HENLEY, Thom




Author Tags: Education, Environment, Essentials 2010, First Nations, Haida Gwaii

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

The first European who wrote about the southern Queen Charlotte Islands and their people in detail was James Colnett in the late 1700s. The American lawyer Newton Chittenden was the first white man to explore the interior of those islands, as described in Settlers, Prospectors and Tourists Guide or Travels Through British Columbia (1882). Irish-born William Henry Collison was reputedly the first missionary to preach to the Haida, Nisga’a and Tsimshian in their own languages, as described in his often condescending memoir In the Wake of the War Canoe (1915). Kathleen Dalzell self-published The Queen Charlotte Islands, Volume 1: 1774–1966 (1968) and The Queen Charlotte Islands, Volume 2 (1973), both popular for decades. After an article in the New Yorker, John Vaillant skillfully wove together Haida Gwaii–related material for a prize-winning bestseller, The Golden Spruce (2005).

The turning point for recognition of Haida Gwaii as a separate culture—the book that, more than any other, made it acceptable and even preferable to refer to the place as Haida Gwaii—was Islands at the Edge: Preserving the Queen Charlotte Islands Wilderness (1984), a co-operative project largely engineered and written by Thom Henley. Later renamed Islands at the Edge: Preserving the Queen Charlotte Archipelago, this political milestone was accorded the first Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award in 1985. At the gala event on Granville Island, Henley asked artist Bill Reid to give an acceptance speech. Reid’s riveting denunciation of modern B.C. society was not only the highlight of an evening that marked the coming-of-age of B.C. writing and publishing with the creation of the B.C. Book Prizes, it signalled to the mainland that Haida culture would henceforth aggressively seek self-definition. Quivering with Parkinson’s disease, Reid reminded the audience of the ravages of white civilization, calling it “the worst plague of locusts.” Islands at the Edge was a powerful ambassadorial force in the successful preservation of South Moresby Island as a park. Its success begat a string of well-researched coffee table books to protect the environment, notably Stein: The Way of the River (1988) by Michael M’Gonigle and Wendy Wickwire, and Carmanah: Artistic Visions of an Ancient Rainforest (1989), spearheaded by Paul George, who had produced a similar book about Meares Island in 1985.


FULL ENTRY:

In 1978, with the cooperation of Haida elders, Thom Henley founded the Rediscovery Program on the Queen Charlotte Islands to assist Native and non-Native youth in crisis by teaching them about nature and themselves through outdoor experiences. He was the director of that program for its first seven years until he became Executive Director of the Rediscovery International Foundation. Since 1978, Henley has seen the growth of more than forty Rediscovery camps in North American and around the world. He served on the board of directors for the Canadian Nature Federation and has published a guidebook to outdoor education, Rediscovery: Ancient Pathways, New Directions (Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 1990).

As the organizer and co-author of Islands at the Edge: Preserving the Queen Charlotte Islands Wilderness (D&M), he was co-recipient of the first Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award in 1985. The book was a major factor in the successful preservation of South Moresby Island (also known as Gwaiihaannaas) as a park and it kick-started a steady string of well-researched coffee table books about British Columbia from an environmental perspective in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1988 Henley smuggled videos out of Borneo for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee's first international project, the protection of rainforest in Sarawak, on Borneo. "I expected things to be bad," he said, "but I wasn't prepared for what I saw." He made five trips to Malaysia in an effort to stop logging on behalf of the nomadic Penan people. His coffee table book, Penan: Voice of the Borneo Rainforest (Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 1990), co-written with Wade Davis, with a foreword by Prince Charles, details the plight of the Penan people in Sarawak.

He has travelled to more than 100 countries and lectured in more than one-quarter of them, having received numerous international conservation awards. In the 1990s Henley was based primarily in Thailand. Ten years of leading eco-tours in Thailand led to Reefs to Rainforests, Mangroves to Mountains (Asia Books). He has also published Waterfalls and Gibbon Calls, a guide to Thailand's Khao Soke National Park.

Thom Henley first visited the Skeena River region in 1971. In 2009 he was working to establish an International Rediscovery Centre on the banks of the Skeena River "as a living legacy for youth from all over the world." In doing so, he wrote, and took many photographs for, River of Mist, Journey of Dreams (Rediscovery International Foundation, 2009), with a foreword by Roy Henry Vickers. The project was encouraged by Linda Lafleur, publisher of The Daily News in Prince Rupert, and received financial support from the Kispiox Band Council, Gitanmaax Band Council and Kitselas Band Council.

Ksan or Ksien, the Gitksan or Tsimshian name for the Skeena, translates as "juice from the clouds" though it is more commonly called "the river of mists." Hence novelist Hubert Evans entitled his classic British Columbia novel about the struggles of First Nations people in the Hazelton and Prince Rupert area Mist on the River, published in 1954.

