After months in the making, we finally have the printed copies of our Redfish School of Change 10 Year Anniversary Journal! Reading through all of the submissions, songs, stories, and updates, I was reminded about what a totally incredible program this is. I have been lucky enough to have been part of it, in one way or another, since 2016, along with my sidekick and accomplice, wee Otis. I am thrilled to be continuing on this year in a slightly different capacity, both as Communications Coordinator and a co-instructor with Nick Stanger. Here’s to another 10 incredible years of joining hands across the Salish Sea and making positive change in this wonderful place.
If you’d like to have a look at the journal online, you can view it by clicking here. To order a copy, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and make a suggested donation of approximately $12.00 to cover the cost of printing and shipping. You can make a donation by clicking the “Donate” button on the side bar.
There is still time! We have extended the submission deadline for our 10-Year Anniversary Special Edition Redfish Journal to September 30th 2019. This means, you still have an opportunity to be published in the special anniversary edition! Your submission can be anything and should only take you about 10 minutes to put together. Here are a few ideas:
a song you wrote
a memory or sketch from your journal
a memorable recipe
a playlist you made during Redfish
a great photo you took during Redfish
A one-page reflection of your time during Redifish
We want this journal to be a celebration of YOU so please in your submissions ASAP! Send submissions to Joy@schoolofchange.ca Here is a one submission from Nadine Raynolds, the originator of Redfish:
The Redfish School of Change was a dream come true. As a young activist, who grew up believing in education, I searched for the “ultimate environmental education program”. Working with the Pembina Institute in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and going to several conferences with my colleague, mentor, and friend, Dave Mussell, we fantasized about a revolutionary program.
The first iteration was the “Rocky Mountain Environmental Education and Training Centre”. Along with Ed Whittingham at UTSB Research in Banff, we drafted the Terms of Reference for a feasibility study, and searched for funding to develop an education centre at its finest, walking the talk in every way. While I had a small contract in 2003 to develop some ideas, we were not successful in securing funding.
Then in 2004, I went to Royal Roads to do my Masters in Environmental Education and Communication. My research was a focus group of youth activists, who were asked to describe the most influential education experiences that put them on the path to being an environmental and community leader. We heard stories from youth across the country, which helped form a series of design principles for shaping the “Bioregional Youth Leadership Field School” – the working name before “Redfish”.
After this research process, came another fundraising attempt. Now that we had educational design principles, what would be the structure? A summer camp, high school semester, university field school, or something else? With a small grant from the McConnell Foundation, I conducted market research out of the Little Slocan Lodge. This information provided further insight into the needs and interests of potential participants.
Then, drawing on the connections of the Pembina Institute, we landed a large grant to start the program. I distinctly remember the day I went into Shell Canada’s office tower in Calgary to pitch the idea. For a young, highly principled environmental activist, it was a strange moment, but a time that I still reflect on as being pivotal in my view on creating change: it takes all kinds. Change happens when we can work together, bridging backgrounds, experiences, and views.
This seed funding allowed the Redfish School of Change to spawn. With program development funding in place, we now had significant leverage to find partners. Eric Higgs and the School of Environmental Studies at University of Victoria were keen. We also collaborated with Pearson College, and Ruth Whyte brought her many lessons learned from running the Pearson Seminar on Youth Leadership. With other educators and innovators, namely Brenda Beckwith, Ryan Hilperts, and James Rowe, the first program took shape and was piloted in spring 2009. We went “in the field for the future”.
While the journey has changed over the years, from starting in the Kootenays and traveling down the Fraser River, to now going deep in the Salish Sea, the essence of what is Redfish remains. It is founded on a passion for good education and a dream of a better world for nature and people. It is shaped by those who participate, and designed for young people to realize their own path and potential in being agents of change in a world that needs you so very much.
Thank you for the great years, and to the new leaders who carry Rudy onto new adventures. Be strong and go wild, and don’t forget to pull into an eddy every now and then. It’s a journey, and we’ll do it together.
We are still accepting applications for the 2019 Field school. If you are thinking of applying, now is your chance! Click here to submit an application and become part of a trans-border group of change makers in the Salish Sea.
