Arnie Bellis of Haida Gwaii has been in forestry for over a decade, and his family has had a long history of working in the industry.
In this new video interview posted on the Indigenous Resource Network’s Youtube Channel, he traces his career in the trade, from being a chokerman (the worker who attaches cables to logs to clear them) to the owner of a tree-planting company.
“That was very good work and very rewarding,” he says.
Forests have been an essential part of Haida culture for more than 10,000 years, he said, “from making totem poles to canoes that got us up and down the coast.”
Haida have always had sustainable forestry methods, and pre-contact were even practicing what today is called silviculture – the field of forestry that includes growing, maintaining and regenerating crops of trees, often for timber production.
Bellis feels strongly that other Indigenous people should get involved in the local trade. He encourages young Haida to look into the forestry industry because of the high-quality wood on the island and the unique value their forestry products have on the world market. Bellis goes on to talk about how the industry, when developed with the input and interests of local First Nations communities, as opposed to larger companies from outside the region, has provided a strong foundation for families, their security, and health.
“If we didn’t have our values and principles on our land base, then the big company would exercise theirs,” he shares. His son is also a forester and coordinates a land use plan so the profits go back into the local economy.
“The forest is a cornerstone of who we are and our culture, and it’s still a very viable option to improve our quality of life,” he says.