The Kitasoo, members of the Tsimshian group of nations, and the Xai’xais share their main community in Klemtu. Klemtu is located on Swindle Island on British Columbia’s Inside Passage and its name means “blocked passage.”
The Kitasoo and Xai’xais people settled in Klemtu thousands of years ago due to the abundance of sea kelp in the bay. Initially the location provided a camping site on trade routes but later developed in to a trading post for steamships travelling the Inside Passage.
The Kitasoo / Xai’xais people have traditionally relied on the natural resources their territory provides and they continue to manage these resources in a sustainable way to ensure the abundance of forests, fish and wildlife will be there for future generations.
The Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation banned trophy hunting within their territory in 2012. The Nation has successfully developed Spirit Bear Lodge, an ecotourism bear-viewing business; Spirit Bear Research Foundation, a research organization that informs the management decisions of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais; and a Guardian Watchmen Program, to patrol and protect the Nation’s territory.
The Nation uses the ecotourism, research and guardian programs to engage the youth of the community, creating informed and passionate leaders of the future. The Kitasoo/Xai’xais has positively merged the conservation of their territory with sustainable economic development, supporting and improving the community well-being of the Nation’s members.
The Spirit Bear is a culturally important animal to the Kitasoo / Xai’xais. The Kitasoo / Xai’xais’s territory contains the largest protected area of Spirit Bear habitat known as the “Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy.”
A Kitasoo / Xai’xais legend tells us Raven made one in every ten black bears white to remind the people of a time when glaciers covered the world and to be thankful for the lush and bountiful land of today.
Spirit Bear Lodge, owned and operated by Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation, has become a successful model for conservation-based ecotourism. The Lodge has helped strengthen economic, conservation, and cultural well-being in the community of Klemtu.
The Coastal Stewardship Network is supporting its member First Nations as they’ve established sophisticated monitoring programs and their analyses informing vital environmental and resource management decisions.
Kitasoo Seafoods and Kitasoo Development Corporation director Larry Greba were recently featured in the Smithsonian Magazine. Greba spoke with journalist Lorraine Boissoneault about the mysterious and valuable sea cucumber and the role the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation plays in ensuring its population is properly managed.
In 1999 Kitasoo/Xai’xais launched Spirit Bear Lodge from a little red-roofed float house anchored at Klemtu’s docks. Today a luxurious new lodge accommodates visitors from around the world, most of whom come to tour the nearby islands in hope of spotting and photographing bears.
An excellent new feature in Nature Conservancy Magazine explores how the Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards program of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation not only brings life-changing experiences to young people but also represents a strategic investment in conservation.