EXPERIENCE THE SALISH SEA WITHOUT BORDERS! Travel both sides of the international border with a cohort of Canadian and US students interested in creating positive social and environmental change. Become a part of a network of leaders in this unique region. Gain leadership skills, practice reciprocity, explore reconciliation and develop environmental hope while being immersed in the Salish Sea bioregion.
In celebration of our 10 year anniversary, Redfish now has a new website! Stay tuned over the next couple of months as we add details and information about our upcoming events and our summer field school. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the new communications coordinator, Joy Beauchamp: email@example.com.
If you are feeling despair regarding the environment and need some inspiration and reasons for maintaining hope, join world renowned author and researcher, Dr. Elin Kelsey at Western Washington University on January 24th and 25th, 2019. Elin’s work is a welcome break from current environmental narratives which use language and examples to evoke despair and terror. A gifted storyteller and infectious agent for spreading hope, Elin artfully weaves together her wealth of examples from the natural world to show how the resiliency of other species can help not only restore but also spread hope to those around us. Whether your interests are social justice or environmental education, Elin’s workshops will inspire discussion and help shift our focus away from problems and towards the miraculous solutions that abound in our world.
For more information about these events, click here.
One July evening, all the men of redfish wore dresses.
This was not done as a joke. It was a lovely thing to do on a summer’s evening. It was a celebration of two birthdays and a culmination of events. It was a celebration of not only inclusivity but femininity. A new way to try out being in the world.
If you were there that evening, what you would have seen was simple: Jaime in vintage floral; Bryce in knee length tie-die; Joe in a short, striped number; Alexei in a brown velvet skirt; Chris in a paisley skirt, and Riley resembling a mermaid. In short, men in dresses.
From childhood, boys are raised to be men. When masculinity means to always be strong and in control, there is little room for feeling and expressing vulnerable emotion. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk We Should All be Feminists, she speaks to the harm of gender roles in our society. How in order to build a more equitable world, we must look at the way gender is constructed in both men and women.
“We do a great disservice to boys in how we raise them. We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage. We teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability.” (pg 26, Adichie)
Rebecca Solnit expands on this in her 2017 essay A Short History of Silence. In it, she unpacks how boys and men are socialized to deaden aspects of their inner life. This has ramifications that reverberate throughout a man’s life. Toxic masculinity is one result with impacts felt on a personal and global level.
Being a cis-gendered female, I cannot say how the men of Redfish felt. I can only say that that evening changed something for me. It made femininity in men more visible, more desirable, more possible. Imagine if we lived in a society where that which we define as feminine was supported in boys and men. Where men were encouraged to cry, to be tender, to talk about and express their innermost hopes and fears. To wear floral dresses with reckless abandon. I know I would feel safer in that world.
I watched throughout the program as the men of redfish made themselves vulnerable and expressed uncomfortable emotions. I hope we made space for them to do so. I hope they continue to do so.
The night ended for me sitting on the grass, watching Jaime and Alexei perform a duet of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I thought of how beautiful they were adorned in women’s clothing. How wonderful it would be if two cis-gendered heterosexual men toured the country in floral dresses, playing tender songs and moving our hearts towards what is possible.
When I first applied for the Redfish School of Change last winter, I yearned to better understand how to more effectively mitigate some of the complex social and ecological challenges plaguing my home in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Among these problems are extensive habitat loss and fragmentation, water and air pollution, rapid gentrification and unsustainable urban sprawl, police brutality, and the rising unaffordability of the costs of living. Connecting with concerned citizens, passionate students and learned activists about the various ways to catalyze and sustain change appealed to me for this reason, particularly as I approached the tail end of my time at the University of Victoria and the encroaching and daunting prospect of returning home.
Yet, soon into embarking on our journey, a different, equally pertinent goal began to take precedence in my mind, one of a far more internal nature. At the beginning of Redfish we were introduced to the term “personal ecology,” which can be understood as one’s own individual health and wellbeing and ability to practice self-care. Deriving from the notion that one cannot possibly contribute to the world in a positive and sustainable way without taking care of one’s self first, personal ecology emphasizes the importance for activists to recognize their own unique responsibilities and capacities, without carrying the immense weight of the world’s problems on their own shoulders.
