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

Huu-ay-aht meets with the Minister of Children and Family Development

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Huu-ay-aht First Nations has made a commitment to ensure that no Huu-ay-aht children are in care. To do this, they have formed a department dedicated to focusing on prevention instead of apprehension.

Part of making this new program a success is working in cooperation with different levels of government. The Government of Canada and the Provincial Government have both made financial commitments to Huu-ay-aht, and this funding has helped Huu-ay-aht implement 30 recommendations made by an independent panel.

Last week, Minister of Children and Family Development for British Columbia, Kathrine Conroy, visited with the members of the Social Services Department and representatives of Huu-ay-aht First Nations at the Port Alberni Government Office.

“I am pleased to be partnering with the province and working hard to create change within our Nation,” explained Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. during the luncheon Huu-ay-aht hosted on March 20. “Our dream is to have all of our children back in our territory. To make that a reality, it will take a lot of communication and partnering with whoever can help us achieve our goal.”

Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin Derek Peters echoed these remarks and added that he is focused on the health and wellbeing of his people. He acknowledged that Huu-ay-aht would not be as far along as it is in its commitment if it weren’t for strong partnerships the Nation has developed along the way.

“It is important that we can sit down and have positive and healthy discussions like we are having today,” ƛiišin said. “We recognize this is a new road we are travelling, but I am positive we will get there.”

Councillor Sheila Charles took the time to ensure the Minister understood what lead the Nation to develop such a bold goal for itself – from the first request she brought to council, to forming an independent panel to explore the subject, and finally implementation of the plan. She said something had to be done to start healing the wounds created by the residential schools. She explained it is essential that the healing of intergenerational trauma begin, or the Nation and its citizens will never be whole again.

“We are told we are trailblazers,” she said. “It takes a lot of heart, resources, effort, and comprehension to offer wraparound support to prevent families from being torn apart. But that is the commitment we have made, and we will get there. We will get to a place where our children are home.”

She acknowledged that Huu-ay-aht can’t do it alone, making the relationships the Nation has made even more important.

Minister Conroy said her dream is that one day everyone will work together to ensure families are coming home and can remain together.

“I respect what you are doing as a Nation, and we want to support Nations with their goals,” she said. “We have to all work together to keep kids at home, close to their culture.”

The minister heard many examples of how the Nation is moving forward, including success stories where children were removed from their home, but eventually Huu-ay-aht was able to intervene to bring children home.

When lunch was served and the Minister had a moment to reflect on the day’s meeting, she said it was extremely informative, and she was glad to have the time to discuss it with everyone.

“It’s really good to get away and meet with Nations to see what’s working and what’s not,” she said. “It’s inspiring to visit and hear what’s going on, and most of all, to hear it is working.”

Executive Council will address citizen motions at their next meeting

Citizen Motions that were not heard individually at the People’s Assembly will be addressed at the Executive Council meeting on February 28, in Port Alberni. Citizens are invited to attend this meeting.

Any citizen who cannot attend in person and would like their questions, comments, or concerns recorded has a week to submit them. From February 13 to 20, we will be collecting this information. Once recorded, all feedback will be shared with Executive Council when they are addressing the related Citizen Motion.

If you would like to share your feedback, please call the Port Alberni Government Office at 250-723-0100 or email

Executive Council meeting agenda – Thursday, February 28