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One day deep in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia

Mike Willie - Sea Wolf Adventures

It’s always nice to be featured on O.Canada.com, especially when it’s about the Great Bear Rainforest! We embarked on a trip to experience the most remote places that render grizzlies and whales! We left Port Hardy on a beautiful and sunny day in our North River vessel in search for wildlife and peace.  Check out o.canada.com for the full article!

2020-01-20T05:51:06+00:00December 5th, 2019|

National Geographic Features Sea Wolf Adventures!

Grizzly bear viewing day trip for the whole family

Parent vs. Kid

Five family vacation spots where everyone gets what they want. (No, really!)

It’s the wail heard around the world: “But what about me?!?” Vacation planning parents have either heard it from their kids or thought it themselves. When the scale tips too far in favour of Dad’s obsession with world history or your youngest’s dinosaur fixation, someone in the family is not going to be happy. But you can banish those all-or-nothing vacations with a bit of compassion and compromise. These five spots offer activities kids will love, lessons parents can get behind, and vacations that meet everyone’s demands.

Read the full article featuring Sea Wolf Adventures with National Geographic.

2020-01-20T05:43:50+00:00May 5th, 2018|

Sea Wolf Adventures Featured as Fresh Take on First Nations Tour

Sea Wolf Adventures - (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

See Canada Through Fresh Eyes on a First Nations Tour

The mountains, forests and waters of British Columbia are given new meaning on a journey led by members of its Indigenous communities.

Growing up on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, I found it easy to mock visitors from abroad. “This place,” they’d whisper. “I can go swimming in the morning, skiing in the afternoon, then kayak home for dinner.” The views, the landscape, the wildlife — that was the refrain. Even in the cities, the scenery dominates. On any clear afternoon, look up from the streets of downtown Vancouver and you’ll see the snowcapped North Shore mountains glowing pink, an ostentatious show of natural beauty so commonplace that most residents barely take notice.

To read the full article featuring Sea Wolf Adventures, visit Travel Leisure.

2020-01-20T05:54:00+00:00May 5th, 2018|

Sea Wolf Adventures a Highlight of B.C. Travel Experience

Sea Wolf a Highlight of B.C. Travel Experience That Combines Nature and Indigenous Culture

“We are finally just talking tourism in these parts,” says Mike Willie of Sea Wolf Adventures. “As tourism grows, I’m wanting to inspire more of our people to get into it.”

PORT MCNEIL, B.C.-I came to B.C. to end my grizzly bear drought. Nearly 20 years had passed since seeing one and, for a self-proclaimed wildlife fanatic, this was a problem.

However, wildlife is never predictable and clearly the universe had other plans for me.

After a 30-minute drive from Port Hardy, Mike Willie of Sea Wolf Adventures welcomes me to the North Vancouver Island community of Port McNeill. Excited for a day of exploration in the Broughton Archipelago, we grab a coffee and set sail.

Read the full feature article with  The Star.

2020-01-21T00:48:59+00:00May 5th, 2018|

How Will You Celebrate Canada 150?

Confiscated Masks

When deciding how you will be celebrating Canada 150, please consider how these 150 years have impacted indigenous people. Since 1867, indigenous people have gone through hardships that have led to dispossession of lands and waters, a disconnection from culture, a reduced sense of identify, and a loss of lives.

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the indigenous children forced from the hands of their parents to attend residential schools. Residential schools left parents without children, and children without parents. It erased indigenous languages, practices, and many indigenous lives.

When deciding on how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider that from 1885 to 1951— 66 years— a potlatch ban was enacted that forbid indigenous nations on the Pacific coast to celebrate their culture and existence. Without the potlatch system our foundation of governance, family, communication, and nation to nation relationships eroded. The potlatch ban diminished the integrity and capacity of our societies and leadership.

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the ongoing battles indigenous communities fight to access clean drinking water, adequate health care, and education that includes and values traditional indigenous knowledge. Having to continually fight for these basic human rights has exhausted many indigenous communities, leaving them unable to access their territories and engage in cultural revitalization. The lack of these services has lead to a suicide crisis in many communities. Children are taking their own lives because they feel they have no other option.

