Port Alberni’s new mayor visits Huu-ay-aht territory

Although nothing specific is planned, both leaders said they hope to stay in touch and build on the relationship they have forged.

Chief Robert J. Dennis Sr. gave Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions a tour of Huu-ay-aht’s Traditional Territory last week. It was an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss their communities and strengthen the relationship between the city and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

The meeting was a follow-up to one Chief Dennis had last month with the Mayor in Port Alberni. Minions said it was important to her to also meet Chief Dennis in his territory. One of her goals since being elected in the fall of 2018 is to visit all area nations in the first year of her term.

“I’m reaching out to build relationships with leaders like Chief Dennis,” she said. “It’s about creating connections, and it is important to me to see the territories that are around our city.”

For the Chief, he was pleased that Mayor Minions took the time to come to the territory and see first-hand the projects Huu-ay-aht is working on and the successes the Nation must celebrate. In all his years as chief, he has never been asked to come to the city to meet the mayor. He believes the last mayor to make a trip specifically to visit their territory was Ken McRae.

“I was really impressed with her and the vision she has for the future,” he said. “We had a really good talk, and I can tell she is looking forward at what is possible instead of back at the past.”

He said that is important for both leaders to consider when planning for the future of their community. It made him reflect on Huu-ay-aht’s motto “Ancient Spirit, Modern Mind.” He said the past is important because it is who we are and we must respect and learn from it, but we must move forward as a Nation into a modern world if Huu-ay-aht wants to continue to be a leader among First Nations in British Columbia.

“If an old guy like me can understand that, then I think Mayor Minions can convince Port Alberni residents that her vision will help Port Alberni prosper,” he said.

Mayor Minions expressed her admiration for Chief Dennis.

“Chief Dennis and I had a great conversation, and I enjoyed my time touring his territory,” she said. “I really appreciate Robert’s approach to leadership – that it should be inclusive. He explained how the hereditary council works with the elected council. I can see that by being so inclusive his Nation can make real progress.”

She was also impressed by how Huu-ay-aht is showing in everything it does that they are stewards of the land.

“They are focused on leaving something for the next generation,” she said. “I hope to do the same.”

Mayor Minions was joined by CAO Tim Pley, Economic Development Manager Pat Deakin, and Manager of Planning Katelyn McDougall.