The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest coastal temperate rainforest on the planet. Stretching for more than 400km along British Columbia’s coast north of Vancouver Island, it is the traditional territory of 28 First Nations who’s history in The Great Bear Rainforest extends beyond human memory. A spectacular forest ecosystem with many intact valleys, the region is known as ‘Canada’s Amazon’ for its dense web of natural life including towering ancient trees, grizzly bears, salmon, wolves, and the rare white kermode, or ‘spirit’ bear. Today, less than 25% of this forest type exists worldwide, and this narrow band of land and sea represents a quarter of all coastal temperate rainforest remaining on the planet — 6.4 million hectares in size.
Today, the region remains home to First Nations peoples whose histories, identities and spirituality are inextricably linked to the lands and waters of the rainforest.The coastal First Nations are not a single people. Each First Nation has distinct traditions as well as unique circumstances and aspirations. At the same time, their languages, oral histories and ecological knowledge reflect the shared philosophies that underlie a deeply-rooted ethic of conservation and a millennia-old commitment to the sound stewardship of coastal ecosystems. The total population of coastal First Nations is estimated at 18,000 to 20,000, which is over half of the population of British Columbia’s Central Coast and over one-third of the populations of the North Coast and Haida Gwaii.