When deciding on how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the forced sterilization of indigenous women that happened in the 1970’s. The intent was to reduce the population of indigenous communities to limit government responsibility.

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the appalling number of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls. Systemic and overt racism, intergenerational trauma, and lack of addiction support has contributed to these numbers. This national crisis would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the outcry from indigenous communities.

When deciding how to celebrate Canada 150, please consider the continued attempts to assimilate indigenous peoples into the Canadian mosaic, instead of honouring and providing space for our many unique cultures. This erasure of identity through policies such as the Indian Act have led to a disconnect to families, to land, and to self. The Canadian government does not want to implement United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and are currently fighting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations in court because they do not want to recognize indigenous nations.

It is your decision on how you will celebrate 150 years since confederation of this country, all that we ask is that you consider the above as we move forward into the next 150 years.

The following are more resources on what Canada 150 means to indigenous people and nations:

2020-01-22T23:49:23+00:00July 2nd, 2017|

Cetacean Connections ????

Whale Watching in Zodiac

June brings with it warmth, weekend getaways, and most importantly (to us anyways), whales!! We have been out scouting the waters and have been greeted by many of our fluke-tailed friends, including humpback whales, minke whales, and other cetaceans including killer whales, white-sided dolphins and porpoises.

Our connection to cetaceans runs deep, so deep that the spirit of our ancestors is within killer whales. It is believed that sea hunters, once they pass on, come back as ma̱’a̱mx̱’inux̱w (killer whales).

A Musgamakw Dzawada̱’enux̱w legend brings this belief to life, as told by late ‘giga̱me Yaḵała̱nlis, Ernie Willie:

“In a bizarre way our people cried when they first caught a killer whale named “Mobido”. Several years before there was this young boy named Baba’gwa̱m. He was a good hunter and he wanted to try his prowess in the open sea. He wanted to hunt a killer whale, max̱inux̱. 

So Baba’gwa̱m would go to this island where he knew that the max̱nux̱ would play from time to time and he would bring his harpoons. He was able to get the harpoons stuck in the max̱inux̱ alright but wasn’t able to kill one. He was just hunting them and that was all, mitła. 

Finally one day a big bull killer whale came right up to the beach. It opened its mouth and a man came running out from it and chased Baba’gwa̱m. In no time at all the man caught up to Baba’gwa̱m and when he did he grabbed both of the boy’s achilles tendons and ripped them right off. He didn’t kill Baba’gwa̱m but at that point he told the boy, 

“You’ll remember from this day forward that we too are men, and you will live a long life to tell this to others. This will be your plight from here on in. You cannot walk anymore but you must tell our story.” 

For many years Baba’gwa̱m told the killer whale’s story and passed this story onto many generations. He reminded his people that they must respect nature and remember that all living creatures are like humans. They have families to look after and feeling just as we do. 

He’a̱m.”

With this connection comes a respect for all cetaceans. In the past few years g̱wi’g̱wa̱’ya̱m (humpback whales) have been making a splash once again in our traditional territory. Welcoming them back has been our honour and our pleasure.

Introducing our guests to our seafaring ancestors, and friends has been a special experience that we are excited to continue to do throughout the summer.

2020-01-22T23:56:30+00:00June 15th, 2017|

Sea Wolf Experiences

Please see our experiences by viewing our promotional video. You will find a nice blend of First Nations culture and wildlife viewing. We thrive on giving our guests the best possible experiences of a life time. Reconnection to wilderness is at the heart of Sea Wolf and we invite you to journey with us to learn about local traditional history and our deep connection to wildlife in our traditional territory.

2020-01-23T00:25:46+00:00December 13th, 2015|

People of the Wild: Mike Willie

Mike Willie - Sea Wolf Adventures

Posted by Destination British Columbia on 20 Apr 2015

People of the Wild is a blog series profiling residents of British Columbia who have one thing in common: their love for exploring the BC wild. This week we’re featuring Mike Willie, a member of the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation who resides in Kingcome Inlet, in the Great Bear Rainforest. Mike works in cultural tourism and is a passionate speaker and educator involved in aboriginal language and cultural revitalization.

Where do you live in BC?

