Journalism Institute Brings Reporters to the Great Bear Rainforest

Fellows of the IJNR Great Bear Institute visit ‘Namgis First Nation’s Kuterra Salmon. Photo by IJNR.

In the fall of 2017, 13 journalists from across North America descended on the Great Bear Rainforest.  Their journey was part of the Great Bear Institute organized by the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources (IJNR).

The journalists were there to observe and listen. They did not arrive with headlines previously prepared. Rather, they took time to meet with and learn from First Nations whose territories span the region.

In the weeks and months that followed, the IJNR fellows produced 18 unique stories showcasing First Nations stewardship and sustainable development endeavours. The stories focus on a wide range of issues from ecotourism, to land-based aquaculture,  to stewardship by the Guardian Watchmen programs. To see a full list of articles visit the IJNR website.

Before the journey began, IJNR organized a webinar hosted by Jess Housty of Haíɫzaqv (Heiltsuk) Nation and Kelsey Leonard of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. The webinar focused on reporting in Indigenous communities and emphasized the importance of building respectful relationships with First Nations.

Upon arriving in Vancouver, the IJNR fellows met with Coast Funds executive director Brodie Guy, Na̲nwak̲olas Council president Dallas Smith, and Rainforest Solutions director, Jody Holmes who were able to provide them with some history and context of the conservation finance that was established to develop a sustainable economy and strengthen the well-being of communities in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.

In September 2017, the journalists spent nine days visiting First Nations communities in Campbell River, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Bella Bella, and Klemtu. Coast Funds was able to support the Institute by helping create an itinerary that would bring them to some of many unique businesses, stewardship endeavours, and incredible individuals of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Coast Funds executive director, Brodie Guy, speaks with IJNR fellows before they travelled to the Great Bear Rainforest. Photo by IJNR.

By visiting places like Kitasoo/Xaixais’ Spirit Bear Lodge, Xwémalhkwu’s Discover Homalco, and Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw’s Kwa’lilas Hotel, the IJNR fellows witnessed the creation of a new and sustainable coastal economy. By speaking with representatives from the Coastal Stewardship Network and the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, the journalists heard first-hand “how coastal communities survive and thrive while managing finite resources, conserving delicate ecosystems, mitigating and adapting to potentially dramatic changes in their economic and social systems, reclaiming cultural heritage, and how those forces interact.”

IJNR has conducted over 70 institutes, like the Great Bear Institute, throughout North America. Their mission is “to advance public understanding and civic engagement about environment, natural resource, public health and development issues through better journalism.” Through their “experiential learning model” journalists are able to gain a fuller understanding of the environment, economic and cultural landscapes underlying the most contentious natural resource issues of our time.

The Great Bear Institute was supported by The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as well as other foundations and individual donors. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is one of the six private foundations that contributed to the establishment of Coast Funds’ conservation endowment fund.

Learn more about the Great Bear Institute here.