Artists for the Sacred Headwaters - Paint to protect the community and wildlife
Background
 
In a remote mountainous region of northern British Columbia lie the Sacred Headwaters  – the birthplace of three of BC’s most important salmon rivers, the Stikine, Skeena and Nass. This region supports one of the largest predator-prey ecosystems in North America and is the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation. Largely unprotected,  numerous proposed mining developments also threaten the water, wildlife and culture of this land.  A nursing ground and year round habitat for a unique flock of Stone Sheep is particularly at risk from proposed open pit mining operations. A TED talk by Wade Davis provides a short and powerful description, history, and magnificent photographs.

Having won a long and hard-fought battle to keep Shell from coalbed methane extraction in the Headwaters, the Tahltan are now fighting Fortune Minerals, which wishes to use open pit mining of the Klappan Mountain to extract coal.  This is in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, putting a huge ecosystem at risk and threatening the salmon industry of the watershed and all the lives and ecosystem that depend on the salmon.   In the greater watershed, and on a mountain above the town of Iskut, with a unique and threatened species of Stone Sheep, Imperial Metals has begun open pit mining for copper and gold.  This is the same company whose tailing pond breach recently caused the disaster at Polley Lake.

At the root of the issue, this is land that has been the traditional territory of the Tahltan for tens of thousands of years, and which has never been ceded to Canada via a treaty.  This land is theirs, they hold it sacred and they depend on it for their lives, their identity, their culture and for the future of their children for tens of thousands of years into the future.   The rest of Canada and the world also depends on the protection of the Sacred Headwaters.  If we cannot make this good and obvious decision, then what is safe from high-risk development?

The Sacred Headwaters area gifts the rest of us with its many offerings:  a landscape rich with wildlife and beauty to take your breath away – one that cries out to be painted or enjoyed: hiking, climbing, horseback riding, fishing, photography and mountain biking on a vast, abandoned rail grade in the wilderness.  Who knows what will come of people doing good while they do what they love?  Learn more through the Skeena Watershed (SWCCwebsite and others dedicated to the protection of the Sacred Headwaters, such as Klabona Keepers, Sacred Headwaters, Forest Ethics, The Sierra Club, and in Wade Davis' beautiful book, The Sacred Headwaters.
    

To bring us closer to this remote, fragile and beautiful area, photographer Paul Colangelo has enlarged and framed19 special photographs that have been on display to the public in a number of venues.  Now, we are inviting artists to paint their own interpretation of one or more of these images and email us a high quality photo of their work.  All entries will be viewed, shown on this site (if space allows), and juried for selection in a live show sponsored by the Whistler Arts Council in the Spring of 2015.


The following poem is a moving example what is possible when people care about a place and those who live there.  With thanks to its creator, Baba Rum Fred, whose daughter Emily, sang this song at the August 31, 2013 protest in Victoria.


We Are the River

Talthan Elders understand
Salmon spawn in waters clean
We are the rivers, we, the land
Skeena, Nass, and sweet Stikine

Before our fathers fathers came
Salmon spawn in waters clean
Before they gave these rivers names
Skeena, Nass, and sweet Stikine

Mother Earth her bounty shared
Salmon spawn in waters clean
Today, her bounty's in our care
Skeena, Nass, and Sweet Stikine

Talthan Elders understand
We are the rivers, we, the land

- Baba Rum Fred
 
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