Huu-ay-aht Welcomes a New Education Coordinator

Huu-ay-aht First Nations welcomes Vanessa Sabbas to our Education Department in her new role as an Education Coordinator. Vanessa has moved from the Deputy Law Clerk position at Huu-ay-aht First Nations, supporting our K-12 Huu-ay-aht students.

Vanessa Sabbas

Vanessa’s responsibilities as an education coordinator include the following:

  • The administration of our education programs for K-12 students, including school supplies and scholarship recognition programs.
  • Collaborating and working in partnership with the Indigenous Education Teams in our SD70 (Pacific Rim) schools for the success of our Huu-ay-aht students.
  • Building relationships with education teams in other school districts to support the success of our Huu-ay-aht students, wherever they may attend school.
  • Providing outreach to Huu-ay-aht students, wherever they may attend school, and working with caregivers, school administrators and education teams to identify supports that students may require for success (e.g. tutors, recreation opportunities, counselling, computer hardware/software).
  • Supporting educators at the Bamfield Community School, now a K-12 school in SD70, to incorporate Huu-ay-aht language and cultural lessons within the curriculum.

Brent’s responsibilities as Manager of Education, Training and Employment continues to include the following:

  • Working with post-secondary students to achieve success. Including degree programs, diplomas, certificates, trades and apprenticeships, and adult-basic education.
  • Overseeing all of Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ education and training programs.
  • Building and fostering Huu-ay-aht First Nation’s relationships with North Island College, Vancouver Island University, Camosun College, the University of Victoria, the University of BC, and other educational institutions our students may attend.
  • Overseeing agreements like the Local Education Agreement with SD70 for the Bamfield Community School, and working with funding bodies like the First Nations Education Steering Committee.
  • Overseeing bus transportation for the Bamfield Community School as part of our Local Education Agreement with SD70.
  • Supporting Huu-ay-aht citizens in their employment initiatives, from resume support to work gear that might be necessary for anyone beginning new employment for the first time.

Questions and comments about Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ Educational support opportunities can be sent to or at Huu-ay-aht First Nations Education, Training & Employment page.

Respected Elder Receives Lifetime Achievement AWARD

Photo of Marjorie White

In recognition of her lifetime of service to Indigenous peoples, proud Huu-ay-aht elder, Marjorie White, was the 2022 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Indspire. The Indspire Awards honours Inuit, Métis, and First Nations peoples across Canada who are inspiring change and progress in their communities.

Born in Port Alberni in 1936, Marjorie spent her early days with her mother, Alice Peters, and family in Dodger’s Cove and Sarita. She also spent her days with her grandmother, Nina Peters [nee Jack/Shewish], on the Somass River in Tseshaht territory.

Marjorie explained she has always been immensely proud to be closely connected to the Barclay Sound Ḥaw̓iiḥ from Huu-ay-aht, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ, Tseshaht, Toquaht, and Hupacasath. It is that connection that always ‘tied her canoe at home’ and kept her heart close to her people and her homelands. Family connections and her role in it is extremely important to her. Marjorie has held three potlatches in her lifetime. The last potlatch she held was in 2010 with her siblings. She wanted to ensure that all their descendants had traditional names to keep them connected to their homelands.

From 1944 to 1956, Marjorie attended the Alberni Residential School. Although residential school took her away from her home and her family, she was fortunate to always maintain strong connections with family and culture. After losing her mother to tuberculosis when she was 14, Marjorie spent summers and school breaks with her Uncle Art and Aunt Aggie in the Bamfield area. She also spent time with her grandmother at her home on the Somass River. They would travel and work together in the hop and berry fields in Washington state.

Marjorie’s career goal has always been to provide a safe, secure environment for the enhancement and promotion of healthy living for Indigenous people. It was after leaving her community in 1956 to pursue a career as a nurse in Vancouver that she realized there was no place in the city for First Nations people, who were migrating to urban centres, to get support and access resources.

