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He said he cut down the Golden Spruce

by Ralph Nelson

Grant Hadwin: the man with pride and a chain-saw. Was he a terrorist? Was he drowned or did he die from trying to live up to his promises in life. He said he cut down a tree without realizing it was Haida. He thought it was just a tree - a freak, but just a tree - or maybe a MacMillan Bloedel showcase property.

Watched with interest; Hadwin cut down a tree, but I rarely heard the obvious question: What about all the rest that are cut daily? Where are the elaborate rituals for them, as there were for the Golden Spruce? Do we suppose kowtowing to the barge as it sails by loaded with carcasses, that are sacred to me, qualifies as appropriate, or is it just the acknowledgment of god Mammon, who really rules so many of us?

Hadwin had a point to make; he was upset at the destruction in the forests, and his inability to make changes from a position of his version of integrity. The Golden Spruce, for us non-Haida, is dead. For Haida sentiments it might help to know many of us are likewise sad. I am sad. But I'll be damned if I think one tree's death is the end of the issue.

Grant Hadwin's point, as I saw it, is that there is a problem in the forest industry - there is a problem of integrity and perspective generally. Now that the tree is dead and we are all somewhat used to the idea, let us not waste the message. The messenger, whom I heard publicly denounced from all around, is assumed dead also. Two lives that tried to live, amidst all the others the system disallows daily - the trees that are cut for the dollar that pays for luxury, and to sustain lifestyles. Incidental species extinctions also happen daily, and we forget, or so it seems. We assume a man died, and many I heard, say he deserved his death. He died because he had pride, and because he tried to kayak the Hecate in what turned out to be a storm. He apparently lacked the skill.

A man died; for the trees, or at least about them. He didn't indicate he viewed them as spirits as many of us do. To the Haida I offer condolences for losing what is more than a friend - I only lost another tree friend. But I want to learn from every loss. We are losing - all of us, Haida/non-Haida - and more than just a few trees. We are losing our lives too, because we all rely on the natural world for some cultural identity. I do not think this is news to Haida people, as it might be to the rest of us.

Grant Hadwin is not my hero; but I respect that he had the integrity of his convictions - unfortunately he did not have their strength. I doubt I could have been his friend from what I have read of him, but I respect that he did what he felt he had to. Let us reflect on his message.

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