My name is Mike Willie and my First Nations name is T’ɬalis. My Mom is First Nations and I grew up with her in Kingcome Inlet, in the Great Bear Rainforest. Kingcome is a really remote place. It’s about sixty-five nautical miles from the nearest town by water and the population is about eighty people. It was an awesome place to grow up and call home. As kids we were allowed to play outside in the forest or down by the beach. We did a lot of hunting and fishing for sustenance, which you can still do there to this day. We had a school that went up until grade seven and then you had to move out for high school.

I have my own aboriginal tourism and water taxi business called Sea Wolf Adventures. It is based on reconnecting to our land and language through the work of culture revitalization. The foundation of who we are is the territory and land that we come from. Our language comes from the land and is only a reflection of our surroundings, so the inspiration for my company was to get out there into the natural surroundings.

Why do you call BC home?

That’s a funny question. I’ve been here my whole life and my ancestors have been here forever, or for thousands of years at least. The number keeps creeping back as archaeology keeps discovering or uncovering new findings. And our origin stories bring us back to the Kingcome Glacier.

I call BC home because of my First Nations ancestry and also because I love the nature. We have supernatural things within our own First Nations culture, but I believe BC is supernatural in itself. We have the life and energies of the forest and water. My culture and my love of nature are two aspects that are blended for me because First Nations culture is really based on all of that. When we have our ceremonies, it’s all linked and tied in to the energies from the forest and land.

Our culture is entrenched in nature and is a reflection of our surroundings. I recently had my first potlatch, so I’m now a hereditary chief from my nation. We dramatized all of our stories and we sang a lot of our songs. The best way to explain it is that all of our songs are a record of past events that happened thousands of years ago. The beauty of oral tradition is to be able to remember that way and to pass on knowledge through stories, songs, and dances.

The potlatch went really well. Greenpeace International and Greenpeace Canada were there as well and we rekindled a relationship that was started in the 70s with them between our hereditary chiefs of the Kwakwaka’wakw. It kind of died out for a while so we just wanted to re-spark it and have that relationship.

How does being out in nature make you feel?

It touches on all aspects. There’s an essence of cleansing and of being cleansed when you’re out in the forest and the fresh air. After a nice rainy day in the Great Bear Rainforest, once the rain stops everything becomes crystal clear to me. You see clearly and very plainly. We actually have a native word for that – we call it “awal”.

We also have a practice of going into the forest if you want to find direction in your life, or if you’re having a hard time or you need some kind of answer. We go out into the forest and fast for four days without food and very minimal water. That’s where you collect your thoughts because you’re by yourself and you are free from distractions. The animal life around, the birds and wolves and sometimes bears, becomes a challenge and becomes part of it. But you come out of the forest knowing a direction and knowing there’s an answer for your questions. That was developed over thousands of years with our people and it worked for me – I’ve been three times now.

On your typical day out, in the BC wild, what do you normally bring with you?

When I’m in the forest I bring some rope, a fold up hacksaw, and a headlamp. I like my Icebreaker merino wool, so I pack a spare shirt. I also have my Canon G16 camera and if we’re going for a long walk then I bring a CamelBak and hydration bags. It’s pretty much the same thing if I’m out on the boat. It’s always safety first so I bring lots of food and water as well as life gear, safety gear, and floaters.

Describe your perfect day in BC.

My answer to this is intertwined with my answer for how nature makes me feel. A perfect day for me has those moments after it rains and it clears. That’s one part. Another example is if I’m on the water in my boat and I come across some humpback whales. It’s hard for me to explain but the only words that come to mind to describe that experience are family, closeness, and connection. My name that I gave you, T’ɬalis, is actually a whale name. We have a story that goes back thousands of years about our encounter with the whales.

Another aspect of a perfect day is being in the forest. The air is different once you’re in the forest among the greenery. I’m an educator now, and from a research point they say that it’s actually great for development to get out there in the forest. I believe that’s why people find that serenity and the pulling and calling from the forest. We all seem to have that response to nature in common.

The ability to reconnect by getting back to nature is a simple concept if you think about it. Our people developed these systems and processes for our people to really clear their minds and become stronger. Bathing in ice-cold water was another strengthening and revitalizing technique. It’s interesting to see sports teams do that now when we’ve done that for thousands of years and it’s reflected in our stories. It’s pretty amazing how things are starting to come up through science and research but they’re simply from nature and we’ve had them all along.

