Tommy Happynook Jr. reconnecting with traditions

Tommy Happynook Jr.

Letter from Tommy Happynook Jr.

Good day,

My name is hii-ni-nah-sim, Tommy Happynook Jr. I come from the House of Caa-caa-tsii-as. I am an anthropology doctoral student at the University of Victoria. I am writing today to share some information about my doctoral research, tentatively titled: “Waatlasheeutlin uuaathluk Caa-caa-tsii-as” – Picking up my responsibilities: a project of (re)connecting with traditional lands, waters, knowledge and identity.

The last time anyone in my family lived in Caa-caa-tsii-as was about 1860. My family, like many others, were swept up and aside in the widespread and systemic colonial project of assimilation. In 1970, Caa-caa-tsii-as, known by then as Carnation Creek, was the subject of an experiment conducted, in partnership, by the Federal government, forest industry and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. (DFO). The experiment saw the complete clearcutting of one third of the watershed. The second third was cleared of underbrush and the last third left as is. This experiment was formed with the intent of understanding what would happen if a watershed was completely clear-cut. The experiment became a long-term and influential study of the effects of logging practices on watershed processes and continues today.

The objective of my research is to document my own (re)connection to the lands, waters, and resources in Caa-caa-tsii-as. I will conduct this research by focusing on my own experience of reconnecting, revitalizing, and restoring my family’s knowledge, presence, and traditional responsibilities in and to Caa-caa-tsii-as. Specifically, I will be reintroducing family practices and ceremonies during my time in Caa-caa-tsii-as. I will also be walking/swimming on the land, river, and bay as a way of refamiliarizing myself with Caa-caa-tsii-as.

My research is important because it will ensure that my son grows up connected to Caa-caa-tsii-as, its knowledge and teachings, and understand where those teachings come from through the experience of having a deep land-based connection to Caa-caa-tsii-as.

I believe that my work will benefit Huu-ay-aht citizens and other Indigenous people/nations looking to develop processes and understandings of territorial revitalization/reconnection and inspire reconnection with traditional territories outside of a colonial context.

Thank you for your time and should you have any questions please contact me. I am happy to discuss my research further. And, if COVID-19 restrictions ease, maybe I will see you when I am out in the territory.

Hii-ni-nah-sim, Tommy Happynook

Huu-ay-aht and Bamfield Marine Science Centre break ground for new Waste Water Treatment Plant

(Left to right) Huu-ay-aht Executive Council Members, Robert J. Dennis Sr., Charlie Clappis, Duane Nookemis, BMSC Manager of Operations, Chuck Spoon,
McElhanney Project Engineer Nathan Slater, Industra President/CEO/Owner Scot Brudon, Industra Owner Rob Brydon stand on the site of the new WWTP  

On October 6, 2020 for a ground breaking cermoney.

On October 6, 2020, Huu-ay-aht First Nations (Huu-ay-aht), Bamfield Marine Science Centre (BMSC), McElhanney, and Industra representatives, gathered for a ground breaking ceremony on the BMSC site of where the new Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) is going to be built.

The project began in 2010 when Huu-ay-aht conducted feasibility studies that identified multiple options on where the project would be constructed. BMSC was also looking at options to replace their sewage system. As a result, BMSC and Huu-ay-aht agreed to partner up and build the facility on BMSC lands.

On April 26, 2018, Huu-ay-aht and BMSC signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to build the new WWTP. The total project budget is $8 million, with Indigenous Services Canada committing to $3.6 million. After seeking assistance from different levels of government and having no success funding the remaining investment, Huu-ay-aht decided this project was important enough to invest the final $4.4 million needed to complete the project.

“With this upgrade, Upper Anacla residents and Huu-ay-aht operations are able to do away with septic fields and our businesses in Bamfield will also benefit,” said Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis. “By partnering with Bamfield Marine Science Centre we are better able to balance residential development and economic drivers, paving the way to joint development and a healthier community.”