During our time in Redfish, many of us have experienced grief over the scale of ecological and cultural loss and devastation that besets our planet. Even as we’ve encountered inspiring leaders and participated in tangible change such as environmental restoration projects, I have found myself emotionally overwhelmed by the extensive array of challenges that face my generation and those yet to come. Many of us have felt a culmination of motivation, inspiration and anxiety throughout this month, all the while questioning what unique niches we might occupy in order to meaningfully contribute to positive change.
Several of the leaders we have met have planted seeds in my mind about how it is that one can be an activist while avoiding feeling disheartened, inadequate and burnt out. One particularly inspiring conservationist named Misty McDuffey spoke about her experience conducting field work and writing educational pieces about the threats to salmon populations and the endangered Southern Resident orcas. Fueled by veneration for these species and distraught over the devastation their communities are experiencing, she highlighted some of the impacts of fisheries, dykes, dams and the aquarium trade. When a student finally asked her about how she studies such a heavy topic without burning out, she emphasized the importance of cultivating gratitude in our day-to-day lives. She encouraged us to appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty of our world that still remains, and to try to leave behind our narratives of loss and despair in these moments in order to be fully present and reverent. In other words, Misty stressed that we must continually appreciate and love the planet wholeheartedly, without letting our understanding of its destruction hinder our ability to be grateful.
On top of this, Redfish has affirmed to me how truly communal sustainable change is. There is no lone mythological superhero that can lead us into the progressive sunset. Instead there are networks of people, diverse and unique, with different skill sets and capacities, strengths and weaknesses. We collectively change the world. We cannot independently create the world we want.
In the same vein, we should hold each other gently while recognizing that change is not always straightforward or immediate, mistakes will be made, our goals will need to be re-evaluated and adapted. In the midst of realizing this, I am learning to hold myself gently, to take care of my own “personal ecology” as if I were my own teeming, complex universe, but also to humbly accept that I am one mere piece in this infinitely complicated planetary puzzle.
While immersed in our Redfish community, I have been reminded, time and time again, of the power of solidarity. I have been reminded of the pivotal need to practice self-love and self-care, to know what I can do and what I simply cannot do, and to recognize that what I cannot do, another might be destined to do. I have been reminded to hold myself and those around me gently as we create the kind of world that can nourish and sustain us into the indefinite future.
As we write this post we are experiencing some post-Redfish withdrawals and reminiscing on all the magical wonderfulness that was Redfish. When we think about our Redfish community, including every person and every being we met along the way, one characteristic stands out in particular – that of resilience. Resilience can be understood as a system’s ability to adapt to or recover from disturbances or stressors. Our immediate community demonstrated resilience when we persevered after being faced with various physical and emotional challenges. Other resilient communities we met with included those of the Bracken ferns and Garry oak camas meadows, which, despite undergoing over a century of colonial disruption, still persist today. What is it about our Redfish community, the Bracken fern, and the Garry oak ecosystems that make them resilient?
To begin, our Redfish community was resilient because it was made up of a network of diverse individuals offering different strengths and taking on a variety of roles, while allowing for some overlap of niches. When a stressor hit, everyone could help in a different capacity, allowing our community to continue on without falling apart. We were also able to adapt to novel or challenging conditions, by taking on slightly different roles and behaviours. If a stressor hit just one individual, someone else could take on their role, allowing that individual to get the rest they needed. It also helped that we all shared a common goal – to learn about and bring about social-ecological change – that helped to keep us connected and care for each other.
After one of the many brilliant plant walk sessions with instructor Brenda Beckwith, our perception of community shifted when Brenda taught us about the large fern genus Bracken, Pteridium. Bracken ferns are commonly viewed as invasive plants, because of the mass amounts of spaces they occupy, and their resilient nature. The taking up of space begins with the large network of the rhizome system beneath the soil. The roots intertwine and connect underground, giving rise to new buds capable of forming individual fronds, the leaflike part of the plant. We can see parallels between this and our Redfish community, where we support each other and work together to spread our knowledge and leadership to each of our individual home communities.
