Remembering those lost on the Bamfield Road While Moving Forward with Safety Improvements

September 13 marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic accident that claimed the lives of two University of Victoria (UVIC) students. John Geerdes and Emma Machado were travelling the Bamfield road en route to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre as part of a field trip through UVIC when the bus they were on slid down the embankment which led to their death. This tragedy has resulted in UVIC creating an independent review of the incident whose report was released in July. This independent review and report issued several recommendations, which UVIC has ultimately adopted and implemented.

Tragedies on the Bamfield road are something that has been all too familiar to Huu-ay-aht, whose homelands are accessible only through utilizing the road. Countless citizens who live in Anacla or frequent the road have a story to tell that highlights the challenges drivers of the road face, such as dust, potholes, washouts, and narrow sections of road.

In September 2020, the Province of B.C. and Huu-ay-aht First Nations announced that decades of Huu-ay-aht work was finally paying off. Together the province and the Nation are moving forward with safety improvements on this vital stretch of road.

“The lives lost on this road is just one reason Huu-ay-aht has dedicated countless hours over decades to upgrade the Bamfield road,” explains Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis. “I will never forget the September night when I arrived on the scene of the bus crash. Huu-ay-aht has never wavered from our belief that we need to upgrade the road to keep people safe. I am proud that this project is finally underway, and I hope it will mean no more lives are lost on the Bamfield road.”

As work begins on the upgrades, the potholes will become a thing of the past, but the lives the road has claimed will never be forgotten.

“By partnering with us on this project, the Province honours our elders and the Nation’s sacred principles of ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of….), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is One) with this project,” explains Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “My family suffered a great loss when Tayii Ḥaw̓ił Art Peters, my grandfather, was killed on the Bamfield road. The upgrades will be a legacy to anyone who has died on the road. By working together, we will ensure this vital link is safe for generations to come.”

The initiative led by Huu-ay-aht First Nations and supported by important stakeholders in the forest industry, as well as the Provincial and Federal Governments, is currently underway. The Bamfield road will soon feature significant safety upgrades. The Bamfield Main Road Surfacing Project will see the entirety of the Bamfield Main Road chip sealed and widened in important sections, as well as paving of problem sections along the road. As of September 2021, a field survey has been conducted for 76 kilometers of the road. This data has been translated into a 3D model and will be utilized for the road and drainage design team. Relevant environmental experts have been engaged to ensure that the road improvements do not significantly impact existing environments and wildlife in the area.

2021 Kiix̣in Tour Season a Success

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiix̣in tours have had a successful 2021 tour season. Tours have been running through the summer since July and will be concluding on September 12. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has limited the capacity of the tours in half to only ten participants. Despite these challenges, however the tour team is now able to offer sunset tours of Kiix̣in which are available on Friday and Saturday evenings. The tours have seen over 300 participants this year who have come to observe and take in Huu-ay-aht history and culture. Full-time tour guides Wišqii and Stella Peters were fortunate to have Olivia Peters join the team as a youth tour guide. Closing out the season the remaining tours for 2021 are almost fully booked. If you have not had a chance to see Kiix̣in and would still like to please visit https://kiixin.ca/ and book your tour today! 

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Visits Huu-ay-aht

From left: Councillor Edward R. Johnson, Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis, NTC Vice-President Mariah Charleson, RoseAnne Archibald, Tayii ḥaw̓iił ƛiišin, Councillor Trevor Cootes, Councillor Duane Nookemis, AFN Advisor Valerie Richer.

On June 22, 2021, Huu-ay-aht was honoured with a visit from Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief RoseAnne Archibald. Archibald was recently elected to her role as National Chief on July 8, 2021. Archibald hails from the Taykw Tagamou Nation of Ontario and is the first woman National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Also in attendance was Nuu-chah-nulth Vice-President Mariah Charleson of Hesquiaht.

The National Chief arrived during an elder’s community engagement session where she had kind words and gifts for Huu-ay-aht. She presented Tayii ḥaw̓iił ƛiišin and Chief Executive Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. with a gift of medicines from her home including sweet grass, sage, and tobacco. Archibald went on to say she gives medicine because it is about healing.

Huu-ay-aht Executive Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. utilized the visit of the national chief to table important issues facing Huu-ay-aht. Robert spoke passionately about his desire for Huu-ay-aht to gain and utilize its fair share of the fishery economy. He stated that one of his priorities was to get Huu-ay-aht citizens back on the waters and to make fishing a viable industry for Huu-ay-aht citizens. He stressed how the AFN leadership could help advocate federally for Huu-ay-aht on this issue to influence policy to create more opportunities for Huu-ay-aht fishers.

Archibald said that she would support Huu-ay-aht in its goals surrounding fisheries federally. Emphatically she spoke on how she understands what salmon and fishing mean to Huu-ay-aht both economically and culturally. She further stated that she will work hard for Huu-ay-aht’s inherent rights, treaty rights, and constitutional rights.

Executive councillor Edward R. Johnson also took time to speak on the needs of his portfolio of citizenship and citizen development, as well as the health. Johnson presented Archibald with a copy of the Huu-ay-aht Social Services Project: Safe, Healthy and Connected, Bringing Huu-ay-aht Children Home and its subsequent progress report. Edward spoke on how current federal policy is creating barriers for Huu-ay-aht’s social services project. Johnson said “The Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) refuses to take part in reconciliation” by creating these barriers. He asked for Archibald and the AFN’s assistance in breaking down these barriers and gaining a stronger voice in Ottawa with the Ministry of Child and Family Development.

In closing, Huu-ay-aht executive councillors presented Archibald with a gift of a cedar box of canned salmon from St. Jean’s Cannery. Archibald was thankful saying:

“Thank you to everyone, it is my honour to be here as well. I have travelled through many territories, and I want to raise my two hands to your communities and your ancestors acknowledging the spirits the lands and the waters as I travel through this land.”

She went on the mention that she wanted to connect with Huu-ay-aht and other Nuu-chah-nulth nations more in the future.

ƛiišin interviewed on CBC Radio

July ̣10, 2021 – Huu-ay-aht Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters) was featured on CBC Radio show All Points West discussing Huu-ay-aht treasures. Huu-ay-aht First Nations has recently secured a $35,000 grant from the BC Museums Association, which will assist Huu-ay-aht in identifying cultural artifacts and treasures that are currently held by the Royal B.C Museum. 

ƛiišin is quoted as saying, “That it [grant] is allowing us to get back in touch [and] reconnect with the treasures that have been housed in the museum.” 

When asked about how Huu-ay-aht is going about identifying treasures within museums and the process for relocating them, ƛiišin stressed the importance of consulting elders and the histories that they provide in addition to professionals.

ƛiišin emphasized how much the repatriation means to Huu-ay-aht. This process has been a long time coming and the highlight of it all is that it is becoming a reality for Huu-ay-aht to see its treasures returned. 

The process for identifying and repatriating these treasures is still in its early stages. Ultimately, once the treasures have been identified and are able to be returned, they will be housed in the cultural centre, which is to be constructed in Upper Anacla. In 2016, Huu-ay-aht celebrated the return of some cultural treasures that are currently housed in the Anacla Government offices. 

For the CBC interview: Link

Grant announcement: Link