What are three things that you would suggest that a new traveller to BC not miss this year?

I would definitely recommend they check out Kingcome Inlet where I grew up. The way of living up there blows people away. When you are there you experience a unique solitude and it almost seems like you are going back in time. Last year was the first year of bringing travellers there. To get there you head up on a bigger boat like a water taxi, but then you’ve got to get in a little boat and head about seven miles (11km) up the Kingcome River to get to our village. When I was younger, that little boat was a dugout canoe with a outboard motor on it. When you get to our village it is surrounded by towering mountains, so it’s quite the breathtaking site.

Secondly, I would say go visit Gilford Island. It’s our sister village and there’s lots of history there. They have the oldest standing ceremonial longhouse in Canada. It was put up in 1887, and it’s quite significant and still in use. My Uncle Don just renovated it and reinforced the structure last year. So if people want history, there is a lot of history in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Lastly, I would definitely get out on the water. Anywhere works, but an accessible example might be from the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It’s amazing and easy to connect with the marine life. You can also go to Port McNeill or Telegraph Cove, or Alert Bay to head out on day trips.

What would you consider to be BC’s best-kept secret?

Kingcome Inlet! In Kingcome we have the second oldest longhouse. It is almost a hundred years old.

Any last words of advice to someone thinking about travelling to BC?

Be prepared. Be prepared for supernatural British Columbia. And don’t forget to look up. That’s what I tell all my family and friends. If you’re in and around mountainous areas, don’t forget to look up. In our ways the mountains are protectors, so pay tribute just by looking up. And don’t forget to put your feet in our rivers. I’m all about washing away negativity and our rivers are the way to do it.

2020-01-23T23:24:03+00:00June 17th, 2015|

An Inevitable Alliance

Greenpeace Alliance

An Inevitable Alliance
By: Julia McIntyre-Smith and Eduardo Sousa

Indigenous peoples are bound to the land; a connection created when our ancestors first walked the earth has been passed down from generation to generation. The desire to protect Mother Earth is innate within many indigenous peoples- including the Kwakwaka’wakw tribes of the southern-central coast of British Columbia.

Although this relationship with the land has endured many hardships, the Hereditary Chiefs of the Kwakwaka’wakw, along with their families maintain stewardship over their traditional territories. We have fought governments, big industry, and sometimes even our own, to protect the land that has given so much to our ancestors. We have gone toe to toe with the forestry industry in efforts to protect our sacred heritage sites, we have canoed out to protest the invasive fish farms that are ubiquitous in our territories, and we have protested in solidarity with our brother and sisters against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project.

Our battle for rights, sovereignty and self-determination has been arduous, tiring, long, and continues today. Along the road, necessary relationships have been made with other Nations, allies, and environmental organizations.

Greenpeace has long been fighting for the protection of the lands and waters across the globe. They began in 1971 when a small group of activists set sail to the Amchitka Island off Alaska to stop US nuclear weapons test aboard the Phyllis Cormack, aa modest halibut seiner they had chartered and which was rechristened Greenpeace for this voyage.

From these humble beginnings, this small group has since turned into an international organization with thousands of members in over 40 offices. Their mandate is to: “…Change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.”

Greenpeace forged a relationship with the Kwakwaka‘wakw peoples on their inaugural journey to Amchitka Island. While travelling to Alaska, the Phyllis Cormack (Greenpeace) stopped in Alert Bay. The Kwakwaka‘wakw people blessed their ship and their fishermen gave them salmon.

With raised spirits the crew members of the Greenpeace continued on their journey to stop the nuclear weapon tests. Although the crew were unsuccessful in their mission and felt deflated, in stopping off at Alert Bay on the way back their efforts were deeply appreciated by the Kwakwaka‘wakw people. A feast was given at the Bighouse with dancing and food; crew members were honoured in having regalia placed on them and blessed with eagle down. Coming out of such a powerful ceremony the crew felt much more uplifted in their spirits. Shortly after that, the organization was also granted the rights to carry the Sisiyutɬ, an ancient crest of a powerful marine-based mythological being who represents, amongst many things, guidance and protection from bad energies.

