Pages Navigation Menu

The Giants (Clayoquot Trials)

Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, 1993

'Satyagraha' (truth force) manifests as resistance to tyranny through mass non-violent civil disobedience.

"The Satyagrahi’s object is to convert, not to coerce, the wrong-doer"    - Gandhi


THE GIANTS (Clayoquot Trials)  

 (words and music Mike Ford 2008)


Rainforest grove ten thousand years old

Drips with creation and anticipation

Of the harvest machine but there in between

With a brother and a sister, stubborn resister

 The Nuu-chah-nulth elder holds her hand







Outside all laws, mechanical claws

Plan their next maneuver from a desk in Vancouver

But this confident crowd under gray Clayoquot cloud

Holds fast to the process of Martin and The Mahatma







Could you believe the majesty

There on the side of eternity ?


Dragged of with hooks for telephone books

By kings of extraction – they never counted on this reaction









Key Terms & Phrases


Clayoquot Sound is an area on the west side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is part of a majestic temperate rainforest that has dwindled greatly in size over the past 2 centuries – and has been a focal point for rainforest preservation against the ravages of unsustainable forestry practices. The vast coastal temperate rain forest area contains rivers, lakes, marine areas and beaches. It includes part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and some of Strathcona Provincial Park. Clayoquot Sound is home to wolves, black bears, cougars, grey whales, orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions, river otters, bald eagles, osprey, Marbled Murrelets, Pacific Loons, Roosevelt Elk, and raccoons.


Nuu-chah-nulth are one of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada. The term 'Nuu-chah-nulth' is used to describe fifteen separate but related nations, such as the Nuchatlaht First Nation, whose traditional home is in the Pacific Northwest on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Clayoquot Sound is one of their traditional and present-day homelands. The Nuu-chah-nulth language is part of the Wakashan language group. In their language, Nuu-chah-nulth means “all along the mountains and sea”.

For 2 centuries, more recent arrivals have usually referred to them as ‘The Nootka’, which was a misunderstanding from the time of the explorer James Cook, who, upon arrival near Clayoquot Sound, was told to circle around (‘Nuutkaa!’) by the natives who met his boat.

The Nuu-chah-nulth and other Pacific Northwest cultures are famous for their potlatch ceremonies, in which the host honours guests with generous gifts. The term 'potlatch' is ultimately a word of Nuu-chah-nulth origin. The purpose of the potlatch is manifold: re-distribution of wealth, maintenance conference and recognition of social status[5][6], cementing alliances, the celebration and solemnization of marriage, and commemoration of important events.

Today the Nuu-chah-nulth culture is rich and strong, and its communities have led the cause of preservation and renewal in Clayoquot Sound.



Refers to Dr. Martin Luther King, leader of the Civil Rights movement in the United States in the 1950s and 60s.



Refers to Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869 - 1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement. He pioneered satyagraha. This is defined as resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa, or total nonviolence. This concept helped India to gain independence, and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Gandhi is often referred to as the Mahatma (meaning Great Soul in Sanskrit). That honorific title was first applied to him by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore.

“The Satyagrahi’s object is to convert, not to coerce, the wrong-doer.”[4] Success is defined as cooperating with the opponent to meet a just end that the opponent is unwittingly obstructing.

Gandhi contrasted satyagraha (holding on to truth) with “duragraha” (holding on by force), as in protest meant more to harass than enlighten opponents. He wrote: “There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause.



With satyagraha, Mahatma Gandhi ushered in a new era of civilian resistance on the political scenario of the world. The word was coined to aptly define the mode of non-violent resistance that the Indians at South Africa were building against the oppressive British colonialists. The word has been variedly interpreted, but literally it is a combination of two words, signifying truth and force. By connotation, it means an unshaken faith in truth, unwavering even in the face of adversity. Satyagraha for Gandhi was the only legitimate way to earn one's political rights, as it was based on the ideals of truth and non-violence. Satyagraha was the key aspect of all revolutions of the Indian National Movement in the Gandhian era of Indian history for more twenty long years, and its legacy was carried on long after him as Martin Luther King used it in his battle against racism. Satyagraha has not been free of criticism, but its methodologies have gained wide acceptance around the world as a more potent tool of resistance than armed violence.

Origins of Satyagraha: Term and Influences

Gandhi was in need of a term to connote the revolution against the British imperialists that he organized in South Africa. 'Passive resistance', his first perfunctory choice, was not only a foreign term that Gandhi had strong reservations about, but the connotations of the term was also inadequate to highlight the aspect of truth and moral courage that Gandhi associated with non-violent political resistance. Moreover, it put political ends at the forefront, dissociated from deeper ideological values. Gandhi needed an Indian name that could encompass all these aspects of the revolution within it. A competition was thrown open in the local newspaper, 'Indian Opinion', and 'sadagraha' was elected as the best entry. Gandhi took the term, but changed it to 'satyagraha' highlighting the aspect of 'truth' in it. 'Satyagraha' was based on the principles of non-violence, which was the founding principle of Gandhi's political ideology, that was based on as much as theological tenets of Jainism, Buddhism, Upanishads and the Bhagwatgita, as on the political theories of Tolstoy, Ruskin and Thureau.

