A small town got their kids to rediscover their heritage. The results are exciting.

Right now, the kids of Bella Bella seem to be doing pretty great.

Bella Bella is a small town on an island off the coast of British Columbia, surrounded by the Great Bear Rainforest. You could walk from one objective of the town to the other in about 15 minutes. The only way in is by barge or plane.

The town is part of the native Heiltsuk Nation, and the kids there get plenty of opportunities to connect to their heritage and lands because of this. During the autumn, for example, the town hosts a salmon festival, and kids learn to fillet, smoke, and barbecue the large, snaggle-toothed fish. At other times, they might used to go into the rainforest or learn traditional stories.

Yep: all in all, Bella Bella looks pretty awesome.

But it hasn’t always been this way .

In the early 1970 s, Bella Bella was in a bad way. The local fishery, the town’s main source of income, was failing. There were deep social problems and alcoholism.

Worse yet, the town’s very identity as Heiltsuk was under attack. For decades, the Canadian government had been banning key culture ceremonies and removing children from their homes or placing them in often-abusive residential schools in an attempt to Europeanize them.

The adolescents in the town weren’t immune to this one-two punch. With a fractured culture, a general feeling of distrust of got anything to do with the government, and few job prospects, merely about one student in 50 was completing school . Maclean’s reports that the town had one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country.

Why? Because when you set out to destroy a people’s identity, it makes it hard for that community to prosper.

The town realized that in order to help their kids, they had to bring back that sense of identity and history.

One of seeds of this change was a government worker named Larry Jorgenson. Jorgenson had previously helped regroup Alberta’s mental health department, and Bella Bella hoped he could help them too.

Upon arriving, Jorgenson immediately set out helping to restore the kids’ fractured connection to their territory, taking them out on long barge journeys or helping them construct cabins. He even persuaded local law enforcement to let youth wrongdoers serve their sentences in the cabins a traditional practice rather than sending them to detention centers.

They did this for years. And in the 1990 s, they devoted these efforts an extra edge. The town and Jorgenson( who had since endeavoured to Bella Bella and married into the Heiltsuk community) started the nonprofit Qqs Project Society. Pronounced “kucks, ” Qqs( which means “eyes”) runs a science and cultural camp that helps children connect to their heritage.

The program helps teach children cultural traditions, gets them out of their comfort zones and into the wild, and brings in scientists, instructors, and local experts to teach the children about the islands and coasts that make up their home.

Today, Bella Bella is a most varied place.

Graduation rates top 85%. If you visited, you’d see that the kids seem to be doing well. There are still some social problems, but it’s a remarkable recovery from the dark days of the early ‘7 0s.

Jess Housty, communications director at Qqs and Jorgenson’s daughter, says one of the coolest things is that a lot of the kids who were originally helped by Jorgenson and Qqs are now coming back as adults to run as camp counselors, community leaders, researchers, and resource managers.

The town itself seems to be doing better, too. The Heiltsuk have taken over local resource management, and ecotourism is bringing in new revenue. People are coming from all over the world to find the Great Bear Rainforest, its grizzlies, and the rare white Kermode bears.

Identity is a huge part of community, but we often don’t think about it.

There are many other communities around the world like Bella Bella that are also dealing with this problem of reclaiming their identities.

But Bella Bella shows that when people are able to reconnect to both their heritage and the world around them, amazing recovery is possible .

Read more: www.upworthy.com

13 unbelievable photos of one of America’s most remote national parks.

Welcome to Kobuk Valley National park, one of the most remote national parks in America.

Located simply north of the Arctic Circle in western Alaska, Kobuk Valley includes mountain ranges, rivers, and sand dunes … all in a scenery that looks like nothing else youve seen on this planet.

Here are 13 amazing photos that prove it .

1. You cant get to Kobuk by road…

All photos via National Park Service library.

2 . … just by barge or small plane.

You can take a commercial flight into the towns of Kotzebue or Bettles to get most of the route there. But then youll have to hire an air taxi service to fell you off inside the park.

3. Kobuk has nearly 25 square miles of beautiful, active arctic dunes.

This knife ridge forms because of the strong gusts that blow through the region. Just like dunes in warmer climates, theres not much vegetation here, and the expanse spreads as far as the eye can see. Three different dune systems can get up to 100 feet high in some places in the park.

4. It also has multiple awe-inspiring mountain ranges.

The Baird Mountains reflect the diverse ecosystem in the park, from boreal wood to arctic tundra, where trees dont grow.

5. Plus a river thats full of life.

The Kobuk River travels roughly 61 miles through the park. Native people harvest salmon and other fish from these water today … just like they’ve done for the past 9,000 or so years.

6. Caribou roam the park by the hundreds of thousands.

7. That’s … a lot of caribou!

The most abundant animal in the region are caribou, who migrate across the vast plains. Between 250,000 and 500,000 of them travel through the park per year. Moose and bears also live in the region.

8. Untouched wilderness scenes like this one offer a glimpse into the world of the past.

Scientists travel to Kobuk Valley to learn about the last ice age, especially the mammoths and saber tooth tigers that once roamed these lands. Archaeological remains give clues about those who lived here long ago.

9. Some of the plants at Kobuk dont exist anywhere else on Earth.

Kobuk locoweed grows on the dunes and nowhere else. This flowering herb brings a bright place of colouring to the landscape. It is part of the pea family and blooms in June and July.

10. Gardens of moss and lichen are amazingly beautiful.

Where you dont expect anything to grow, mosses with shallow root systems find a way. Lichen may be less colorful, but both plants attach themselves to hard rocks and play a part in the food cycle.

11. And the sunlight there? It doesnt sleep for months at a time.

For three months of the year, it never get dark above the Arctic Circle. Summer nights on the Kobuk River nearly make up for the ample mosquitoes drawn to the region.

12. But when it does, you get to see some awe-inspiring aurora borealis.

The aurora borealis doesnt compete with any light pollution in Kobuk Valley. Theres nothing between you and the night sky when the northern lights dance across the wide open heavens.

13. So, who’s up for scheming a journey?

Read more: www.upworthy.com