Haida Gwaii: On The Edge of The World chronicles the struggle that the local natives face, even up to this day, with the Canadian government and corporations depleting the group of islands natural resources. The documentary touches on quite a bit of native history including the well known fact that natives were conquered through smallpox brought on by the European settlers, residential schools and their aftermath, to how the youth today are rebuilding the local economy and conserving their culture. In keeping with tradition of Canadian multiculturalism, we also get to see how other non natives from as far as Mexico are helping out. The film does a good job at getting the perspective from many different points of view, most of all whom keep the focus on who is really to blame: greedy corporations.
The film starts out by introducing Haida Gwaii as a lush paradise full of wildlife, forest and fish on the north-western edge of British Columbia occupied by a the native tribe who live peacefully, respecting the land and keeping nature balanced. Of the many locals telling the story, it’s the Haida Gwaii police officer that is also a hereditary chief whose story that stands out. He gets to tell you the story from a government point of view and from a proud Haida Gwaii point of view. The struggle is introduced as they talk about how Europeans came in and saw the land as something that can produce wealth in an unsustainable manner, killing off most of the tribe, not through military invasion, but through the trickery of hiding smallpox in trading gifts such as blankets and clothing.
Not every non-native is portrayed as evil, as they are also the ones who lay the foundation for the eventual successful blockade against the loggers. With millions of wood taken from their land it’s time to stop the rich getting richer and leaving the poor even poorer. This sends a positive message to the rest of the world seeing indigenous people stand up against having millions of their natural resources being pumped from their land and win. The result is Gwaii Hamas,the southern part of the islands, which is now under government protection from over fishing and logging.
We meet more locals who help out with the rebuilding process. With the collapse of the fishing and logging industries the group of islanders need to recuperate their economy so that they can make a living. As one states “the payoff is living here”. Part of the rebuilding process is getting the youth back in touch with their land. Gwaii Hamas is for them, after all. The new way includes doing logging better, doing fishing better and building a more self sufficient way of living through clean energy projects. These energy projects are things like wind generators and solar power. The fight doesn’t end here. There is another one brewing against the government wanting to build a pipeline from the tar sands to Kitimat, an area with strong currents and big rocks, where 300 tankers per year will pass through.
Nonetheless, Haida Gwaii: The Edge of The World is a rather informative documentary that needs to be seen by all Canadians, especially with the environment and native rights as very important issues in the upcoming election.
Haida Gwaii : On the Edge of the World will be playing at various theatres:
TIFF Lightbox on April 28 @ 7:15 p.m.
ROM Theatre on April 29 @ 4:30 p.m.
TIFF Lightbox on May 2 @ 8:15 p.m.
The Hart House Theatre on May 3 @ 7:00 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased here!