His (Ghandi’s) days of silence and retirement were not days of mere ‘privacy’; they belonged to India and he owed them to India, because his “spiritual life” was simply his participation in the life and dharma of his people. (Merton)






Historical Context

During the summer of 1993 over 850 people were arrested and 12,000 people demonstrated in opposition to logging in the ancient forests of Clayoquot Sound.

The magnificent forests and the strength of the non-violent protests captured the imagination of the public and the media. Canadians, Americans and Europeans flocked to the Peacecamp, and every morning before dawn they caravanned down a dusty logging road to the demonstration site. When logging trucks arrived at the Kennedy River Bridge, the international media turned on their camera lights and brought the stand off to TV sets and radios all around the world.

The protests were generally headed by Friends of Clayoquot Sound and local First Nations ( ). An earlier victory was achieved when these groups successfully pressured the government to suspend all logging on nearby Meares Island – a suspension that continues to this day. In 1992, protesters began blockades protesting forestry company MacMillan Bloedel’s logging in the Clayoquot River valley. Sparked by the British Columbia government's 1993 decision to log 74% of Clayoquot Sound's ancient forest, the blockade became the largest peaceful civil disobedience in Canadian history. Actions were centered at a ‘Peace Camp’ and daily blockades and arrests at Kennedy River Bridge culminated, in September, with 856 people arrested. There were over 12,000 protest participants during "Clayoquot Summer 93".

The subsequent trials, incarcerations, and the attention they drew helped push industry and government practices in a positive direction. A new forestry partnership was created between MacBlo and First Nations groups, and a joint initiative of Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Sierra Clun and Greenpeace took a leadership role in marketing newly certified paper products – products that contained no old-growth forest materials and reflected more sustainable industry practices.

It should be understood that all the impressive gains effected by the protesters at Clayoquot Sound could be overturned at any time in the future – continual vigilance and creative partnerships are needed to ensure that the more ecologically sound momentum is built upon rather than lost. Some believe that the government and forest industry are just using the inspiring turnaround at Clayoquot as a feel-good decoy to keep focus away from clear-cutting that goes on elsewhere in the province, and indeed across Canada. The region has more recently seen protests and awareness-raising around the issue of farm-raised salmon (stocks of Genetically Modified fish that could easily crossbreed with the area’s legendary wild salmon populations). Presently, mining companies are seeking approval to mine sections of the region, a scenario that has environmentalists and locals justifiably alarmed.

Today art pieces featuring the forest protests hang on the walls of the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the BC Museum designates ‘Clayoquot ’93’ as one of the most significant events in BC’s history.



Composer's Notes

I knew my 12-song look at 20th Century Canada had to include a song connected to the great surge of environmental awareness the country saw in the last few years of that century. I had assumed I would use the focal points of either Greenpeace (the internationally known made-in-Canada organization) or the work of David Suzuki (world-renowned Canadian scientist and eco-journalist). My focus changed on an eye-opening trip my wife and I took to Tofino, British Columbia in 2005, when we had the incredible pleasure of exploring parts of the awe-inspiring Clayoquot Sound, met organizers of ‘Friends of Clayoquot Sound” and were introduced to the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation.

The summer of 1993 saw the largest civil disobedience campaign in Canadian history, and subsequently the largest mass trials in North American history. Earlier that year, the BC government decided to allow clear-cutting in 62% of the Clayoquot Sound ancient temperate rainforest, giving birth to a massive (and peaceful) preservation movement. This majestic rainforest was to be flattened by extraction companies whose major clients were makers of telephone books. Thanks to the efforts and sacrifice of thousands of activists, the issue became worldwide news, and a growing embarrassment to Canada and some of the corporations involved. A peaceful logging road blockade resulted in the trial of 857 protesters, many of whom were then imprisoned, many of whom were grandmothers. The story can be seen as turning point – in a flash, millions of Canadians became aware not only of the disastrous results of clear-cutting. Most didn’t even know there was rainforest in Canada. The protests, trials and growing awareness led to (tentative) protection of this part of the ancient forest, and were a catalyst in the adoption of less harmful forest-extraction methods and increased use of recycled materials in paper-product manufacturing.

