Heart For The Native
Photo credit:  Smithsonian/Flickr

Photo credit: Smithsonian/Flickr

Many people have inspired my journey as an artist but there’s one who stands out beyond all others, and his name is Edward Curtis. His photographs bring life to a culture that I want to do more than just understand but embrace as part of my own.

The example he lived by has shown me that a person rarely succeeds without vision and perseverance. Ambitious and talented, he was dedicated to his dream of documenting indigenous peoples of North America in words, images and film.

During the 1900s, Curtis spent extended periods of time living with various tribes and wanted to learn their customs and beliefs and where possible, take part in their ancient ceremonies.

On a quest for knowledge, he was open to understanding and relating to native culture and a way of life that differed from white society. “He was driven to photograph everything he saw... he wanted to know more... to understand these people from the inside.” - Don Gulbrandsen

He witnessed firsthand the essence of what it was to be native and gained the trust of chiefs and tribal members. The experience intensified his awareness of the pressures many tribes were under to assimilate into white society.

Yet, those he photographed were not in hiding, nor had they deserted their existence. Curtis found men, women and children continuing to survive as best they could in accordance with their traditional ways.

The thousands of photographs he took do not reflect the demise of a race or culture but instead depict, with reverence, the diversity of indigenous peoples across Canada and the U.S.

When I look at the photographs Edward Curtis took, I sense the gentleness and depth of the people he respected. His images prove to me that the spirit of First Americans is still alive and breathing.

Angela Gnyp
Treasuring Wild Lilies
Photo credit: Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Photo credit: Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Across North America, wild lilies are roughing it out in remote wilderness areas and in ditches alongside busy highways. Vibrant and diverse, they can also be found in bogs, evergreen forests and rocky mountain slopes. I like to think of these flowers as true survivors and they are, at least some of the time.

The turk's cap lily (Lilium superbum) and prairie lily (Lilium philadelphicum) are both common in parts of the United States and Canada but there are others that are disappearing because of urban development and agriculture. In Oregon, the western lily (Lilium occidentale) has been losing habitat for decades.

The mass conversion of land to grow cranberries led to this lily being listed as an endangered species in 1994. Factors including overgrazing from animals (eg deer and cattle), the flooding of wetlands and bulb collecting have also had long-term effects on these plants.

The panhandle lily (Lilium iridollae) and Sandhills lily (Lilium pyrophilum) are two lilies that are threatened by fire suppression. As strange as it may sound, they actually need fire to live. Just like fire-dependent tree species such as the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta), fire is a necessary and routine part of living in the wild.

Several labels are used to define native plants, from salvage restricted and special concern, to vulnerable, threatened and endangered. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an endangered lily is "a species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or significant part of its range". A threatened lily is "likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

All wild lilies are beautiful in their own right. To me, they really are one of nature's treasures and worth thinking about as something special.

Angela Gnyp
Legacy Of Gwaii Haanas

There is one place in the world that speaks of a saved wilderness and it is Gwaii Haanas. With islands at the mercy of pounding seas and the fury of Hecate Strait, it upholds its spirit in all that is wild.

Officially known as Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area, and Haida Heritage Site, it is found off the northwest coast of Canada, just south of Alaska. It’s an isolated location where you can journey to see nature in the raw.

Established in 1988, Gwaii Haanas celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Over many decades, its landscape has drawn controversy and publicity, but also care and protection.

During the 1970s, clearcut after clearcut after clearcut decimated and scarred hills once abundant with trees. What might have caused more destruction was halted in 1985 by the Haida, the local community and environmentalists, such as David Suzuki, who decided to speak out about the ongoing devastation.

In 2010, Gwaii Haanas became a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) Reserve and the first place on Earth to be protected from mountain to sea floor. Covering well over 4,000 square kilometres, all development by oil and gas industries is prohibited in the region.

Loggers, forestry lobbyists and government officials have all stood their ground on Haida Gwaii. Yet, nature has prevailed and the old-growth forests and remote beaches of Gwaii Haanas continue to be respected without fail.

To me, this is a real example of what it takes to love this Earth we live on and what people will do in order to preserve it. Gwaii Haanas is home to life and all that is Haida. It’s where the cedar grows, where the spruce and hemlock are rooted, and where wild salmon swim and ravens soar. Its legacy gives me hope.

Angela Gnyp