A shishalh Nation Knowledge-keeper shares poetry and stories


Before xwu’p’a’lich Barbara Higgins was born in 1933, members of the shíshálh Nation were waiting for her to take on the role of Rememberer or Knowledge-keeper (her ancestral name means “she weaves”). Since then, she has voiced the importance of preserving Nature, her people’s land, language, and culture through her stories, poems, and activism. See my related photos and feature about her in the winter 2022 issue of Sunshine Coast Life magazine: Barbara Higgins story winter 2023.



Candace Campo celebrates her Indigenous history, culture and ancestors through Talaysay Tours

I profiled and photographed Candace Campo, co-founder of Talaysay Tours and a shishalh Nation member, for the winter 2022 issue of Sunshine Coast Life Magazine. Each year, her First Nations ecotour company hosts visitors from around the globe, introducing them to Pacific Northwest Indigenous culture, history, ancestors, local flora and fauna, and the spiritual significance of all of them.

Click here to read the feature and see photos.





Talaysay Tours photo

Jessica Silvey weaves the legacy of ancestors in cedar



It was a delight to profile Jessica Silvey, who’s shíshálh and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) with the ancestral name Kwahama Kwatleematt, and has been weaving cedar baskets, hats, and décor for more than 30 years. I profiled her, the owner of Red Cedar Woman studio, as the cover story for the winter 2021 issue of Sunshine Coast Life Magazine.

Click here to read the feature and see photos.



Heather Conn photo

New trail signs to honour value of old-growth forest and shíshálh heritage

I am delighted to have worked as an editor on a new series of interpretive signs for the Community Health Trail on Mt. Elphinstone on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. As part of an initiative by Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), the signs highlight the importance of old-growth forests and their flora and fauna. With himus (Calvin Craigan), a shíshálh Nation knowledge-keeper as consultant, we included shíshálh words on each sign and the First Nations medicinal use of various plants and trees.

I learned a lot on this project, which reinforced how the shíshálh Nation, for many centuries, has lived in harmony with these forests, making full use of bark, berries, trees, and plants to sustain their lives and culture, while today’s non-Indigenous industries seem bent on destroying these lands.

This four-kilometre stretch of trail, designated by ELF, traverses a low-elevation, emerging old-growth forest on the slopes of Mt. Elphinstone. It connects two isolated parcels of Mt. Elphinstone Provincial Park and ELF hopes that the park will expand around it. These small areas face possible destruction by adjacent development and logging.

My essay “A slow goodbye” part of new anthology

As my late husband Frank McElroy was dying at home through 2018-19, it was tough to write about my challenges as a caregiver. Although I couldn’t distance myself from the ongoing experience, I wanted to describe both my conflicting emotions and the overwhelming support and generosity of my local community.

The result became the essay “A slow goodbye,” which appears in the 2019 anthology New Beginnings, published by Timbercrest Publishing, an imprint created by my writing student Erik D’Souza. I juxtaposed my own sense of loss with the environmental degradation and receding shorelines resulting from climate change on Easter Island.

At this month’s book launch for the anthology in Port Moody, BC, I cried as a I read an excerpt from my essay. It was a mere six weeks after my hubby’s death and things still felt raw. But I got through it, grateful to share some of our love story with an appreciative audience. (The anthology is an excellent collection of 39 voices, diverse genres, and cultural accounts.)

Arts reporter Rik Jespersen wrote an article about my essay for The Coast Reporter of Sechelt, BC. Click here to read it.

The Making of Tetrahedron Park: how the conservation movement started on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast

Raincoast Chronicles cover
“The Making of Tetrahedron Park” (my 3,000-word feature, with photos): A group of dedicated volunteers lobbied hard to save 6,000 hectares on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, protecting old-growth forest and habitat for diverse species. This helped launch the conservation movement on the Sunshine Coast.

In the summer and fall of 1987, 240 volunteers built four wilderness cabins in the Tetrahedron region, named after Tet Peak (1,737 metres) . . .

The complete story, with historic photos, appears in Raincoast Chronicles 22, published by Harbour Publishing in the fall of 2013.

“A New Way”: new DVD highlights role of glacial rock dust in First Nations organic garden

(21.5 min.)
A New Way: An Organic Garden Saves Lives
written, directed, and produced by Heather Conn
cinematographer and editor: Ivy Miller

Story summary: A farmer, miner, and First Nations CEO create an organic demonstration garden using mined land, a “secret” ingredient, and a business/education model unique in Canada.

A new Way DVD cover low-res


A New Way: An Organic Garden Saves Lives

Whoever thought that North America’s largest gravel pit could help rebuild nature and produce food?

A New Way reveals how a special ingredient in organic gardening—glacial rock dust—is transforming a First Nations community in Sechelt, BC. Discover how a demonstration garden and new form of “black gold” (not petroleum) on Canada’s west coast has helped launch a First Nations business and education model unique in North America.

 You’ll meet a trio of innovators who reclaimed old mining land to create an award-winning project. They’re part of a visionary team that’s feeding people and teaching healthier ways to grow food. A New Way shares a success story of local action, collaboration, and building sustainability from the ground up—literally.

Two newspaper features address logging on BC’s Sunshine Coast

Jack Stein photo

Dozens of concerned residents on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast have rallied to help save species-diverse forest in Wilson Creek.

My news feature “Forest giants worth saving,” which outlined related community activities, appeared in The Local, a Sunshine Coast weekly, on Nov. 15, 2012.

Click this Saving forest giants link to read the published article.

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My feature “Sunshine Coast activists demand public consultation on Wilson Creek logging,” with photos, appeared in the Vancouver Observer on Dec. 6, 2012.

Click here to read the published article.

Aquifer conservation emphasized in Gibsons, BC

While a contract writer for the Town of Gibsons, I worked with chief administrative officer Emmanuel Machado in 2012/13 to produce news and press releases in local media.

Conservation issues were a key theme. My article “Gibsons moves to protect ‘world’s greatest water,'” which appeared in the Nov. 9, 2012 issue of the Coast Reporter, is one example.

Click on this Gibsons water link to read the article.

Almost three decades of eco-coverage

puffin-1 low-res

In the late 1980s, I served as publicist for an eco-tour hosted by the Quebec-Labrador Foundation/Atlantic Center for the Environment, based in Ipswich, MA.  The Center retraced the steps of naturalist John James Audubon on the Quebec North Shore.

I also took photographs and wrote about community-based educational projects to introduce children to Atlantic puffins.

Although  puffins are protected in eastern Canada, a tradition of serving them as a special meal at home still remains. In an attempt to stop this practice, the Atlantic Center for the Environment has brought children’s groups to see the puffins at bird sanctuaries; the hope is that the kids will then encourage their parents not to shoot these birds.