The Sacred Headwaters

In a classic story of conservation writer and anthropologist Wade Davis will make you profoundly care about a place you will likely never visit. ‘The Sacred Headwaters The Fight to save the Stinkine, Skeena and Nass’ details the modern struggle to preserve the last remaining rainforest in North America. Beautifully illustrated with breathtaking images from the International League of Conservation Photographers Davis’ book makes a compelling case for the protection of wilderness over the short term and often harmful benefits of natural resource extraction.

In a remote corner of British Columbia First Nation tribes of the Canadian Rockies wage an economic and political battle to maintain their traditional relationship with the land while corporate and government agencies impose their demands for oil and natural gas. And as this tale of recent history unfolds the reader may come to recognize the necessity to defend a more sustainable way of life to protect not only this culture but perhaps define an environmental ethos for the preservation of land closer to home. Providing an intimate view of the region where Davis raised his own family the author encourages readers to image similar actions perpetrated against themselves.

“How would these corporate executives and government officials feel, and how would their families respond, if total strangers pulled up to their homes in Point Grey or West Vancouver, perhaps to the maple-lined streets of Rosedale in Toronto, and with backhoes and bulldozers began to tear apart their gardens?” Davis asks in the book. “For the Tahltan, the Sacred Headwaters is a garden, and this is exactly how they feel about what they fear may happen to their land.”

With a forward by David Suzuki and an afterward by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. the book reads much like an expansive magazine article, a personal narrative woven together with firsthand accounts of past events. Placed within an historical context the story Davis tells guides us through both the social and political landscape that lead circumstances to the point of conflict. And it is through the voices of First Nation people like Rhoda Quock that the reader can fully appreciate why this area is so important.

“Just as this water will flow back into the three great rivers that sustain our people, we will return to our territories and protect our lands,” she says. “At the Sacred Headwaters we are drawing a line in the sand; this country bestowed to us by the Creator will be protected.”

The Sacred Headwaters is a testament to what a group of dedicated individuals can achieve in the interesst of environmental protection. Faced with arrest and a depressed economy the Tahltan people persevere to thwart the powerful influence of the oil industry to protect for now the wild places that are some much a part of their lives. But Davis clearly asserts the fight is not yet over and continued preservation will require eternal vigilance.


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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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