An Activist's Life
Raven Walks around the World
by Thom Henley
The colourful autobiography of Thom Henley: environmentalist, human rights advocate and co-founder of the Rediscovery wilderness program for youth.
In 1970, twenty-two-year-old Thom Henley left Michigan and drifted around the northwest coast, getting by on odd jobs and advice from even odder characters. He rode the rails, built a squatter shack on a beach, came to be known as "Huckleberry" and embarked on adventures along the West Coast and abroad that, just like his Mark Twain namesake, situated him in all the right and wrong places at all the right and wrong times. Eventually, a hippie named Stormy directed him to Haida Gwaii where, upon arrival, a Haida Elder affirmed to the perplexed Huckleberry that she had been expecting him. From that point onward, Henley's life unfolded as if destiny were at work--perhaps with a little help from Raven, the legendary trickster.
While kayaking the remote area around South Moresby Island, Henley was struck by the clear-cut logging and desecration of ancient Haida village sites. Henley collaborated with the Haida for the next fourteen years to spearhead the largest environmental campaign in Canadian history and the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Park. Later, he became a co-founder of Rediscovery--a wilderness program for First Nations and non-aboriginal youth that would become a global model for reconciliation.
Henley's story is peppered with a cast of unlikely characters serendipitously drawn together, such as the time he hosted then-Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and entourage, including five-year-old Justin Trudeau, at his remote driftwood hippie hut (the visit was unanticipated and at the time the helicopter touched down, Henley and a friend were doing laundry). Over and over, Henley found himself at the epicentre of significant events that included a historic train caravan across Canada, an epic Haida canoe voyage, an indigenous rights campaign world tour for the Penan tribespeople of Borneo, as well as two global disasters--the 2004 South Asian tsunami and the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
Beautifully recounted with passion, humour and humility, Raven Walks around the World is a moving and thoughtful account of a life lived in harmony with the land and community.