Culture and conservation intersect in Vancouver Island documentary

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ZenSeekers has become a Tribal Parks Ally and we are thrilled to announce our new partnership with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. This means that when you spend time on our website and engage with our social media channels you are helping to preserve one of the world’s most accessible ancient ancestral gardens that encompass Tofino, B.C.

Tla-o-qui-aht's Tribal Parks objective is simple, focusing on several areas: preserving these special lands, being stewards of the Old Growth Forest; and preserving a way of life for people who are truly one with nature. This life on land goes back thousands and thousands of years. Please watch this documentary and experience the spirit and soul of what the Tribal Parks, Ahousaht and other nations along B.C.'s West Coast are fighting to preserve and protect. 

Congratulations to Jaiden and Tristan of Old Growth Media for the production of their first film Finding Solitude. To all zen seekers out there, please read, watch and share...

Listen to Ahousaht First Nation citizen and film producer Jaiden George introduce his film 'Finding Solitude’ and how it changed his productions’ approach.

Audio file


Culture and conservation intersect in Vancouver Island documentary

Tofino BC - When I set out to make a documentary film about high alpine hiking on Vancouver Island, I had no notion of how environmental issues and my own First Nations heritage would intersect in the process. 

I first met Tristan Hinder-Hohlweg, Finding Solitude's Co-Director, in my last year of high school, where I spent an immeasurable amount of time in the art room working on a film that I vaguely conceived as being about Vancouver Island's mountains. In its early stages, it really was that simple.

 

The first scripts and shot lists consisted of narration and imagery that detailed a kind of indulgent sublimity spurred on by the innocent excitement of a new experience. At the time I had just discovered that I could drive two hours from my home in Tofino and get up into the alpine, hundreds of feet above sea-level (something I thought you could only get, say, if you drove all the way to the Rockies). This - an adventure film about mountain hiking, that is - was not the film that I ended up making.

 

When Tristan signed onto the project in late 2017 as co-director and cinematographer (though he would later come to also fill the roles of editor, sound-designer and co-writer) we began meeting up to location scout. It was during these sessions, inspecting with a fine-tooth comb the geography of Vancouver Island on Google Earth, that we discovered - wide-eyed and slackjawed (no, really, this may sound hyperbolic but I'm dead serious) - that the scope of and damage incurred by deforestation was much more extensive than we had previously imagined. It was the decimation of the old growth that was particularly alarming.

It also didn't take long for us to discover that the Island faced complete deglaciation within approximately 20 years. This was an epiphanic moment. The notion that this would be a documentary that pivoted on the purely aesthetic - visual spectacle and pseudo-spiritual narration - diminished in that very moment.

This was going to be an environmental film, urgent, charged, and purposeful, utilizing outdoor recreational activity as an accessible vehicle - and not as the subject itself - as a means to say: this is what's at stake, and the repercussions of letting these issues go unresolved will impact every last one of us.

Jaiden George films inside a cave in the Comox Glacier, for his film Finding Solitude.
Photographer: Jaiden George
Tristan filming inside of a gradually diminishing glacial ice cave at the base of the Comox Glacier.

 

In retrospect, the film was created in a transitional period geo- and socio-politically (consider the 2019 Climate Strikes, which happened to align with the premiere of the film) but also for Tristan and me personally. (Tristan was just 14 and I was 17 when we began). Confronting the miasma of anthropocentric environmental unease for me meant necessarily reconnecting with my cultural roots: I come from a line of chiefs that can be traced back 17 generations, though I did not grow up in the village of Ahousaht from which that side of my family originates.

As a result, I'd always felt a certain disjunctive uncertainty at odds with a deeply resonant call to spend more time within Ahousaht's territories in a decolonial context. Naturally, conservation and culture are inextricably bound, and in the early stages of scriptwriting it became apparent that I was presented with an opportunity to learn, to be on the land, and to seek out knowledge keepers, and this is what I did.

Behind the scenes of an interview with Ahousaht member Tyson Atleo during filming of Finding Solitude.
Photographer: Jaiden George
Behind the scenes of an interview with Ahousaht member Tyson Atleo.

 

Thus, traditional teachings and a focus on the cultural significance of these at-risk spaces (relayed by The Nature Conservancy's Tyson Atleo, Tla-OQui-Aht Cultural Educator Gisele Martin and K'ómoks Artist Andy Everson) were interwoven with congruent hard facts (relayed by TNC's Eric Delvin and SFU Glaciologist Gwenn Flowers), the sum of which jointly paints a larger, fuller picture of the seminal moment we now occupy within the context of Vancouver Island and the environment as a whole.

Join George, Old Growth Media and ZenSeekers in helping to preserve special places. A donation today helps the stewardship of the Emerald Edge, the largest intact coastal rainforest on the planet where Vancouver Island is situated. If you enjoyed the film, please make a contribution to The Nature Conservancy’s Emerald Edge Initiative.

Finding Solitude was shot within some of Tla-o-qui-aht’s Tribal Parks. To learn more about this world-class initiative to save Old Growth Forests and culture dating back many millennia, visit Tribal Parks website. Please join ZenSeekers in making a donation. Remember, these vital ancient lands are all around Tofino, a place that once you've been, you want to return to. 

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Jaiden George is the co-producer of Finding Solitude, and the writer and photographer behind this story. He is from the Ahousaht First Nation, and is currently studying Humanities and Social Sciences with a declared major in photography at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. ZenSeekers is honoured to partner with George, Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht and many other West Coast First Nations in the #IndigenousCoastBC initiative. You can check out more of his work by clicking here

Thank you for helping us spread George's message about conservation and the importance of preserving our precious forests. Please share this story.  

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