In this case, our group depicts Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’s work with environmental art and activism, through the Quechuan parable, “Flight of the Hummingbird.” A collection of MNY’s art appears alongside brief discussions of Haida activism against logging and oil spills. Overhead, the hummingbird bravely fights the fire overtaking her home, a metaphor for taking action against environmental destruction: in the face of overwhelming disaster, she chooses to do what she can.
The Hummingbird Animated
Parable of the Hummingbird
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas's TED Talk
In 2020, the Vancouver Opera and Pacific Opera Victoria presented an opera interpretation of the story. The 45-minute chamber opera was designed for a child audience, and expanded on the parable with colorful costumes and lively interactions between the animals of the forest. In this version, the Dukdukdiya inspires the other animals to take action against the fire, and protect their home.
An excerpt of the performance with a brief interview with Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Haida Activism Against Logging
“Yahgulanaas’ art and activism directs public attention to our universal responsibility: protecting the environment. In 1985, Haida leaders, families, and supporters stood against clear-cut logging in Gwaii Haanas. This peaceful protest, known as Athlii Gwaii, ended in 72 arrests, including Yahgulanaas’. However, it also led to the establishment of the Gwaii Haanas Park Reserve.”
Haida Activism Against Oil Spills
“The Haida Nation has always fought to protect lands and seas from corporations exploiting natural resources. The 2008 Enbridge Northern Gateway Project heightened tensions, proposing the annual passage of 400+ oil tankers through Hecate Strait with minimal concern for affected Indigenous communities, marine life, or inevitable spills. The Project was fortunately rejected in 2016.”
Flight of the Hummingbird
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas with Wangari Maathai and His Holiness Dalai Lama
"Hummingbirds have long been a symbol of wisdom and courage. In this charming story, a hummingbird makes a valiant effort to put out a raging fire that threatens her forest home — trip after trip, her beak is filled each time with just a drop of water. Her efforts show her woodland companions that doing something — anything — is better than doing nothing at all. The hummingbird parable, with origins in the Quechuan people of South America, has become a talisman for environmentalists and activists who are committed to making meaningful change in the world. In this inspiring story, the determined hummingbird does everything she can to put out a raging fire that threatens her forest home. The hummingbird—symbol of wisdom and courage—demonstrates that doing something is better than doing nothing at all."