Worked into the agreement is a construction advisory board to oversee the construction of the project. The four members who sit on the board are Huu-ay-aht staff Stephen Rayner and Torrance Gilmour, and BMSC members Lee Weber and Chuck Spooner.

The project design and construction are being managed by McElhanney and Huu-ay-aht staff Torrance Gilmour.

Although building the facility in Anacla was an option, Huu-ay-aht decided it should be located on a site that would benefit both parties – connecting BMSC, the Bamfield Community School, and Upper Anacla to the system.

“Huu-ay-aht First Nations and BMSC have worked closely together on the collaborative development of this modern wastewater treatment system,” said Sean Rogers, Director of BMSC. “In addition to providing BMSC with a means to manage our wastewater safely, the project supports the vision of promoting the health and economic development of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations while also promoting the environmental health and stewardship of the local marine environment. It is an exciting project, and we are so pleased to see it underway”.

The design of the new plant is a Moving Bed Biological Reactor that will allow 400 to 1,100 people. Using this type of system also allows for expansion beyond 1,100.

The system is a newer sewage treatment process that uses a screen plant, high surface area media in a series of aerobic reactor tanks, solid separation, and UV disinfection. Solids from the screen plant and concentrated sludge will periodically be trucked to Port Alberni for disposal.

The plant is also equipped with an odour abatement system. The resulting effluent from this type of system is extremely clean. To ensure the design parameters are met, there is a first discharge testing program, as well as a two-year outflow monitoring program.

The 150 m outflow from BMSC’s existing plant will be extended by 350m to service the new plant. This will effectively get the clean effluent discharged out into Trevor’s Channel rather than the mouth of Bamfield Inlet.

All noticeable infrastructure will be contained within the planned fenced off plant area on BMSC land. Construction is estimated to take 15 months and be completed by end of 2021.

Nation welcomes back six Huu-ay-aht Children

September 30 marked a day Huu-ay-aht celebrates the coming home of six Huu-ay-aht children. After hard work and dedication of everyone involved, the children are now in the care of their Huu-ay-aht family.

Huu-ay-aht staff and executive council members, representatives of the ministry, and families, gathered on Zoom to welcome the children back into the care of their family and acknowledge everyone’s work along the way to make it happen.

This event was an opportunity to mark the success achieved through the Social Services Project. It highlights the importance of the work the Child and Family Wellness Team is doing to bring Huu-ay-aht children home.

“It was a wonderful day – seeing the results of our social services project at work,” said Executive Council member Edward R. Johnson. “The team from the Child and Family Wellness Office is doing a wonderful job in achieving our goals, where our Huu-ay-aht children will grow up safe, healthy, and connected to our home and culture/values guided by our traditions and our nananiiqsu.”

In 2017, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations Social Service Project was brought to life. Within this project, lay 30 recommendations that Huu-ay-aht will implement to keep families safe, healthy, and connected to their nation, while also bringing children home.

This project has been active for three years and in that time, Huu-ay-aht has implemented 28 of those recommendations (almost 29 – Oomiiqsu Mother Centre in the process). In that time, 28 Huu-ay-aht children have been brought home.

Grandparents, Wayne and Ida Seitcher welcome home Meredith, Gordan, Rose and Marley. Mother Christyl Smith welcomes home daughters Aurora and Alexya.

“Congratulations to these two families who persevered and worked hard at getting the children back into their care” said Chris Pearson, Huu-ay-aht Protection Support Worker. “They are the reason we do the work that we do, I am humbled and honoured to have been a part of their journey, and I wish them all the very best for the future.”

Christine Pearson and Kerry-Ann Collinge worked closely with the families and ministry workers and thanked everyone for their hard work and attending the welcoming home ceremony.

Kerry-Ann said “What we are witnessing here today is healing for these children, families, and community”.

To contact Child and Family Wellness please phone 778-419-1013 or email Director of Child and Family Wellness, Shannon Zimmerman at You can also find more information about the department at

For after-hour protection support, please contact 250-731-6999. Call this number only if you have received a call from Child Protection Services (i.e. MCFD/Usma or other delegated agencies). Anything not related to this matter will be followed up during office hours.

