The Bligh Island shipwreck is located in the traditional territory of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation. From time immemorial and today, members of the Nation walk the beaches, travel and fish on the waters, and know the places, animals and birds, winds and landscapes better than anyone else. Since the M/V Schiedyk started leaking oil at the beginning of December, members of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation have brought their expertise to the response, including sharing information from the Nation’s Traditional Use Database. The Traditional Knowledge from this invaluable tool is helping the Bligh Island shipwreck Incident Commanders to identify priorities, make decisions, and plan the response.
The Traditional Use Database is comprised of information shared by the Elders and Knowledge Keepers, historical records and maps, and information from archaeological sites. The information is detailed and specific. It is based on location, providing information on the place, what is there (for example, a resource, a cultural or archaeological site), who uses it, how it is used, and what time(s) of year it is used. Guided by the Nation, Unified Command has been able to use Traditional Knowledge to:
- quickly identify areas in need of protection booming, such as clam beds, archaeological sites, and areas where wildlife is found
- make decisions – including prioritizing protection of resources at risk by identifying which areas are most sensitive, most at risk, or most vulnerable, and
- plan a timeline for future response activities based on any environmental events that might have an impact on operations, such as the time of year that the herring traditionally run in Nootka Sound; or, when it is the best time to proceed with Shoreline Clean-up Team work.
Sharing Traditional Knowledge is just one way the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation have been working with Unified Command partners to address the threat posed by the sunken shipwreck. More information about this work will be shared at a later date in Behind the Scenes.