Bear With Me: Art of Dakota Bear Sanctuary

Image: Large Tree Trunk in the Dakota Bear Sanctuary

Bear With Me: Art of Dakota Bear Sanctuary

Dakota Bear Sanctuary, an ancient forest in traditional and unceded Skwxwú7mesh territory on the Sunshine Coast has been threatened with logging for the last decade. In August 2020, The Only Animal brought the Artist Brigade there, and unleashed a hive of artistic creation intended to protect this forest. March 1, 2021 Skwxwú7mesh Nation announced that Dakota Bear Sanctuary was removed from the cutblock list and will be protected permanently.

The Skwxwú7mesh Nation, the Province, the forest defenders at Elphinstone Logging Focus and Living Forest Institute all have our deep gratitude. And you out there, if you signed a petition, sent a letter or postcard, are a member of the Artist Brigade or shared that work, this sweet victory belongs to you.



In August The Only Animal took a group of artists to Dakota Bear Sanctuary, an ancient yellow cedar forest on the Sunshine Coast that is threatened with logging. The artists saw some of BC’s oldest trees, crawled inside bear dens, snacked on wild blueberries, and learned the history. On the traditional lands of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation, we gathered around the pre-contact Culturally Modified Trees. Then the artists pitched pieces from their artistic impulses that might help protect the forest. We invite you to experience those pieces in our online gallery: Bill Hawley’s photography, Jessica Harvey’s music video, Teo Saefkow’s sound walk and Trent Maynard and Sophia Dagher’s films.

'Bear With Me' is brought to you by The Only Animal's Artist Brigade. The Artist Brigade brings the arts and artists to the front lines of the climate movement.  The goal is to bring artistic imagination, vision and the heart into the telling of the climate story in order to mobilize a society paralyzed by climate anxiety and grief. It is a leaderless, national movement to spark exponential growth of climate action. For more information and to sign-up for the Artist Brigade, visit us here.

*Funded by the Canada Council’s Sector Innovation Program

Video by Sophia Dagher
For more information, please visit our partners:

Poetry | by James King

The project began as a series of erasure poems created out of a ministry of timber report on Old Growth forest. Gradually that mutated into what we have today – a series of poems inspired by the reading of government reports on forestry. Broadly, the poems are concerned with language, history, ecology and the idea of the divine. 

Poem 1: lately I've been carrying a tiny book into the forest in it are the names of all the trees and plants. here are the ones I know: cedar, douglas fir, hemlock deer ferd, sword fer, salal, oregon grape, huckleberry...I am thirty two years old and have lived here all my life [poem by James King]                                                                                                                              Poem II: trees! tall woody pointy things some with needles some with leaves all stretching up towards the Great Almighty (buddha, yahweh, allah, christ) whether it matters or not to know the name of a tree a name doesn't make it any more impressive or beautiful or true does a cedar care whether it is called "a cedar"? or course not and yet there's comfort in language in waking up and finding the world exactly as you left it the stove light on a lone butter knife lying wet in the sink If I called this place hoe, would I be wrong?                                                                                           Poem III: (indigenous spelling of - sitka spruce) (indigenous spelling of - douglas fir) (indigenous spelling of - standing wood "cedar") when the Romans conquered the Greeks they took all their old gods and gave them new names but they weren't really the same gods after that were they? hollowed out indexed pinned with a fancy latin title: "deum primitus" (god of a sub-species now part of a larger genus or god hierarchy) [poem by James King]                                                                                                                       Poem IV: in the late nineteenth century, the "crown", renowned for its sagactiy and sophistication, introduced a new fashion to the west coast: "clear cutting" a protestant word. roughly translated, it meant "beyond good or evil": patterns of clouds stretch over the land, light floods the earth, It has been this way since forever What has been will be again What hasbeen done will be done again There is nothing new under the sun And yet - The body still yearned At night, ghost limbs danced in the new emptiness [poem by James King]                                                                                                                        Poem V: The morning light coming through the hemlocks The steam rising off of the branches Sometimes it helps to take a picture Sometimes it's better to remind yourself that you are alive experiencing this that this will never again happen in exactly the same way that even if you could photograph ita photo would never do justice to the wonder that brought you here sometimes it's better to keep your phone in your pocket or not to bring a phone at all [poem by James King]


Photography | “We’re Logging More Than Our Old-Growth Trees”
By Bill Hawley

I travelled to the Dakota Bear Sanctuary on a day where the entire province was  blanketed in a thick smoke caused by forest fires in California and elsewhere in the United States. It was powerful seeing the literal, physical effects of climate change on our way of life, feeling your lungs burning slightly from inhaling particles in the air but then walking into an ancient forest and being amongst something that is one of the last remaining natural tools for preventing these global climate catastrophes from becoming the norm. 

While on the walk we heard from Hans Penner about the struggles that Elphinstone Logging Focus has had with BCTS over the years of fighting to keep this forest from being  logged and sold as timber. Living in the city you are so removed from these ancient forests that  there is an out-of-sight-out-of-mind headspace where people don’t think about where their  wood products come from and what effect clear cutting large swaths of old growth forest has  on the world.  

With the help of The Only Animal and 123 West we set out to create images that would take the issue of protecting old growth forest and bring it into the eyes of the people, make them take a second look and realize what’s at stake.

Tracker | a demo
By Jessica Harvey

Ancient Wonders of the Dakota Bear Sanctuary | a short film
By Trent Maynard

Artists in Dialogue

One of the projects to protect Dakota Bar Sanctuary was the art exhibition “Our Ancient Forests” curated by Sadira Rodrigues at Sunshine Coast Arts Centre. Meet the artist, and do a virtual tour of the exhibit in this virtual artist talkback from November 2020.

Forest Walk Through the Dakota Bear Sanctuary
By Teo Saefkow

Take a listen, in your own neighbourhood, or just in your home. (mp3 option available below).