The Vancouver Sun later confirmed the events of that night: two hikers found two dead bodies at Camper Creek on the West Coast Trail on the sixth of May 1998. The article didn’t say who the hikers were, nor did it say who the dead Native Americans were, for what would the world do with those four meaningless names? None of the four was famous, beautiful, or rich: just normal people drawn together on one particular night. The encounter was determined by two simple factors: the speed of the hikers along the soggy trail and the speed of leaking gas that asphyxiated two men in a patrol cabin.
The hikers never knew the two indigenous people, except for what they wore that night, what booze they drank, and what side they slept on. And those simple details were just enough to make the dead bodies Human: capable of joking, singing, fighting, and eating. So the sudden termination of these lives confused the hikers, for they weren’t sure what they should feel about the death of two strangers. The hikers stared and stared at the bodies, perhaps feeling sadness for the friends, parents, and lovers of these men, but feeling only emptiness for the men themselves. They were just two more anonymous faces, frozen in their final dreams and nothing more than dead.
I. Dididat Nations
People have lived on Vancouver Island since the last ice age, when the Bering Strait froze and allowed human passage from Asia to North America. The Pacific Northwest tribes thrived for thousands of years in this rich ecosystem, where trees grow to such vast sizes that a hollow trunk may hold twenty people without much trouble. For thousands of years, the forest remained a bountiful network of life: moss and lichens crept over every tree trunk and rock while bears crashed through the forest eating pounds of berries. Overhead, bald eagles soared, sharp eyes watching and waiting for their next morsel of food. And in the blue-green streams salmon leapt as they migrated from the ocean back to their birth places, where native tribes collected and ate them. .
It was only a hundred and fifty years ago that Captain Cook came here, and with him Small Pox and greedy settlers. The white people were anxious to sell fish and timber to other parts of the world, perhaps unknowingly also selling the souls of the indigenous people. And the white people built this West Coast Trail so they could rescue sailors from the many, many shipwrecks off the coast of the island. Now the trail is a tourist attraction, heavily trafficked by Europeans and Americans. It cuts through the land of numerous tribes, land that has never been truly owned but is considered the territory of certain groups. Hikers are warned to stay on the trail by signs that read "You are on the land of the Dididat Nations: do not stray from the trail: No trespassing allowed." And the native people have jobs maintaining the trail, running ferry services to it, selling fresh seafood, hotdogs, and Coke to...