Teacher Feature: Janine Vis, January 2019

Last July, I was able to go with a group of teachers to Haida Gwaii, an archipelago of islands off of the west coast of northern BC. The journey there included an 8-hour ferry ride from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii, giving us a chance to accustom ourselves to “Haida time.” Our week together was not a strict schedule, but rather a flow of experiences, conversation, and moments. One of the things we encountered while on the trip was lament. As one of our young First Nations tour guides reminded us, “There has to be truth before there is reconciliation.” 

We saw dozens of abandoned, overgrown pit houses and fallen totem poles, a mass grave, and cedar canoe projects left unfinished during the smallpox outbreak. After spending time considering the tragedy of Haida Gwaii, we were also able to see the beauty of Haida Gwaii, God present in his creation. Nature, on Haida Gwaii, was treated more like a friend or companion. We touched, tasted, and saw berries and plants important to the people. We were taught how to respectfully strip cedar bark, felt holes where cedar trees had been tested for canoes, and saw where planks had been pulled off live cedar trees. Indigenous watchmen residing on the islands of Haida Gwaii told us stories of the islands, fed us fresh scallops and taught us a traditional dance. 

One thing that sticks with me from the week on Haida Gwaii was time. It takes time to get there. “Haida time” was the new schedule. It takes time to build reconciliatory relationships.