“In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.” — David Suzuki
Across the nation, innovative people from every walk of life are promoting biodiversity, climate solutions and the right to a healthy environment where they live. Each month, Queen of Green will feature someone using their unique gifts to build a greener future for everyone.
Meet Tsimka Martin, owner of T’ashii Paddle School in Clayoquot Sound, B.C. who’s building bridges between people, place and culture:
What inspired you to start T’ashii Paddle School?
For eight seasons, I worked as a guide for my sister Gisele’s cultural canoe company, Tla-ook Cultural Adventures. I’d just finished secondary school. I developed leadership and public speaking skills, and got to be outside!
When TCA closed, Emre (my partner) and I started T’ashii Paddle School. The potential guides among Native youth in my Nuu-cha-nulth community were my biggest inspiration. I want young people in Indigenous communities to have engaging opportunities to grow their leadership skills. Guides learn and practice group management and safety, outdoor trip factors such as weather forecasts and tides, and how to navigate in currents. They become points of contact for visitors, sharing community history and personal perspectives. They can tell stories and have dynamic discussions about Indigenous land relationships or “managing for abundance” practices — often influencing a shift in guests’ perspectives.
Many visitors from other countries don’t know about ongoing Indigenous land struggles or the impacts of residential schools until they come out with us. Many Canadians have their first lengthy interaction with a Nuu-chah-nulth person with us. This is a valuable experience. It’s different than reading a book. It sticks because it’s real interaction with live human beings who are responsible for helping you get where you need to go.
The fact that people are often physically pushing themselves out of their comfort zone has a big impact — something to do with memories being more deeply etched during unique or challenging experiences.
What’s your strongest childhood memory of connection to your territory?
There are so many: playing in the woods, being proud to be able to get around in thick forest. Climbing Clutch-i-klee (“stands alone”) Mountain in Tla-o-qui-aht territory five years ago was special. My father told me how our ancestors would go up that mountain to spiritually and physically prepare for whale hunting. Two-thirds of the way up I was so tired, I wondered if I would make it. I had bad footwear and an awkward backpack. I thought about the conditioning it would take to climb barefoot, as my ancestors had. I considered asking the others to go ahead without me when a black bear came along behind us, sniffing the air. That helped me continue. The smoked salmon in my backpack was mine! Not his!
Reaching the peak was overwhelming. The incredible steepness dropping away on both sides, the wind blowing up, the feeling of all the work in my body. It was a deeply emotional experience.
What do people take away after a day of paddling with T’ashii?
People email us about how their group had lengthy discussions about the ongoing struggles of colonialism after the tour. Many just take in the living beauty and recharge.
What do you love most about your work?
Witnessing guides find their voices and their leadership selves. How everyone — guides and guests — gain from sharing perspectives. Guests often feel hopeful but also have a new sense of the challenges faced by this area and the people. Some guides and guests share songs in the canoe. People often reflect on how the paddling is easier with someone singing. Guests often also tell us that a song brings a different essence and calls one to be present on the tour.
How has T’ashii affected your community?
We also do stand-up paddle boarding tours and lessons. We’ve done several free SUP sessions for the Tla-o-qui-aht community at Long Beach and Kennedy Lake.
T’ashii co-owner Emre Bosut is a Red Cross training partner. Many locals now get various levels of first aid training with us. Our cultural canoe tours are the only tour of their kind in this area. We are proud to offer these tours and provide wholesome employment for our community members. The local community has embraced what we offer and that is a good sign.
What advice do you have for creating sustainability initiatives that can shift local economies?
Brainstorm with like-minded people. Strategize, plan and organize. Think about the logistics of what needs to happen and delegate tasks to people who you know can help you. That all can seem daunting. What’s important is to begin. Then remember to follow through.
Do you know someone who deserves recognition for doing exceptional work protecting nature? Nominate a green leader from your community by commenting on this blog or through the Queen of Green facebook.