Correspondent "Yellow Cedar" reports from inside the old-growth blockades
June 15, 2021
I CAME UPON A CHILD OF GOD, he was walking along the road
And I asked him, “Where are you going?” and this he told me
I’m going on down to Fairy Creek, I’m gonna try and save some trees
I’m gonna camp out on the land, I’m gonna try and get my soul free
(Stanzas in italics are from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” about the 1969 Woodstock Festival.)
MY VANCOUVER FRIEND Christoph wants to bring some of his friends up to (Ada-Itsx) Fairy Creek. Could I give him the lay of the land?
“How can I contribute? What should I bring?”
He likes to cook warm meals in the woods, so I suggested he pack his cooking gear, and hike a few hours past the headwaters, through the 2,000-year-old yellow cedars, to Ridge Camp, which blocks the logging road from punching into Fairy Creek watershed.
If our old growth is protected, what’s the road for?
While politicians chatter, the RCMP showed up yesterday with 37 SWAT team commandoes, using diamond saws to cut chains, and a backhoe to dig people out of concrete and rebar reinforced “sleeping dragons.”
Imagine a backhoe blade smacking the earth three inches from your face! Yet every night, new blockaders slip back in from the forest and chain themselves back in.
They’re living on ramen and granola bars, so I suggested if Chris made them a warm, savoury stew, it would go down very well. His cookware and skills will be appreciated. But he could show up empty handed and still be welcome.
The only thing you need to bring is your self.
We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
The Pacheedaht Council, by the way, encourages peaceful protest, outside the injunction zone of 50 metres from active logging. The Council’s statement was required to fulfill their obligations under a colonial “hush money” contract they signed to get at least $300,000 for the destruction of their ancestral forest.
That’s all they’ll receive from the conservatively-estimated $400,000,000 street value of TFL 46. A bag of beads and a keg of whiskey all over again. If you want to know more about colonialism at Fairy Creek, please read this.
Indigenous leaders invite you to stand by them and the trees at Ada-Itsx.
Meanwhile, at Ada-itsx people are building true reconciliation with our bare hands and our hearts, inspired by the leadership of Pacheedahts Kati George-Jim, Granny Rose, and elder Bill Jones. Bill was the first to invite us to come up to the woods. I love Bill. In my life, he has become my father, and my grandfather. He is a quiet man, but people ask him to talk, because he comes out with wisdom like this:
“You don’t go up to the forest to cut it down, you go up to ask the Great Mother what she wants you to do.”
“Camping on the land” is back on. And getting our souls free.
Then can I walk beside you? I have come here to lose the smog,
and I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am, but you know life is for learning
Walking to Waterfall Camp in June (photo by Alex Harris)
“Walking beside each other” is my favourite part of Fairy Creek. Eyes sparkle. Stories tumble out. Friendships are made and sealed in a moment.
Although you can, you don’t need to come to Fairy Creek to spend a week in a tree like Panda and Hummingbird, who were inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat for two years in a California Redwood she named “Luna.”
Just come to Fairy Creek Blockade HQ, now on Google Maps, at Pacific Marine Road and Granite Main, near Port Renfrew, and it will all start for you.
Yesterday I met Toucan and her family. Toucan is a “camp name.” Toucan’s sister couldn’t think of another rainforest bird, so she called herself “One-Can.” That, of course, left Mom with “Three-Can.” This lovely family have flocked to Fairy Creek, like planetary T-cells, to help heal a wound.
We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
They were mulling over getting arrested. I set them at ease. The RCMP will inform you if you are breaking a law, and give you the opportunity to step back. They actually don’t want to arrest people, because if 1,000 people go to jail, the trees win.
The only place you risk arrest is within 50 metres of active logging, or machinery, which would place you in violation of Justice Verhoeven’s injunction.
And that’s a choice you can make when you get here. You don’t need to get arrested to stand with the forest defenders and trees. “Cookie” is a beautiful soul in her 70s, who came to camp for three days. She says “I like feeding people.” That was 5 months ago.
Toucan was feeling pretty courageous about the whole arrest thing. “I’m nine years old, what can they do to me?” No one knows yet, but I think we’re about to find out! One-Can, at 14, was a little more cautious. Could she get her first job with a criminal record?
Filmmaker “Egg” reminded her that committing civil disobedience is a civil offence, not criminal, and suggested “it will look good on your resume for Harvard.”
“The RCMP might tack on a criminal “public mischief” charge, but Justice Verhoeven will dismiss that as mischievous. Always practice non-violence. Satyagraha is “holding firmly to the power of truth.” If you get in a situation, just think, what would Gandhi do? You’ll be fine.
Three-Can was quietly mulling all this over in her own way. I think she was wondering why her government would send an RCMP SWAT team to chuck her children in jail for hugging a tree. The situation is pretty weird! A lot to think about.
Western Trillium in Fairy Creek area forest, early June (photo by Alex Harris)
And that, to me, is the gift waiting for us at Fairy Creek, the soul searching. What is our relationship with our planet? What is our relationship with our government? How can we help? What am I ready to do, today?
As we think these thoughts, and make our choices, we change inside. In fact, we start to become the change that we want to see. And we are not alone!
By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers, riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies, above our nation
Human history lurches forward in fits and starts, as good ideas percolate up into people’s consciousness. Bruce Cockburn lamented “Why does history take such a long long time?” But when a threshold number of us catch fire, change just suddenly happens overnight, like bamboo shooting up 90 feet in five weeks after germinating underground for five years.
Today, we are ready. Today, in our time, at Fairy Creek, Ada-itsx, the dam is breaking. The arrow is leaving the bow.
Fairy Creek is no longer just a watershed of Old Growth trees, it is our moment to build reconciliation between forests, oceans, the clouds that join them, First Nations, their land, and all the people from around the world who have settled here.
Bill Jones says “when you go into nature, let her enter you.” At Fairy Creek, we’re settling into the land, and she into us.
The most difficult reconciliation is that with our government. Our democracy has lost its way, and we are taking it by the hand and leading it back to wisdom.
We are stardust, billion year old carbon.
We are golden, caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
Joni is so amazing. If Bill is my father, she is my mother. In 1969, she intuitively grasped the significance of carbon, and that we are carbon. Then she rhymed it with garden.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but I don’t think so.
And even if you can’t come to Fairy Creek right now, imagine this—Joni Mitchell didn’t actually get to Woodstock, she wrote the song after chatting with her boyfriend Graham Nash, who sang there.
Even if you can’t make it physically, you can be here, now.
Fairy Creek valley, June 2021 (photo by Alex Harris)
Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer. Read his earlier entries about his arrest ("Six Hours in Paddy Wagon"), the targeting of First Nations youths by the RCMP, and why he is willing to be arrested ("25 Species Will Go Extinct Today").