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2010 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Finalist: Jessie Housty

For too long, Heiltsuk youth have been undermined by the common stereotype of First Nations as victims and have-nots; while it is undeniable that Indigenous peoples around the world have been marginalized in untold ways, we believe the misconception that our people are less because they have less does a disservice to the power and positive energy that exists deep in our community on every level.
—Jessie Housty, proposal to initiate a Heiltsuk Youth Capacity Building Initiative

Jessie Housty
Jessie Housty
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Jessie Housty, (Heiltsuk First Nation), is an honored 2010 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award finalist for her highly innovative and passionate commitment to provide cultural opportunities for her peers and for the wider community, in particular her role in the creation of the Thistalalh Memorial Library in Bella Bella, British Columbia. Herself a young woman, Housty has regularly volunteered as a teacher, mentor, helper, and program initiator, serving others in her own community and abroad.

Before the creation of the Thistalalh Memorial Library in 2007, the remote British Columbia community of Bella Bella had no publicly accessible collection of literature, no bookstore or lending library, and no literacy programs. Seeing a need and believing strongly that all children and adults deserve access to books, Jessie successfully pursued the dream of creating a community library. Through networking, pursuit of grants, and avid promotion and program development, Jessie gathered a central and still growing collection of several thousand books and a strong body of patrons for the library. Literacy programs were created, book clubs started, and events offered to meet diverse interests. Jessie continues to help other communities develop similar programs. The library was named to honor the memory of Jessie’s grandfather, hereditary Chief Ed Martin, who held the traditional name Thistalalh among his chief’s names. Ed Martin was a prominent figure in the cultural reawakening of the Heiltsuk People and known as a great storyteller.

Jessie Housty is in fact a storyteller in her own right and a published poet as well. She is pursuing a Master of Arts in English at the University of Victoria, with an interest in medieval language. She has combined her academic pursuits and interest in medieval literature with her background and keen interest in traditional and medicinal Heiltsuk plants. An avid volunteer ethnobotanist, Jessie initiated interviews with older women in the Heiltsuk community to learn about traditional uses of plants and herbs, and to discover their locations. Out of this work, she produced an Eco-manual on traditional Heiltsuk plants. Her Master’s thesis work, in progress at the University of Victoria, is exemplary of the way Jessie is combining a keen interest in the ways and wisdom of her people with her love of literature.

In her work with the Qqs Project Society, a non-profit Heiltsuk organization supporting youth, culture and respect for the environment, Jessie is serving as the Society’s Chief Conservancy Management Planner, and as Director of Traditional Ecological Knowledge. She has been involved in the summer educational camps and field operations in the Koeye River Watershed of the Great Bear Rainforest, in the establishment of a scientific field station, ecotourism operations and youth camps. She has worked with the Raincoast Conservation Society as a field assistant in the first study of Sandhill cranes on the central coast of British Columbia and is also involved in ongoing research into the Great Bear Rainforest’s wolf population.

Jessie Housty’s strong interest in Heiltsuk culture and language has fueled her work to engage youth and community in the practice and preservation of Heiltsuk language and ceremony. She is involved in learning and perpetuating the traditional practice of oral history, and of preserving the bighouse protocol and Heiltsuk traditional laws (gvi’ilas). Part of this work continues through the Koeye Café in Bella Bella, a gathering place Jessie took part in establishing as a means of keeping the work of the summer camps alive in her village.

After the earthquake of January, 2010 in Haiti, Jessie traveled to Haiti as part of the Global Volunteer Network. She returned to her people with a plan for a Heiltsuk Youth Capacity Building Initiative, to provide her peers with relevant volunteer opportunities in “…a First Nations Youth Corp that provides youth with relevant volunteer programs and internships around the world, linking them to networks of Indigenous and conversation-based programs that shake them out of those down-and-out reservation stereotypes and help them to recognize their own potential through experience and positive challenge.”

Currently twenty-four years of age, Jessie Housty has blessed her community with vision, wisdom and actions that distinguish her as an outstanding emerging leader.


2010 Honorees

Terry L. Cross

Jessie Housty

Kim Recalma-Clutesi

Sandra Sunrising Osawa



Astrid Scholz
tel: 503.467.0758
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Jason Pretty Boy
Indigenous Resilience Fellow
tel: 503.467.0803


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