That is the vital message renowned B.C. artist Roy Henry Vickers and historian Robert Budd say they are trying to convey with their newest work, Orca Chief, a book that features 19 original artworks from Vickers.
The 69-year-old artist and Budd, who have collaborated before on two other national bestsellers, are in Vancouver on Saturday to promote their new work. Orca Chief is a visually and emotionally powerful tale that urges people to take only what they need from the environment.
Vickers told North By Northwest's Sheryl MacKay that he first heard the story from an elder in Kitkatla, the Tsimshian village near Prince Rupert where he grew up.
"And he sat me down on a chair beside his bed and he said, 'You see all of those books there on the wall, Roy?'
"'Well, I've read every one of those books and I want to tell you a story that can't be found in any book.'"
The elder then recounted the tale of Orca Chief to Vickers.
It tells the story of four hunters who head out on a canoe to harvest seaweed and salmon. Because they were tired and lazy, they threw their anchor overboard without thinking about how it could damage the sea floor or marine life.
When the Orca Chief found out what the hunters did, he sent up his most powerful orca warriors to bring the men back to his house. The warriors circled around and around the hunters' canoe until a whirlpool was formed, and the men were sucked down into the Orca Chief's house.
The men apologized for their disrespect. The compassionate Orca Chief then sent the hunters off with his warriors so they could learn how to sustainably harvest the ocean's resources before they went home.
Vickers says Orca Chief is just one of the many northwest coast legends that has layers and layers of learning.
"At the core of the teaching is love and respect for all," he said.
"When the men humbled themselves and were sorry, there was justice served, and the justice was those men were taught a better way to live."
To hear Roy Henry Vickers tell the story of the Orca Chief, listen to the audio labelled: Roy Henry Vickers brings Orca Chief to life