Earth Day (April 22) will see a new book launched at the Heritage Park Museum, Ground-Truthing: Reimagining the Indigenous Rainforests of BC’s North Coast.
Northern-based author Derrick Stacey Denholm is interested in the ecology of the north coast and approaches the topic through a fusion of poetry and science.
So Derrick, where were you born, and how did you end up being a writer?
Born in East Vancouver. I wrote my first short story when I was in Grade 5, inspired by seeing bears up real close, as we lived in the forest north of Whitecourt at the time. I just picked up a pen and somewhere inside a faucet opened up.
What is Ground-Truthing and why is it important?
Ground-Truthing is a scientific method, where a hypothesis is made, and then technicians go out in the field and collect data on the ground to disprove or validate the hypothesis. My idea is based upon the BC Ministry of Forests Biogeoclimatic classification system, developed at UBC, where all of the province’s forests are mapped into different ecosystem types by climate, elevation, plant species, soil types. The entire province was ground-truthed through sample plots by university students and other researchers.
What will people in Terrace learn from your book?
That the wild world in our backyard is overwhelming and complicated, and that our day-to-day knowledge systems and the practices we live by are simplistic, outdated and destructive. Also, that the idea of British Columbia and Crown Land is just a long-winded story that we’ve all been told for 150 years, while there are 13,000 years of more legitimate, obviously sustainable stories all along the North Coast, stories that are worth putting some effort into educating ourselves about and treating with the proper respect.
You are into the complexity of the coastal ecosystem. What makes the environment around here special?
This is a unique intersection of three biogeoclimactic zones: the Coast, the Interior, and the Boreal North. All three converge up Xsitxemsem (the Nass) in the vicinity of Meziadin. You find almost all of the species of each of those regions overlapping here, and the ancient human cultural complexity is connected with nuances in similar ways because of this.
Why have you chosen Earth Day as the day for your Terrace launch and what should people expect at the reading?
I did not plan it, but the themes of Earth Day bind the book together: respect for Storied Land, justice for Indigenous life, and truth is a tree – etymologically, figuratively, quite literally. There will be a North Coast slideshow, a brief look at the book’s themes, some challenging ideas about home, a little science about mountain hemlock, the salmon forest. I was asked to be involved in the Herring-Heiltsuk-DFO discussion, so I will give a quick summary of that story.
What authors do you admire and recommend?
Robin Wall Kimmerer (Gathering Moss – ecology) Yuval Noah Harari’s (Sapiens – history), Linda Hogan (Solar Storms – fiction), Miyazawa Kenji (A Future of Ice – poems)
In what way does the First Nations history tie into your writing?
After about 10 years of living here, I one day woke up to the fact that First Nations history has everything to do with everything around here. I don’t see how you can live here without recognizing and embracing this. And most of us immigrant Canadians know almost nothing. To write about the North Coast without educating myself would be like thinking that breathing doesn’t involve oxygen.
Writing itself is such a critical activity, one based upon observance and reflection, and this place pulsates with a deeply Indigenous reality.
The book launch of Derrick Stacey Denholm’s Ground-Truthing: Reimagining the Indigenous Rainforests of BC’s North Coast is at 7 p.m. April 22 at the Heritage Park Museum. With local author Josh Massey reading from new work.