In Haida stories, it is often the most diminutive creature, – a mouse, a frog, or even that curious being that becomes smaller as it approaches, – that offers the critical gift or the necessary solution. One of our foundational narratives describes a dark time when all the light in the universe is stored away inside the smallest container and is released only when the greatest hero becomes a small child. The wee creatures don’t seek a lofty status, but there humble contributions, even a single bead of water, allow for heroic events.
Solutions to the numerous challenges in our lives are usually delivered by a thousand warriors marching to a hundred drums and led by a grand general. Effective responses are often small and immediately appropriate, – the acts that we as individuals are entirely capable of undertaking.
When we put away the notion that greatness is essential to success, then we expand into our full capacity. The hummingbird’s faith in the power of the small, and in herself, is illustrated by her heroic contribution, – the act of simply doing what she can, alone.
Imagine that many, most, or even all of the animals also did what they could. They might never know whether the problem was solved by their individual efforts, but their contribution would increase the likelihood that many beads of water would overcome the fire.
But that’s another story
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
A Single Bead of Water
from Flight of the Hummingbird
A Parable for the Environment
Flight of the Hummingbird; A Parable for the Environment, – features artwork by internationally renowned artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. His distinct and lively Haida Manga style engages perfectly with this inspirational story that encourages every individual to act on behalf of the worlds limited and precious resources.
In the fall of 1985, a small but resolute troupe of Haida elders journeyed by helicopter to Athlii Gwaii (Lyell Island) to join their young counterparts in a stand against clearcutting. Industrial invasion in the remote archipelago had gone too far. Ancient cedar giants and rare spruce trees—lifeblood of Haida art and culture—had been leveled indiscriminately for too long. Buoyed by their courageous Haida elders, protesters united in peaceful resistance. A total of 72 people were arrested, but their tactics garnered global attention and won change: in 1987, the government established the Gwaii Haanas Park Reserve/Haida Heritage Site.