THE WATERS WITHIN

Words & Photo by Paige Brown

Reflecting our past through a lens of sustainability to voice our hope for the future.

 


 

Every person is made up of water. The Comox Valley Art Gallery Youth Media Project is nine folks coming together to create 18 films, each of us like a stream feeding into a larger body, each with our own twists and turns, ups and downs. Some with a smooth flow, others with waterfalls. At the end of the day we are made of mostly water, and mirrored by it too.

I come from Cheslatta Nation of North West British Columbia, Treaty 620. I am the great-great-great-granddaughter of The Last Hereditary Chief, Chief Louis, and am a human rights and nature activist who will always fight for those with little or no voice. I believe it is important to protect the waters and the ecosystem surrounding it, because I know what happens when an area loses its natural balance and begins to die.

In 1952 the Cheslatta people were forced to leave our traditional lands because the government signed it over to the Rio Tinto Alcan Corporation to build the Kenney Dam. This dam destroyed the ecosystem my family relied on to survive for generations. The signature of my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Peters, was proven to be forged by the corporation responsible. I always knew this history. It is outlined in the 2014 documentary No Surrender, showing how the surrender of the land affected the Cheslatta people. My people. The Cheslatta were played with until the lands flooded and the people had to leave.

While researching my film for the CVAG Youth Media Project, I have run into the story of Stotan Falls and the proposed development project. I thought about how our community is shaped by the waters that surround us, with Comox Lake on one side and the ocean on the other. I thought about how the Tsolum and Puntledge Rivers merge to become the Courtenay River, which runs into the Comox Watershed. I wanted to make a film to teach people about how important it is to protect our ecosystem and watershed. I wanted to tell the story of my people so that history will not repeat itself.

Many times, we have viewed progress as a positive thing for human beings. But is it always? Isn’t it only true progress if we learn from history and move toward a more sustainable future? Through the work we are doing at the CVAG Youth Media Project, we, the youth of the Comox Valley, are sharing our ideas about how to create a more sustainable future. I hope that our work provides the opportunity for all of us to reflect on our shared past and consider how we want to move forward, together.




Category: History, Volume 17