For me, the key to all of this is the way the protest was conducted. On Canada Day, 1993, protesters set up a ‘Peace Camp’ close to the area at issue, which was visited by over 12,000 activists over the summer. All those wishing to participate in protests there had to study, and then affirm adherence to the Peaceful Direct Action Code. The PDAC involves a pledge, inspired by the writings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King (as well as then emerging aspects of eco-feminist thought) before taking part in acts of Civil Disobedience. Five points in this pledge are:

•attitude of openness, friendliness and respect

•restraint from violence

•restraint from property damage

•refusal to carry weapons

•pledge not to run


Not passive resistance but nonviolent force born of truth. “Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth.” – MKG

Hold on a minute…

It should be stated that while Sitka Spruce…, make up the majority of trees in the Clayoquot Sound area, Fir are not generally present there. I liked the way the word fit sonically in the phrasing, and of course Fir trees are very present in other British Columbia forests – many of them equally threatened by unsustainable forestry practices, so I have left the term in the song


I wanted the sound of the song to somehow reflect the sense of timelessness one feels in the great forests of southwest Vancouver Island. I asked my brilliant colleague David Matheson what he could do in this regard for my fairly simple acoustic ballad. He set to twiddlin’ the dials, and the result is this effect that takes the audio input given (my voice and guitar) and distorts them into the swirling airy world heard here. Another case of technology in capable hands (David's!).

I also wanted something to musically signify the sacrifices taken on by committed, peaceful activists…something to connect the spirit of nonviolent resistance at Clayoquot with the moving examples of Satyagraha we learn of in the movements led by Gandhi and MLK and Mandela. To signify this, I decided to bring back the string quartet heard in Creeping Barrage. In this case, they play (beautifully) a simple chording pad to accompany the final chorus.


Activities and Class Discussions


Clayoquot green economic activities project “Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are botanical products of the forest other than timber, pulpwood, firewood or similar wood products. Including wild mushrooms, floral greens, Christmas greenery, wild foods, medicinal and craft species, they are also referred to as special forest products. NTFPs are estimated to contribute over $250 million per year to the BC economy. When cultural tourism activities related to NTFPs are taken into account, the economic impact of these resources on the provincial economy is even greater. NTFPs are increasingly being considered as an opportunity for diversification in communities impacted by downturns in other resource sectors.

The goal of those supporting the sector is to find the "highest and best use" for all timber harvested. Neither commodity lumber production nor pulp (both considered primary processing rather than secondary or tertiary processing) are typically included in this category.”

Value-added products produced in BC include, among others:

•Semi-finished/remanufactured wood products such as crates, decking, edge-glued products, furniture cutstock, pallet stock, specialty cut lumber, siding, veneer, shingles

•Structural and engineered wood products and building components such as floor trusses, I-Beams, plywood

•Factory build or pre-fabricated housing and structures

•Furniture, cabinets,

•Windows, doors, flooring and other millwork

•Specialty items (crafts, toys, musical instruments)


Activity Theme

The Giants (Clayoquat Trials) – Civil Disobedience

A great theme is the ‘friends of’ people – create a ‘friends of’ for something in your hood.

Survey the characteristics / components / methods of a ‘friends of’ group – emulate.

(big: claq sound / small :felstead park) RIVERKEEPERS

-is sustainability an issue



- what activist, publicity methods could be proposed for this venture?


1)Take a look at these 3 citizens groups created to protect (or ‘steward’) a part of the world, from Canada’s Pacific coast (“Friends of Clayoquot Sound”) to one of the world’s great tidal estuaries (New York State’s “Riverkeepers”) to the rejuvenation of a river and valley in Canada’s largest city (Toronto’s “Bring Back the Don”). Consider these points:

•What methods, media and otherwise, does the group use to spread their message?

•What are their professed ‘mission statements’?

•What does membership entail?

•What activities to they organize?

•What methods - legal, organizational, political, activist or otherwise - do they utilize?


2) Go over the following readings and summarize what legal tools and agencies are available to a Canadian citizen wishing to protect a natural area or stop a polluter.


3) “Friends of…” groups have been created even for small city parks – areas where communities realized that without their efforts, special neighbourhood places would continue to degrade environmentally, culturally and become socially dangerous. (EXAMPLES).



Propose a “Friends of…” initiative for an area that does not yet have one. It could be massive (James Bay…), large () medium-sized (a creek in your city or town) or small (a parkette in your neighbourhood).



References / Suggested Readings

MacIsaac, Ron and Anne Champagne Clayoquot Mass Trials: Defending the Rainforest Victoria: New Society Publishers, 1995

Vaillant, John The Golden Spruce: A true story of Myth, Madness and Greed Random House Canada, 2005

Peter Garret, lead singer of the band ‘Midnight Oil’, was one of the celebrities who joined the protests at Clayaqout Sound. Many of his band’s songs are relevant to this theme, especially ‘Beds Are Burning’ (avail. iTunes/youTube, etc.)

Friends of Clayoquot Sound