An important part of Gitga’at culture is traditional resource management, including cedar bark harvesting. Getting community members together to collect cedar bark is one way the Nation is able to preserve traditional practices.
Cedar as a Symbol
On the Northwest Coast cedar is a well-known symbol. As members are aware, this versatile wood has been used by First Nations for thousands of years. The tree plays a role in the spiritual beliefs and practices of coastal Indigenous communities.
Specific and sustainable harvesting practices help ensure the survival of the cedar tree. These methods have been passed down from ancestors, and have stood the test of time. Bark is only taken from part of the tree to make sure it continues growing. This meets the needs of both the people and the tree.
Historically, resource management such as cedar harvesting looked very different than it does now. Information was gathered from harvesters to ensure everything was kept in balance for both present and future generations. The Gitga’at people have exercised their Aboriginal Right to Harvest, and the government has provided space for Gitga’at members for this activity.
Gathering Plants, Including Cedar Trees
A number of plants are important to the GFN, and they are used for a variety of purposes including food, medicine, and art. Although the Nation has the Aboriginal Right to Harvest, there is also an obligation to manage the harvest in a sustainable way.
Under the Aboriginal Right to Gather Plants, community members are able to gather, trade, and sell plants that have been gathered by the Gitga’at First Nation or its members, or products made from the plants in Gitga’at territory, such as cedar hats.
Cedar and Spirituality
Coastal First Nations recognize that each tree has its own life and spirit. It is said that Coast Salish and Tlingit shamans often had cedar ‘guardians’ to protect them.
Cedar is also valued for its healing abilities. Yellow Cedar bark has anti-inflammatory properties and was commonly used as a dressing for wounds, a tourniquet, or to ward off evil.
Cedar Harvesting is a Connection to Ancestors and Tradition
Gitga’at cedar harvest is an event that attracts community members who wish to connect with their culture and continue a traditional practice. The Nation will continue this vital practice per the Aboriginal Right to Harvest, and in doing so, strengthen connections with each other and traditional practices.
Which part of cedar harvesting do you like the best? Tell us below in the comments.