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Biography & Autobiography Native Americans

Whale in the Door

A Community Unites to Protect BC'S Howe Sound

by (author) Pauline Le Bel

Caitlin Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2020
Native Americans, Environmentalists & Naturalists, Oceans & Seas
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2020
    List Price

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An exhilarating mix of natural history and personal exploration Whale in the Door is a passionate account of a woman’s transformative experience of her adopted home.

For thousands of years, Howe Sound, an inlet in the Salish Sea provided abundant food, shelter, and stories, for the Squamish Nation. After a century of contamination from pulp mills, a chemical factory, and a copper mine, the Sound, a noisy, stinky, polluted place, contained many biologically dead zones. Marine life was severely diminished. But major efforts by the Squamish Nation, governments, and industry has produced dramatic returns of herring, dolphins, porpoises, orcas, and humpbacks.

Today, Howe Sound, a spectacular fjord in Vancouver’s backyard, is a popular recreation and tourism destination. The recovery, however, is fragile. The Sound is being inundated with proposals for re-industrialization-a controversial liquid natural gas plant, pipelines, super tankers, a gravel mine on a salmon-bearing estuary, and major residential and commercial developments.

Pauline Le Bel, a resident of Howe Sound, embarks on a journey of discovery to find out what is special about the Sound, its wild nature and its people, to witness the cultural and spiritual revivals taking place. Her research, her interviews, her travels on the land, the water, the skies of Howe Sound, compel her to abandon antiquated ideas about wilderness and community, and to arrive at a new appreciation for the genius of her home.

Whale in the Door invites readers into a story of biological resilience as a community struggles to shape a vision for its future.

About the author

Pauline Le Bel is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and author of Becoming Intimate with the Earth. A singer songwriter, she has produced five CDs of her original music. In an earlier life, she was called “a musical instrument linked to a soul” for her passionate portrayal of chanteuse Edith Piaf in a play she co-wrote. Today, she is the creative director of a reconciliation initiative, Knowing Our Place. She lives on Bowen Island. For more information about Pauline, please visit her website: To engage in ongoing discussion and updates about Howe Sound/Atl’kitsem, please visit:

Pauline Le Bel's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Reading Whale in the Door is a wonderful experience marking the ongoing efforts of the Squamish Nation and its allies to protect Howe Sound from once again being poisoned for profit. Pauline Le Bel takes us on a journey — both hers and the Howe Sound itself — that is unforgettable and inspiring.”

The Province

“Le Bel’s filmmaking experience has clearly honed her ability to show more than tell, and to get what she wants from primary sources—the people concerned. Her extensive research is impressive.”

The Ormsby Review

“A history, travelogue, grassroots activism log, and plea for sustainability, Le Bel’s book is a cautiously optimistic exploration of this regionally significant area.”

The Vancouver Sun