rainforest. This region, the largest coastal temperate rainforest in the world, spans over 64,000 square kilometres from Northern Vancouver Island, all the way to the BC-Alaska border, and encompasses the traditional territories of 26 different First Nations, including Megan’s home in the Heiltsuk Haíłzaqv Nation community of Waglisla, more commonly known as Bella Bella.
Megan is also a councillor for the Heiltsuk Tribal Council and is extremely passionate about protecting her traditional territory and the entire BC Coast by working with neighbouring nations and visitors to this place. Her dedication towards marine emergency preparedness and environmental protection – to name only a couple of topics she’s enthusiastic about – shines through in most conversations shared. In her role as councillor, her commitment to economic development through tourism is complimented with her background in the Aboriginal Tourism Program, a partnership between the Heiltsuk Nation and Vancouver Island University.
“The Economic Development portfolio is near and dear to my heart,” she says. “Because I am extremely passionate about tourism, and I really see it as a way to connect people to territory and to foster pride within our nation and reconnection to the territory.”
While on board, Megan encourages our guests to lean in with open minds and hearts to the intricacies of the cultural history of the Heiltsuk Nation. She provides the necessary context to the inseparable connection of person to place that dates back since time immemorial.
“It’s important to me to share what this place means to us. It helps people to understand why we work so hard to protect it. We’ve always been caretakers of this land and so when people connect to it, they’re able to take a piece of that away with them.”
Megan joined us for two more expeditions this year as we explored the diverse ecosystems of this magnificent region. She’s shared many incredible wildlife moments with our guests, from acrobatic displays of Pacific white-sided dolphins and bubble-net feeding humpback whales, to her very first encounter with a spirit bear. But most importantly, Megan was able to help us see this region through a completely different lens.
“As a nation, we’re cognizant of the fact that we need to diversify into different areas like ecotourism, and find sustainable ways of being in territory as our resources dwindle as the world changes. We need to look at more of a conservation-based economy rather than resource extraction.”
Indigenous people have called this place home long before we came to visit and certainly long before it became known as the Great Bear Rainforest, or even the former name before the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements were signed – a name that highlights the extractivist mentality: The North and Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area.
“When I’m with people who are experiencing our territory, I always feel that they’re connecting to our land and water. When people come and they experience Heiltsuk territory with a Heiltsuk guide who’s telling the story, our story, and really giving context to where they are, they can then become advocates for protection, help us to share information, or amplify Indigenous voices. It’s an opportunity for allyship.”
Megan invites the Outer Shores crew and guests to learn about her territory in an immersive and respectful way and to not be shy to engage with the complex history of this region. She reminds us that it’s important to get outside of your comfort zone to enter into a space where real, honest conversations can take place.
“I really appreciate just being with the guests in our quiet moments, and feeling that thankfulness and gratefulness for a place that we live in and to be able to share that. I think it’s a real relationship building experience. Every trip is different, but after each time on board I always come away with a feeling of happiness and a sense of soul searching within myself. To be able to experience that within a group, is a very special thing.”
Ǧiáxsix̌a (thank you) Megan, for sharing your home with us and being part of the Outer Shores team!