New short film highlights the connection between preserving mountain caribou and Indigenous culture in northern British Columbia
Can you believe that less than 10 years ago, mountain caribou in northern British Columbia’s (B.C.) Peace region were on the brink of extinction?
“It was 16 caribou that sparked this epic journey,” said Naomi Owens-Beek, speaking about caribou recovery efforts during the July 7 online premiere of the short film Caribou Homeland. “Humans caused the decline of the caribou, and as stewards of the land we felt it was our obligation to help this species.”
Naomi is a member of, and Treaty Rights and Environmental Protection Director for, Saulteau First Nations. She has helped lead caribou recovery efforts in Treaty 8 traditional territory for nearly a decade.
Given that, she was also the perfect voice to tell the story of saving mountain caribou as the narrator in this new film.
As Naomi described it, the plight to save mountain caribou has truly been a journey — one that has taken many years and a tremendous amount of work to achieve, especially on the part of local Indigenous communities.
Due to Indigenous-led conservation efforts, including the maternal penning program, and a historic partnership agreement unfolding, there are now around 112 caribou in the Klinse-za caribou herd.
Caribou Homeland celebrates a vision realized, but also forges a path forward for saving and recovering other herds in B.C.
“People love the places they live and have deep and meaningful connections to creatures that are imperiled because of our actions,” said filmmaker, biologist and photographer David Moskowitz during the premiere. “I think this story is hopefully a great inspiration for people to care about caribou and support this work, but also for people to take action where they live.”
We were inspired by the hundreds of people who logged onto Zoom on a beautiful summer evening to show their support for this work. In fact, more than 650 people registered, and of those who attended, we saw 20 international viewers from Great Britain, to Japan, India, Ecuador, and all of the countries and continents in between.
When asked why it’s important to share this story widely, Naomi said it helps people be part of the solution — that regardless of where you are from, it’s important to know what the caribou are facing, what they need, and to see the good happening with this project.
“This conservation effort isn’t being driven by fear or anger, but by love and respect. At the end of the day, I think love is a much stronger tool for garnering support,” added David.
Caribou Homeland follows David’s first film covering these recovery efforts, Last Stand, which gives a look into the largest remaining inland temperate rainforest on Earth and how industrial development has pushed this ecosystem to the tipping point.
Taking in the stunning visuals of the vanishing caribou rainforest, you can’t help but feel the tremendous responsibility to do something. It’s certain these films have helped activate positive change for caribou and First Nations.
With the signing of a historic partnership agreement in February 2020 came the expansion of the Twin Sisters/Klinse-za park to 28,000 hectares. We are now awaiting the summer 2021 expansion to 200,000 hectares!
“This is a story of hope for mountain caribou, a story of the leadership of West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations as they stood up for treaty rights, for caribou, for the land, and brought a species back from the brink in their traditional territory.”— Tim Burkhart, B.C. program manager, strategic engagement and Peace Region, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
“This short film carries a really important message, a relentlessly positive message, in a time when these are really in short supply,” said Tim Burkhart, Y2Y’s B.C. program manager. “This is a story of hope for mountain caribou, a story of the leadership of West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations as they stood up for treaty rights, for caribou, for the land, and brought a species back from the brink in their traditional territory.”
It is more important than ever that we ensure our work is directly supporting Indigenous-led conservation. You can continue to be part of this story by standing up for caribou, sharing the film Caribou Homeland widely, and donating.
Ask for caribou habitat protections
Despite federal and provincial government plans and policies, caribou numbers elsewhere in B.C. continue to drop with several herds gone. Ask government to build on the positive partnership agreement with West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations, by protecting caribou habitat for all herds.
- Media release: Agreement for B.C.’s northern caribou good news for people and wildlife and model for recovery (February 2020)
- Project update: Courage for mountain caribou (April 2020)
- Project update: Marking milestones in mountain caribou recovery
Header photo: A caribou exits the maternal pen in northern British Columbia (David Moskowitz)