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2010 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Kim Recalma-Clutesi

There was a time on this great land when all was not separated. Long before the flood, long before the beginning of the world as we know it today…all the kingdoms spoke with one language and with one voice; the animal kingdom, the undersea kingdom, the elements, and the creatures that flew closest to the heavens. The world knew no boundaries, no limitations. Everything was alive, the trees, the plant life, the wind, the sun and the moon. Nothing was separated, all was one. Man and woman were to come into a land where all was interconnected and interdependent on each other. In the great circles of this land all lands stretched out between the worlds, the kingdoms and the elements. All had a responsibility to this planet. It was a time of harmony, great humility and the profound awareness of how each one’s supernatural energy balanced the other…
Kim Recalma-Clutesi for the XV Commonwealth Games Operating Ceremonies, the Legend of Kawadillikalo, opening narration, August 1994, Victoria, BC

Kim Recalma-Clutesi
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Kim Recalma-Clutesi, Ogwi’low’gwa, (Kwagiulth/Pentlatch) is the honored recipient of the 2010 Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award for her decades of work as an activist and political organizer, cross-cultural interpreter, teacher and academic researcher of ethnobotany, reporter, photographer, historian and award-winning videographer and producer. Kim has devoted most of her life to learning, teaching, interpreting and preserving the Kwagiulth/Pentlatch culture, heritage and history of her people. She is a recognized expert on intellectual property rights for her people and led the file on revising the policies on repatriating sacred artifacts and objects. Recalma-Clutesi served as the elected Chief to the Qualicum Band of Indians in British Columbia from 2002 to 2006 and served on dozens of Aboriginal NGOs, always taking the lead to set policy and changes to Aboriginal rights-based issues. She lectures extensively on cross-cultural interpretations of the values held within her nation and has organized multiple key cultural gatherings for the outside world locally, regionally, nationally and internationally as well.

Based on the Qualicum Indian Reserve on the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., Kim is the daughter of hereditary Chief Ewanuxdzi, the late Buddy Recalma and sister and cultural advisor to the current Chief Klaqwagila, Mark Recalma. She worked with both her parents since her teens and until their passing, on their lifelong fight for Aboriginal rights, beginning as a photographer, videographer, editor, typesetter and graphics artist for the R.A.V.E.N. Society. Her youth and adulthood were steeped in land, social and economic rights, language and ceremony reclamation, and the regaining of access to traditional lands and food resources. From childhood, Kim was trained in ethnobotany, indigenous food gathering and preparation practices, cultural and ritual art and oral history. She has spent a career making this knowledge available to her people and to the wider community.

As a mature student at the University of Victoria, Kim helped revitalize the Native Student Union, served as its president and was elected twice to the UVic Senate, a position not since or before held by a First Nations student. She spearheaded an Aboriginal admissions policy, developed new history courses drawing on oral history, planned and produced two campus-wide tri-cultural events that led to an invitation to be the Co-Chair of the Native Participation Committee and was appointed associate producer for the Legend of Kawadillikala for the 1994 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremonies.

From 1989 until the present, Recalma-Clutesi has been a member of the Ninogad Collective, an organization formed by traditionally trained holders of ritual rights and privileges to mentor Chief George Shaughnessy and Kim in the gender-specific roles associated with the ritual world of the Kwagiulth people. Together, the members of the collective operate in all forms of traditional visual arts to organize hundreds of potlatches, feasts and ceremonies, to teach singing, dancing, regalia and props making, and to instruct families on their responsibilities and the rules of the potlatch ritual world.

Recalma-Clutesi has been a consultant to innumerable heads of governmental departments, giving keynote presentations, lectures and workshops for agencies from the Ministry of Highways and Ministry of Forests, to Heritage Conservation and the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. She has developed and conducted cultural competence training for fisheries and police officers. She has also chosen to volunteer for the Arthritis Society of British Columbia, working to improve services and facilities for people with arthritis, she herself serving as a role model for people with disabilities.

Recalma-Clutesi has worked on film documentaries that illuminate aspects of traditional ecological practices, illustrating the intimate relationship between indigenous peoples and their environments on the B.C. coast. The National Geographic film on the Clam Gardens of the Broughton Archipelago “Ancient Sea Gardens: Mysteries of the Northwest Coast,” grew out of expeditions Kim organized for researchers and younger village community members alike, to traditional plant harvesting sites to learn about resource management protocols from clan Chief Adam Dick (Kwaxistalla). Kim was the main writer, director, producer, researcher and narrator of “Smoke from His Fire,” a film about the sequestered childhood of Kwaxistalla, his training as a traditional potlatch leader, and the crucial importance of the potlatch tradition to native peoples. The film won Best Documentary at the Dreamspeakers International Film Festival 2008.

Recalma-Clutesi continues to live on the Qualicum Indian Reserve, Vancouver Island, B.C. Her past and ongoing research and public education efforts are all undertaken to illuminate and strengthen indigenous resource stewardship traditions and knowledge systems that incorporate the ancestral caring for the environment as a fundamental principle.


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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