“Nevergreen” in the Rockies



I have already blogged about this amazing place, but wanted to make one more comment. This is a photograph of my favourite place in the Rocky Mountains. Chris has a better photograph of it than I do. But she will have to post her own blog. (Yes I am jealous). I loved the fact that the sun was coming out and flooding this small island with light.

This  island is a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, or more properly, Ĩyãħé Nakoda First Nation who believe mountains are physical representations of their ancestors. The Indigenous people have 8,000 years plus of ecological knowledge of the lake and island. They knew the land and creatures and organisms on it intimately. As a result they knew long ago that it was important for the area to be burned from time to time. They practiced controlled burns, long before modern conservationists and ecologists realized their importance. It is surprising how often traditional knowledge of Indigenous people, disregarded by whites for centuries, and dismissed as superstition or foolishness, has proved to be right.

As we saw throughout the Rockies we saw massive devastation caused by Mountain Pine beetles. Everywhere in this area the forest were largely red and green. Even on this tiny island, some have called the “Jewel of Jasper” and some have said is the most beautiful place in the Rocky Mountains, you can see the red trees that should be “evergreen”. Well they will never be green again! I wonder how soon all the trees on this tiny island are red. I hate to think of it. Until recent times when the twin forces of climate change and a lack of burns created perfect conditions for the Mountain Pine beetle they existed in the west but never posed pestilential problems as they do now. Because Indigenous people practiced regular controlled burns and did not cause climate change they never had a problem with Mountain Pine Beetles. Now they are a serious problem and it is all thanks to forces unleashed by modern white society.

Policies of non-Indigenous people have led, Indigenous people believe, to a lack of balance in nature. The natural balance is out of whack. Nature needs to be healed. We need a new attitude to nature. No let me rephrase that. We need an old attitude to nature. An attitude that respects nature, rather than seeing it as a resource to plunder.

Non-indigenous people, who for so long thought they  were better than Indigenous people, and as the Eagles said, “raped the land, ” and “put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and called it paradise,” have a lot answer for. Or as they also said, “Call it paradise, and kiss it good-bye.”

The fact that Spirit Island is surrounded on three sides by the same mountain range is very rare and makes it particularly significant to the Ĩyãħé Nakoda (Stoney Nakoda) people.

The island is called Spirit Island. I love that name.  They call this area, for good reason, the Hall of the Gods. What will they call it when the trees die? I suggest never green.


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