Decades later, the time has come to renew this relationship and to create an even stronger bond with the Greenpeace organization. To continue the battle for environmental preservation, an alliance has been created between the Hereditary Chiefs of the Kwakwakawakw First Nations and Greenpeace. Greenpeace’s mandate aligns greatly with one of the traditional laws of the Kwakwakawakw: “All of creation can live without Man, but Man cannot live without all of creation.”

This alliance will bring strength to both sides. Greenpeace brings with it support and global presence to help invigorate the voice of the Kwakwakawakw people. The Hereditary Chiefs will share with Greenpeace their traditional knowledge of living off the land to help foster a stronger relationship with Mother Earth.

On March 7th, 2015 this relationship was solidified at Ol Siwidi- Mike Willie’s potlatch. In a special ceremony both sides pledged a renewed commitment and this was symbolically embodied through the unveiling of a renewed Sisiyutɬ crest for Greenpeace to carry forward (the symbol was altered as Greenpeace developed over the years, to the point that it had lost its original cultural meaning and power). The new Sisiyutɬ was designed by well-known Kwakwaka’wakw artist and cultural leader Beau Dick with help from Cole Speck; their relatives were also centrally involved in the 1971 ceremony.

As Greenpeace representative Eduardo Sousa said, “Renewing this sacred crest and more deeply understanding its meaning is vital to our re-established relationship with the Kwakwaka’wakw – especially the Hereditary Chiefs. We are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to renew ties as symbolized by this beautiful crest and to have it done in ceremony, witnessed by the community and the Hereditary Chiefs in attendance. And of course we are humbled and deeply grateful to Mike and his family to have been able to do this special ceremony at their recent potlatch.”

It is the desire of both parties to protect the environment, and co-exist sustainably with all the plants and animals who inhabit it.

2020-01-23T00:46:00+00:00May 18th, 2015|

Residential School

Alert Bay Residential School

Can you imagine authorities demanding that you allow your children to be taken away to residential school or risk being put in jail? For over one hundred years, Aboriginal children across Canada were taken from their families and sent to residential schools to promote their assimilation into Canadian society and effectively remove them of their cultural teachings, identity and language. The children lost out on the love and nurturing of their parents and families, and many were physically, emotionally and sexually abused, and treated without respect. There are personal stories of hunger, life-threatening attempted escapes, and loneliness. Many children died or went missing, with their parents never knowing the details. The trauma inflicted upon these children by the government and churches is something that will take generations to heal from. Those children are now mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers that mourn the sadness and loss of their childhood and struggle with effects.

Sea Wolf Adventure guides, Mike Willie and K’odi Nelson, have brought many guests to Alert Bay, BC to experience local culture and learn about the history of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. As part of their tour, guests both young and old have stood in front of the run-down “St. Mike’s” building and listened to personal stories and description of this dark time. Many become emotional and offer apologies. Some are in disbelief. Young people have important questions about why this happened and what it was like. As guests walk towards the U’mista Culture Centre to experience the richness and vitality of local First Nations culture and people, the importance of telling our stories unfolds.

St. Michael’s residential school in Alert Bay will be demolished in the coming months. This week, a healing ceremony and gathering of residential school survivors from up and down the coast will take place at the site to mark an end of the physical structure. Standing together, residential school survivors will remember and continue to heal. It will take lifetimes to fully heal from the effects of this attempt to stamp out Aboriginal culture. Through the oral transmission of these stories, future citizens of this land will remember a lesson. The stories are ultimately about survival and the human spirit, and young people, like Mike Willie and K’odi, are now reaching out to reclaim and restore what was lost.

Thank you to all past and future Sea Wolf Adventures guests for listening and reflecting. We will continue to provide authentic educational experiences about the history of the Kwakwaka’wakw people, tailored to individuals and groups. Let us know what you would like to learn about or experience! Art. Traditional culture. Significant places. Teachings. Geography. History. Relationship to the land. Meaning of the Potlatch System. Regalia. Traditional Food.

2020-01-23T00:52:21+00:00February 16th, 2015|