MP Gord Johns meets with Huu-ay-aht

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 Huu-ay-aht Executive Council, administrative staff and fishers met with Gord Johns, Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni.

Huu-ay-aht took the opportunity to focus on fisheries issues such as working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on policy changes that will enable Huu-ay-aht fishers to fish and make a reasonable living, enacting the “me too” clause and agreement (see August Uyaqḥmis), salmon renewal and enhancement and creating new opportunities. Elected Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr.  also shared stories of Huu-ay-aht’s strong history of boat building, and acknowledged present fishers and recognized the fishers unable to attend.

Gord Johns followed the comments by Chief Robert J. Dennis Sr. and our fishers by discussing how he values the relationship with Huu-ay-aht and the other Nuu-chah-nulth and First Nations. The MP acknowledged British Columbia is experiencing a Salmon crisis. He would like to see a full salmon crisis campaign to support salmon fisheries including restoration and seeing licences in the hands of fishers, and a conclusion to the Ahousaht et. al case.

After the meeting, the group headed down to the Bamfield dock to look at James Nookemus’ boat, Nawanhe II and gather for the Kiix̣in Tour. The tour was led by Stella Peters with additional comments and stories from Robert J. Dennis Sr., Ed Johnson Sr., Councillor Edward R. Johnson, and Councillor Connie Waddell. This tour allowed Huu-ay-aht to give our MP a glimpse of Huu-ay-aht’s connection to the land and sea, and why fisheries and ocean resource harvesting are a central piece of Huu-ay-aht culture.

Keeping the Nuu-chah-nulth language alive, numaqimyisʔaqsup ʔiš hinatinyis

Angie Joe (numaqimyisʔaqsup) is one of Huu-ay-aht’s last fluent Nuu-chah-nulth language speakers. She is passionate about ensuring the language lives on in the next generation of Huu-ay-aht.

Numaqimyisʔaqsup is often called on to help pass on her knowledge. Most recently, she has been working closely with hinatinyis (Brittany Johnson) as she navigates her way around her language teachings. Hinatinyis is the Nation’s Language and History Coordinator. Part of her role is to find ways to revitalize the language, but first she must learn it herself.

Hinatinyis has been taking the UVIC Language Revitalization Diploma Program since the summer of 2018, offered remotely at the North Island College. The program is designed to create language teachers, it is a full-time course load of four classes per semester, and covers many different learning styles varying from linguistics, immersion-based learning, mentor-apprentice, and self-directed study.

What started off as a get together, translating children’s nursery rhymes for the Pawaats daycare, turned in to a 700-hour mentor-apprenticeship. Hinatinyis and numaqimyisʔaqsuphave spent that time working together, travelling back and forth from Sarita (where numaqimyisʔaqsup lives), learning the Nuu-chah-nulth language.

After the first 100 hours in the program, the two applied for funding from the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). They were approved and granted another 300 hours. After they completed with the funding from FNESC, they applied for another grant from First People’s Cultural Council and were granted another 300 hours.

With the support of Huu-ay-aht First Nations, hinatinyis has had the privilege of learning the language as part of her job. With that, she has been able to complete the first year of her program as well as completing the 700 hours with numaqimyisʔaqsup.

“For those who are hoping to make Nuu-chah-nulth their second language, you need to make time in your life for language,” she explains.

She was inspired by an elder who visited her class, who said, “You need to speak it everywhere and use it every day.” From then, hinatinyis asked her family and friends to call her by her traditional name instead of her English name Brittany. Her name was gifted to her by her grandmother, it means “she is always welcoming.”

The diploma program ends in December 2019, and Hinatinyis says that is not where her learning ends. It is a lifestyle choice.

She plans to teach Nuu-chah-nulth language in Port Alberni and share lessons on social media. She would like to run an adult immersion group weekly that is open to all Nuu-chah-nulth learners and run various workshops for youth and adults. In the meantime, she is working on creating a short curriculum for youth to use while they play online games like FortNite. You can also find a basics pronunciation guide created by hinatinyis online at