Photo: Papa's wisdom

Hakai Beach on Calvert Island, Central Coast (Credit: Melissa Brooks)

My name is Melissa Brooks and I live on the central coast of British Columbia, in the isolated valley of Bella Coola. An "arm" of the Pacific Ocean reaches inland to Bella Coola, and is where many different people around the coast have come to fish. My grandfather, Marshall Hans Senior, was one of these many fishermen.

My grandfather started gillnet fishing when he was just eighteen years of age, and he was also a logger on the coast for over thirty years. I asked him what his experiences were on or off the coast, and he had a lot to say.

An interview with Papa:

"What are your experiences on or close to the ocean?"

Papa: "I first learned how to fish when I went out gillnetting with my Dad, five days a week, Sunday through Friday. I first got my commercial fisherman license at sixteen and got my first gill net (wooden) boat at eighteen. My boat was called "The Porture 47". I also learned how fish came in the season and I made quite a bit of money for winter employment."

"Why do you find the ocean important?"

Papa: "The ocean was a treasure. A natural beauty of the creation of God. It is all so important because we did not waste what fish we got and used it all. When we are in this community we build our own things, our own style of wood! Everything we did in the ocean was for money and food for our families."

"How do you treasure the ocean?"

Papa: "The ocean reminded me of Vancouver City! Thousands of boats lit up the inlet. The ocean looked nice and awesome back then, now-a-day it isn't like that. The sight still never leaves my mind. There was plenty of fish in the ocean, but now it is really sad to see fish vanish. Today, there is too much technology, and the fish can't keep up with the enormous economy growth of the globe, and we are not in control of the habitat of fishing. But thankfully, we have the fish hatcheries to help with the 'fishy' situation. We would be in a bad state without them."

By talking with my Papa, I realized how small the number of fish are in the ocean and that we need to change that. Learning from our elders about their past has opened up my eyes and taught me that technology is not always the answer to our problems involving nature.

Message to Canadians: Learn from the past and take that initiative to the future in protecting our ocean.

By Melissa Brooks

Bella Coola

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