Majestic forests. Towering old-growth trees. A massive ocean with pristine beaches, amazing surf and abundant sea life.
This is a land so special that about a million people are attracted to the coastal Tofino region of Vancouver Island each year: The Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks.
But some of those visitors — even if it’s a small portion of them — bring in garbage, spread litter, let their dogs run wild, light massive bonfires, and do more things that show a profound lack of respect not only for the land, but for the people who have lived there since the dawn of time.
Those sorts of actions are one of the reasons why the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation is asking visitors and residents alike to take a pledge — the ʔiisaak pledge.
“Even in the rainforest, there is an order to things,” explains Terry Dorward, a leader with the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s Tribal Parks.
“The animals, the creatures — there is an order, and all of us as humans need to have an understanding of that and be more respectful.”
There are four declared Tribal Parks in Tla-o-qui-aht territory: Wanačas Hiłhuuʔis (Meares Island), ḥiłsyakƛis ʔunaacuł (Tranquil Watershed), ʔaʔukmin (Kennedy Lake Watershed) and Hiisawista (Esowista Peninsula).
And while visitors are welcomed to the Tofino area with open arms, it’s asked that they remember that they are coming to the home of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation, where dignity, honour, humility and respect are more than just watchwords, they’re the foundation of the Tla-o-qui-aht’s way of life.
By taking the ʔiisaak pledge, visitors become an active participant in ensuring that the land is cared for and treated with respect.
“We have to create awareness of how we Tla-o-qui-aht People view the world and the importance of being respectful to the laws of nature,” Dorward says. “Through education, we’re trying to change the visitor narrative that our territories are just ‘unruly’ wilderness.
“So by taking the ʔiisaak pledge, we’re hoping that visitors develop their own personal commitment to be respectful when when entering our territories.”
“Our hereditary chiefs governance structure is still in place. We really want visitors to know that, you know, our hereditary chiefs governance structure is still in place and we, as Tla-o-qui-aht People, have an ancient responsibility to ensure the well-being of all of the people and the environment,” Dorward says.
The pledge, in full, is below. Speak the words and take a moment to reflect on your relationship with the lands and waters and the people who uphold an ancient relationship of respect and care. To support the continuation of Tla-o-qui-aht stewardship, you can donate, support existing Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks Allies, and challenge Tofino businesses to join the Tribal Parks Allies movement.
Learn more at tribalparks.com.
Čaamaapiłsiinḥiʔin: The ʔiisaak pledge
Let us be respectful of Natural Law. Let us be observant, appreciative and act accordingly.
Let us behave with honour, dignity, respect and humility in the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks.
Let us leave things as they are.
Avoid disturbing, destroying or removing indigenous plants, animals, shells, stones, & minerals.
Let us protect life by staying safe, being prepared and by supporting the continuation of life for generations to come.
Let us speak truthfully and act honourably.
Let us learn the history of this place and its People, correcting colonial narratives like the myth that this is a wilderness.
Let us be generous and helpful: There is no end to the work of building community.
Let us stand in dignity, honour, respect and humility, practicing the above!