When examining the fate of our planet, there are certain pioneers who play an invaluable role in paving the way towards a more sustainable future. Jess Housty is one of these pioneers

From her role as executive director of Qqs Projects Society to board member of Nature United, Jess Housty's work in various environmental organizations and youth communities is inspiring and important. A member of the Heiltsuk tribe in Bella Bella, British Columbia, Jess has an intimate connection with the land—and she is passionate about nurturing this relationship within her community and beyond.

Environment 911 caught up with Jess to learn more about her activism work and to get her insights about the connection between people and the planet...


E911: Executive director of Qqs Projects Society, board member of Nature United, elected member of Heiltsuk Tribal Council, founding director of Thistalalh Memorial Library... your list of accomplishments seems endless! What are the guiding principles that help you determine which organizations to involve yourself with?

Jess: Most of my work is community-led, and I get involved with projects and organizations when they clearly align with my community's priorities. This has brought me to lots of interesting and fulfilling work! Because I have an overarching goal of helping my own community to thrive, I have a really helpful star to help guide my work.


E911: Can you describe the connection between the Heiltsuk people and the land. What are some of the ways in which you and your community harness strength from the natural world?

Jess: We are very place-based people, and our identity is written right on our territory. Our names, songs, ceremonies and stories are all intimately tied to our lands and waters and specific places in our territory. Our homelands are a living, breathing thing that care for us in a multitude of ways. Whether we're harvesting foods and medicines, or participating in ceremony or running land-based healing and education programs, our relationship to our territory gives structure to our lives and reaffirms our cultural identity as Heiltsuk people.

Jess HoustyJess HoustyE911: Much of your work focuses on the intersection between people and the environment. Why is it so important for youth and the larger community to foster a connection with their natural surroundings?

Jess: Much of my work is focused on creating opportunities for youth and families to be out in our homelands, and there's one core reason: people protect what they love. By taking them into sacred spaces and building a sense of community out on the lands and waters, I hope we're nurturing a deeper understanding and love for themselves, one another, our culture and our homelands. This helps our people and our territory to mutually thrive!


E911: Tell us about your work outside your community. What are you doing to help communities, the economy and nature work together as complementary entities in the wider world?

Jess: There are amazing lessons learned on the ground in community, and I believe it's important to share those lessons up to make change on bigger scales. Regional and national work gives me an opportunity to help shift policy, industries, the non-profit sector and public perception to align more with the wisdom, joy and power emerging from grassroots initiatives. That's why I'm proud to scale up my impact through work with Nature United, The Circle, and the LEVEL Program at Vancouver Foundation.Jess HoustyCayce Foster

E911: What are some of the ways in Qqs Projects Society blends Western science and Heiltsuk science to encourage responsibility and connection to lands, water and resources?

Jess: We believe that our youth should have every possible tool in their toolbox to help them steward and protect our lands and waters. That's why we work hard to build up their cultural identities and form strong links with their homeland. But it's also why we teach them about Heiltsuk science, to empower them with the deep knowledge systems of our ancestors, and Western science, which offers lots of great tools to deepen their understanding and make effective decisions about how to protect our lands and waters. We believe that teaching them the absolute best of all worlds will set them up for success as caretakers of our own territory.


E911: What do you feel most strongly and passionately that we all must do in order to sustain our planet for future generations?

Jess: I think the most important work we can do is to practice accountability and reciprocity, and to encourage that practice in our peers and demand it of our governments and the industrial sector. Our behaviours shift in positive ways when we hold ourselves accountable for the impact of our actions and commit to giving back in some form, as much or more than we take. Scale that up to national policies and business standards and we will all be empowered to make change within our respective spheres of influence!