Before a community can radiate outwards, however, it must take care of its own health and needs. The Bracken fern portrays this in the range of toxic chemicals they hold within their tissues, which prevents them from being preyed upon or decaying. When actions are taken to get rid of Bracken fern, such as burning, signals are sent to through the shoots to the deeper growing roots, triggering a growth signal for when the surficial fronds are destroyed. This allows the new fronds to grow and continue living in the space they initially occupied. Not unlike the Bracken fern, resilience within a community arises from the strong and sturdy foundation that continues to build as the roots extend and connect within the soil, retaining the nutrients, water, and knowledge required to continue growing.
A Bracken fern on Sucia Island.
Our last story of resilience takes place on Sucia Island where we visited Ewing Cove, sat on the coastal bluff under the hot sun, and learned that just over a century ago, this place was perhaps a highly productive Garry oak meadow filled mostly with purple camas and snowberry. The Camassia quamash, or purple camas, is considered a cultural keystone species by many Coast Salish peoples, who, prior to colonization, relied on camas bulbs as a dietary staple.
The Coast Salish peoples cared for these ecosystems and ensured their sustained productivity through management strategies that involved providing small disturbances: cultural prescribed burning and traditional digging of camas bulbs. Prescribed burning helped keep out weedy plants, while providing charcoal for the soil, and digging helped loosen the soil that enabled the bulbs to grow larger. It became clear that ‘camas and people go hand in hand,’ and that these ecosystems fair best when maintained by those who know how to properly care for them. Colonization has led to the elimination of these important cultural practices for camas meadows through development and neglect and bulbs found today are much smaller now than they used to be.
Camas fields on Mount Tolmie, Victoria, May 2018.
Yet, the camas persists, and we can find hope in its resilience. Camas is so resilient that it was considered by some European settlers to be a noxious weed – it underwent so much disturbance yet kept growing back. Part of what makes camas so resilient is that it has contractile roots that enable the camas to move when conditions are unfavourable. During seasonal drought, the roots will shrink vertically and pull the camas deeper into the soil to protect it from sun and heat. Maybe another reason camas is so resilient is that it has learned to adapt to and persevere with disturbance – just like our Redfish community ☺.
Pictured: Two camas bulbs, one recently dug (and soon to be replanted) and the other, cooked, dried, and ready to eat. We had the privilege of tasting camas bulbs, something that not every Coast Salish person is able to do today. Photo by Shayla Brewer.
Plants — a pocket of life, a teacher, a medicine, a home, and an individual. Often plants are viewed as a resource, whether they are used for lumber or to decorate the corners of a concrete world: they are often not seen as individuals but objectified into a monetary value or a measurable worth. Throughout my time at Redfish I was able to be surrounded by others who recognized these diverse beings that make up our world as sentient, and was pushed to learn more about each one we encountered.
Some of their names, stories, and characteristics are stuck in my brain while others were lost along our journeys. Since I have returned home from the islands, I have started looking around the house I have called my home for the past three years and realized how many plants I didn’t recognize. I couldn’t tell you the name of tree I’ve been climbing up for the past two years to get a better peek at the moon, or the interesting flower growing on the outskirts of my basement. These plants have watched me grow as I watched them, but I had yet to introduce myself.
Above you will see a collection of plants that I gathered within a block of my home in the traditional lands of the Lummi and Nooksack Nations (Bellingham, WA). I have tried my best to identify each one of them using what I remember from Redfish, what my family and friends have taught me, previous classes about plants, or my field guide. I want to continue learning the names and the stories of the plants that surround me, and find ways in which I can obtain seeds of plants native to this region and find the best habitats to plant them both in and out of the city.
You will find the leaves or branches from a bigleaf maple, holly, western red cedar and a camellia tree. There is a branch from what I think is a sitka mountain-ash (orange berries) and a small blackish blue berry that I originally thought was salal, but upon a closer examination of the leaves I am not sure what it is (salal has soft edges around its leaves while this berry branch has some flare around the edges). The skeletons of bluebells and the fresh pickings of brass buttons and visible throughout the collection as well. These plants and I share a home, and have now been properly introduced.