Television crews were immersed in the coastal environment and the Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella in May.
“We heard about it and we weren’t sure exactly how it was going to pan out,” chef Marilyn Slett said, learning from the TV docuseries. Ocean Warriors ~ Mission Ready would film an episode locally.
The APTN and CHEK television series will feature the work of the Coastal Nations Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary (CNCGA), made up of four BC coastal First Nations, the Heiltsuk, Ahousaht, ‘Namgis and Quatsino.
In 13 episodes, each half-hour show will highlight the work of search and rescue volunteers in these remote coastal communities.
An episode was being filmed at Bella Bella from May 21-28, and the TV crew were invited to a feast to get to know the larger community while they were there.
“We were happy to be able to highlight and support the work we do. I think they really got to see a lot of our community,” Slett said.
“It was super exciting.”
While Slett couldn’t attend the shoot because it was also the week of the community’s annual general meeting which had been scheduled well in advance, she was glad to have the chance to meet them.
Slett said there are elders in the community who do some of the local coast guard or search and rescue support, but the new program will empower the community to do more.
“We’re excited to see some of this investment in the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” Slett said.
She expects this increased investment in training and equipment to result in greater maritime response capability and maritime safety on the coast.
This is something essential for the remote island community, accessible only by air and sea on the province’s rugged central coast.
“We rely on the ocean as our sea highway, for our economy, for our sustenance,” Slett said, of the community’s close relationship with coastal waters.
“Being a seafaring community, we are first responders,” Slett said.
The new interns from the local CNCGA contingent have just received their craft and the craft was given a blessing ceremony by the community’s cultural leaders about a month ago.
At the ceremony, hereditary leader and community elder Frank Brown shared the story of a fall in the water while harvesting kelp himself.
Slett recalled Brown’s story and said he was able to access his radio and call for help and community members came out to save him. He stressed the importance of having local resources to help in these situations.
“We know our territory and we know each other,” Slett said.
The past two years have involved organizational planning for the new auxiliary and more recently training of selected participants has taken place.
With the boat and training now in place, the group will be able to respond to search and rescue emergencies at sea.
Documenting the work of the group through the television series will showcase the work that CNCGA will be able to do and the communities of the coast.
Slett herself was even interviewed for the show, talking about her time in leadership and the goals and direction of the community as well as the CNCGA as it has developed.
She also recalled that in October 2016, a Texas-owned fuel barge returning from Alaska ran aground near Bella Bella and the tug pulling it sank.
She said it was another event that helped highlight the need for local responders.
The tug also spilled thousands of gallons of diesel fuel into coastal waters near the community, impacting their economy. The spill caused shell beds to close and they haven’t fished there since.
Slett said she wants viewers to capture the work these coastal communities are doing to protect people and the ocean they so depend on.
“I really hope that when people watch it, they see and understand the importance our Indigenous communities have on the ocean and the health of the ocean.”
Bella BellaCanadian Coast GuardFilm IndustryFirst NationsLife