Tommy Happynook Receives His PhD

Submitted by Tommy Happynook

I have always had an interest in anthropology and right out of high school started working towards an undergraduate degree. My post-secondary journey was full of starts and stops.

I attended Camosun College for one term before stopping to work as a roofer for about a year before returning to Camosun for another two years.

I was able to complete the first two years of my undergraduate degree at Camosun and decided to accept an offer to work in the forest industry.

I worked in forestry for about two and a half years before I decided to go back and finish my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria. Two years later, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology.

That same year, I was accepted into, and started my graduate degree, in anthropology at UVic. After two and half years, I graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology. At this point, I needed a break and was hired to work at Camosun College.

I worked for Indigenous Education at Camosun College for about 10 years as a community liaison, advisor, and instructor. In 2017, I applied to UVic’s anthropology doctoral program. In 2020, I was hired by the UVic’s Anthropology Department and have been working there since June 2021. I completed my doctoral program in April 2022 and now have a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Anthropology.


My research documents the reclamation of knowledge, teachings, culture, language, responsibilities, and identity through my personal (re)connection to my family’s ḥ aḥ uułi and hereditary home, čaačaac̓iiʕas. In specific and intentional ways my research, fieldwork, and dissertation are part of a story of reconciliation between myself and čaačaac̓iiʕas, the ḥ aḥ uułi that my family was dispossessed from because of the impacts of colonization.

Despite the near severing of our relationship with čaačaac̓iiʕas and the near destruction of our ḥ aḥ uułi, čaačaac̓iiʕas is thriving, and now is the time to pick up my responsibilities and begin to re-establish a relationship with the natural and spiritual worlds found there. In my research the lands, waters, skies, and natural world are not a place and/or object of inquiry, they are non-human knowledge holders and teachers.


My research draws upon a diverse set of ethnographic, anthropological, and Indigenous literatures. Emphasis is placed upon the use of nuučaan̓uł scholarship, theory, and methodologies including muułmuumps (being rooted to the land), ceremony, language, song, and interviews. The research builds on four kinds of knowledge that are expressed as: 1) known knowledge; 2) incomplete knowledge; 3) unaccounted for and/or unknown knowledge; and, 4) ethnographic/anthropological knowledge.

Through this theoretical platform, I explore tangible and intangible cultural and hereditary forms of knowledge production. Importantly, I highlight the role of song and sound as critical vehicles through which contemporary Indigenous peoples can connect to historical places and times.

I place equal emphasis on the production of sound through song as I do through the reception of song and sound through a methodology of deep listening. Song and sound play a crucial role in my research and form the basis of knowledge transfer between myself, čaačaac̓iiʕas, and my yakʷiimit kʷiyiis nananiiqsu (ancestors).

Furthermore, the songs I received during my research are the analysis of my data and how I am choosing to disseminate that data. I argue that these connections provide ways for future agendas and aspirations for cultural resurgence and governance to emerge.

Urgent Bamfield Main Road Project Notice

For Visitors and Citizens using Bamfield Road

Do not drive around the automated flags at the construction site. The construction crew is working to minimize the delays, which are typically no more than 15 minutes. Everyone using the road must wait for the pilot vehicle to guide them through this section of construction.

Vehicles that have been driving around the flags are putting themselves and workers in danger. The flags are a vital part of the project’s safety planning. Cameras are in place to monitor traffic in this area and will be throughout the entire Bamfield Main Road Resurfacing Project. The RCMP are now assisting in enforcing the road safety rules and any criminal activities that take place. These issues could possibly delay the opening of the road and may require more strict actions for the traffic. ƛ̓eekoo (Thank you) for your cooperation.

Huu-ay-aht Invites Families to the 2022 Thrive Together Family Workshop

Huu-ay-aht Child and Family Wellness team invites Huu-ay-aht families (and those caring for Huu-ay-aht children) to learn and grow with Brad and DeeAnna Dennis as they present the Thrive Together Family Workshop over two days (October 12-13, 2022).

Brad and DeeAnna Dennis have invested over 20 years in developing a thriving family life by interweaving their Christian faith in Creator God with Huu-ay-aht teachings. This process has involved decolonizing their Christianity, learning from their Huu-ay-aht ancestors and using the tools they have developed in their professional practice as mental health professionals with children and families. Their workshops are designed to meet the needs of people with various learning styles. So they use stories, interactive exercises visuals, and scientific research.

Journey with Brad and DeeAnna through topics including; healthy roots of self care, strong trunk of marriage & community, and fruit bearing relational parenting.

Use the form below or click here to register.

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