By Aaron Cheng
Haida Gwaii has left me with one of the most memorable experiences in my undergraduate education that I continually reflect on as I move through the rest of my life.
The Haida Gwaii Semester showed me that thriving communities are not built on size, goods or services found in an urban settings, but through close connections with like-minded individuals living and learning together. Through the participatory teachings and learnings with my cohort and instructors I got to interact with the dynamics of our environment through many field trips. In addition, I gained a wealth of knowledge by examining the resource management principles applied by the Haida Nation passed down from centuries of wisdom to maintain these ecological processes.
Since I have left, I have been in search of opportunities to work with the urban Aboriginal community to employ the knowledge gained from my experiences in Haida Gwaii to the Vancouver context. In June of 2015 I was hired on as a Planning Assistant with the City of Vancouver Housing Policy and Projects department. Our team has been involved with reviewing and implementing bold programs to improve housing affordability in the city. In order to fulfill my wish to work in Indigenous community planning I was able to assist on the development of the City of Vancouver Aboriginal Housing and Wellness Strategy that announced key housing projects with programs that were focused on building a stronger and healthier Aboriginal community. This strategy allowed me to assist on a plan to provide facilities and services that would promote Aboriginal cultural awareness, which I aspired to do after getting a sense of the enrichment that Haida culture could bring.
I still long to escape my city life in Vancouver and re-immerse myself in the natural landscapes and tight knit community in Queen Charlotte and Skidegate, Haida Gwaii. I hope to do this in the near future by applying for a graduate program that is related to Aboriginal studies and community planning with field school or research opportunities in Haida Gwaii. After the Haida Gwaii Semester I have come to realize the type of work I wish to pursue to make a difference and the next steps in my academic journey in order to continue to build on the foundation ideas and understandings developed from my Haida Gwaii education.