One of the largest, free-flowing (undammed) rivers on the planet, the Skeena River is second in size only to the Fraser River in terms of rivers whose watersheds lie completely within B.C.'s boundaries. Approximately 670 kilometres in length, it drains an area of 54,400 sq. km. in a region that remains one of the least populated on the planet. An estimated five million salmon, representing all five species, spawn in Skeena waterways, making it one of the foremost salmon fisheries on the planet.

In 2003, Henley and the First Nations along the Skeena joined to encourage youth from around the world for a summer paddling expedition to "Retrace the Ancestral Highway" of the Skeena. The second part of River of Mist, Journey of Dreams, recalls that journey through photos and the words of youth who participated.

[For other authors pertaining to Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands, see abcbookworld entries for Adams, Dawn; Bancroft, J. Austen; Barbeau, Marius; Blackman, Margaret; Bodega y Quadra, Juan Francisco; Boelscher, Marianne; Bolton, Herbert E.; Bowditch, Dan; Burling, Samuel; Caamaño, Jacinto; Calder, J.A.; Cameron, June; Carey, Neil; Carter, Anthony; Crespi, Juan; Curtis, Edward S.; Davidson, Robert; Dawson, George M.; Deans, James; Dixon, George; Douglas, Sheila; Drew, Leslie; Duff, Wilson; Dunn, John; Ellis, David W.; Enrico, John; Ernst, Maria; Fedje, Daryl; Fischer, George; Fleurieu, Charles; Foster, J.B.; Garner, Joe; Gazetas, Mary; Gessler, Trisha; Gill, Ian; Gray, Robert; Hale, Amanda; Harrison, Charles; Hart, Jim; Haswell, Robert; Hatt, D.E.; Hearne, Margo; Henderson, Fern; Henderson, R.W.; Hoover, Allan; Horwood, Dennis; Houston, James; Ingraham, Joseph; Johnson, Ebenezer; Karstad, Aleta; Lasser, Peggy; Lillard, Charles; Long, Bob; MacDonald, George F.; MacDonald, Joanne; Macnair, Peter; Marchand, Etienne; Mayol, Lurline Bowles; Musgrave, Susan; Newton, Norman; Oliviero, Jamie; Osgood, Wilfred; Patterson, Samuel; Pena, Tomas de la; Peron, Francois; Perouse, Jean-Francois de la; Poole, Francis; Razzell, Mary; Reid, Martine; Reynolds, Stephen; Ricketts, Ed; Ross, Michael Lee; Scudder, G.G.E.; Sheehan, Carol; Simpson, S.L.; Siska, Heather; Smith, Robin Percival; Smyly, John; Spilsbury, Jim; Steltzer, Ulli; Stuart, Wendy Bross; Swan, James G.; Swanton, John; Taylor, Andrew Bracey; Taylor, Roy; Turner, Nancy; Turner, William O.; Van den Brink, J.H.; Ward, David; Westergaard, Ross; White, April; Wright, Robin K.; Wyatt, Victoria; Yates, J. Michael.] @2010.

BOOKS:

Islands at the Edge: Preserving the Queen Charlotte Islands Wilderness (D&M, 1985). Co-author. Renamed Islands at the Edge: Preserving the Queen Charlotte Archipelago

Rediscovery: Ancient Pathways, New Directions (Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 1990).

Penan: Voice of the Borneo Rainforest (Western Canada Wilderness Committee, 1990), co-written with Wade Davis

Waterfalls and Gibbon Calls: A guide to Thailand's Khao Soke National Park.

Reefs to Rainforests, Mangroves to Mountains (Asia Books)

Reefs to Rainforests: A Guide to South Thailand's Natural Wonders

Living Legend of the Mentawai

A Seed of Hope

Krabi: Caught in the Spell

As if the Earth Matters: Recommitting to Environmental Education

River of Mist, Journey of Dreams (Rediscovery International Foundation, 2009)

[BCBW 2010] "QCI"

River of Mist, Journey of Dreams (Rediscovery International $34.95)
Article



Thom Henley first visited the Skeena River region in 1971. Today he is working to establish an International Rediscovery Centre on the banks of the Skeena River "as a living legacy for youth from all over the world," as well as writing, and contributing photos for, River of Mist, Journey of Dreams (Rediscovery International $34.95), with a foreword by Roy Henry Vickers. This book project was encouraged by Linda Lafleur, publisher of The Daily News in Prince Rupert, and received financial support from the Kispiox Band Council, Gitanmaax Band Council and Kitselas Band Council.

[BCBW 2009]