One of the reasons I love my work is that I have the opportunity to spend time with so many Canadians, from all walks of life, who care about nature. To me, most inspiring of all are the young people – some still in elementary school – who are taking action to protect our amazing lands, waters, and wildlife. With their energy, creativity, and determination, kids like Ta’Kaiya Blaney are a force to be reckoned with. I was honoured to speak with Ta’Kaiya recently.
Where do you live, Ta’Kaiya?
I live in North Vancouver but I’m from the Sliammon First Nation, north of the town of Powell River on British Columbia’s coast.
Have you spent time in the North Coast – in the Great Bear area?
Last summer I got to go up to Bella Bella for a film festival. And it’s so beautiful up there, it’s amazing. It’s hard to think of super tankers coming through there.
Do you have favourite animals in that region?
I like sea otters, they’ve always been one of my favourites, I go to the Vancouver Aquarium and I watch them for about an hour. I also like whales. I think they’re one of the most graceful creatures on the planet.
What is it that makes you care about the coastline and oil spills?
When I was studying marine ecosystems and sea otters in school, my mom came across this article about the Enbridge pipeline and supertanker route in the newspaper. I was looking through it and I was like, ‘They plan to go WHERE?’ So that’s what really got me started.
Was there something in particular that inspired you to write a song about the pipeline?
I’ve been singing since I was four years old and I’ve always loved to sing. I had this idea to write a song about a future where an oil spill happens. Where the Northern Gateway pipeline and the supertankers have gone through and they’ve spilled. And there are lyrics in my song that say ‘if we do nothing it will all be gone, and I didn’t help, but deep down I knew.’.
In what way do you see your music making a difference?
I hope to raise awareness about the dangers of oil pollution. I really want people to know about the Enbridge pipeline and realize the risk of this pipeline. Because not only are they putting risk to the land, but they’re putting risk to the culture. And that culture has been there since time immemorial. BC is such a beautiful pristine place and there are still Nations that are fluently practicing their culture. I hope people can know enough about the pipeline to say no!
How do you think kids can make a difference?
They can write letters to politicians. Everyone has time, they can use it in their own way to speak up for what matters. Everyone’s voice matters – every passionate voice that’s speaking out. It doesn’t matter if it’s a kid or an elder.
How do you explain to other kids in other parts of the country that what happens to the Great Bear region does matter to them?
Even though a lot of other kids don’t live on the coast, it’s our earth and earth is our home, we’re all connected to our environment. And oil pipelines still could destroy land that’s not on the coast.
What are a couple of things that kids in other parts of Canada could do to show their support?
Well, they can write letters telling corporations and the government how they feel about industrial destruction. And also, according to a study on the ‘nag’ factor, it found that kids influenced at least 60 per cent of all buying decisions. So if kids choose to buy green products instead of products that are made with unsustainable resources like oil and plastic, we could change things.
What do you see for yourself as you grow up?
When I grow up I’m definitely going to keep addressing these issues and going to keep fighting. But the job that I have planned for myself is probably marine biologist. My Kuk’pa (my kukpa means grandfather in the Sliammon language) and Dad would always tell me stories about the land and how it used to be. My Dad says that for breakfast he would go down to the ocean and eat the herring roe off the rocks and eat the seaweed. It was all clean, it was all pristine and edible. But on that exact same beach where he used to go, there’s signs that say ‘poisoned shellfish’. No one swims there because there’s something in the water that makes the shellfish poisoned. So it’s sad that I’ll never be able to have the experience that he did. And I realized that if we don’t do something, none of the future generations will be able to have even the simplest experience of watching birds migrate south.
Are their particular musicians who influence your music?
I’m inspired by other people who are trying to stop the pipeline but not other musical influences.
You did a presentation to the oil company Enbridge. How did that go?
The thing with corporations is that they don’t really answer you. So when I went over there I asked a question which was, “According to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, you must have our consent for bringing this pipeline through. We’re saying no, so how are you going to bring it through?”
And Pat Daniels, who is the CEO of Enbridge, he thanked me for coming, and then he asked me if I could speak to Jody in the back over there after the meeting’s done. It was sort of disappointing because I had come all the way to Calgary from Vancouver to ask him something that he didn’t even answer.
Is there anything from your culture that you would like to share that influences you?
In my culture, we’re all connected. The Coastal First Nations, we say, ‘all my relations’ which means we’re all related. We’re all related as in we’re all part of this ecosystem. We have to do our part, as you see fish doing their part. They’re eating what they’re supposed to eat and then they’re getting eaten by other fish. But the thing that strikes me is we haven’t been doing that for so long that the ecosystem is getting out of balance. So that’s where part of my care for the environment came from – my culture.
Ta’kaiya Blaney’s website: https://www.takaiyablaney.com/
Shallow Waters video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkjIkuC_eWM
For young people who want to be part of building a sustainable future, but are not sure how to get started, I recommend Nowhere Else On Earth by Caitlyn Vernon. In this book, Caitlyn tells the story of the fight to save the Great Bear Rainforest on the coast of British Columbia. She includes lots of stories from her own background as a campaigner, and offers great ideas and encouragement. (I had a hard time reading this book – but only because my own kids kept taking it away from me so they could read it themselves! ) Caitlyn’s passion and caring make her an excellent mentor to our next generation of inspiring Canadians.