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.
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.
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.