“It was such a culture shock coming from the residential school and a small, remote community on Vancouver Island. I experienced loneliness.” Marjorie said in the 2022 Indspire Awards interview. “My distance between my grandmother and me was a reality. That’s really what prompted me to do something to change the situation of our young people that were coming into the city for education or jobs.”

Her work in those early years in Vancouver led to the formal establishment of the then Vancouver Indian Centre, the first Friendship Centre in BC in 1963. The ‘Friendship Centre Movement’ quickly expanded within the province and across Canada. In 1972, Marjorie was among the founding members of both the national and provincial Friendship Centre Associations. Because of Marjorie’s determination and beliefs, you can now find 25 Friendship Centres in British Columbia and 125 across Canada.

Marjorie was also the very first Indigenous person to be appointed as a Citizenship Court Judge in 1976, as well as the first woman and Indigenous person ever appointed to the Vancouver Police Commission in 1974.

“When I was Citizenship Court Judge I sometimes spoke about the kinds of things that Canadian citizens enjoy and that as first peoples of this land, that we weren’t guaranteed those same rights and privileges that they were getting as new citizens,” said Marjorie. “And so, education is really one thing that I believe in, letting people know where we are and who we are.”

Marjorie is also recognized for starting other organizations in Vancouver, such as the Circle of Eagles Lodge Society, of which she was recently awarded for 50 years of service, Naa-na-himyis Brothers Healing Lodge (Naa-na-himyis – her traditional name meaning “going from community to community distributing”), and Anderson Healing Centre for Women, along with many others. Marjorie has filled her life and career helping people and it has not gone unnoticed.

She has received a tremendous number of awards, which include:

  • Order of Canada
  • Order of British Columbia
  • Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (60th anniversary)
  • Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (50th anniversary)
  • Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal (25th anniversary)
  • Huu-ay-aht Citizen of the year
  • International Year of the Volunteer Award – Correctional Services Canada
  • Marjorie White Apartment Complex (L’uma Native Housing)
  • Gold Feather Award – Professional Native Women’s Association
  • Surrey Women’s Centre recognition for lifetime community involvement
  • And many community awards from local organizations.

Read the full Article in Issue 67 of Uyaqḥmis

Huu-ay-aht Celebrates 2022 Graduates

Congratulations 2022 Huu-ay-aht graduates!

This year’s high school and post-secondary graduates gathered at the Best Western Barclay Hotel for a buffet luncheon to celebrate their achievements. They were joined by Pam Craig, board chair from SD70, respected elder, Benson Nookemis, Chief Robert J. Dennis Sr., and Councillor Edward R. Johnson who all gave congratulatory speeches to the graduates.

Brent Ronning, Huu-ay-aht Manager of Education and Vanessa Sabbas, Huu-ay-aht Education Coordinator presented each graduate with a gift from Huu-ay-aht, which consisted of a red Huu-ay-aht hoodie and a cedar rose. They also watched a video presentation from Tommy Happynook, a Huu-ay-aht citizen who just received a PhD in Anthropology. Congratulations to all the graduates!

Hu-ay-aht 2022 High School Graduates

Mary Jane Dennis – Dogwood Diploma, ADSS
Xavier Dennis – High School Diploma, Helix High School, La Mesa, CA
Tristan Ginger – Dogwood Diploma, ADSS
Joycelyn Joe-Lanham McCloud – High School Diploma, Chief Kitsap Academy, Suquamish, WA
Brayden Johnson – Adult Dogwood Diploma, 8th Avenue Learning Centre
Isaak Johnson – Dogwood Diploma, Nanaimo District Secondary School
Jenelle Johnson-Sabbas – Dogwood Diploma, ADSS
Tyler Lopez – Dogwood Diploma/Health Care Assistant Cert., ADSS/NIC
Cierra Nookemus – Dogwood Diploma, ADSS
Jayson Nookemus – Adult Dogwood Diploma, 8th Avenue Learning Centre
Shannon Thompson – Dogwood Diploma, ADSS
Jaden Warner – Dogwood Diploma ADSS
Sean Williams-Kosteniuk – Dogwood Diploma, ADSS

Hu-ay-aht 2022 Post Secondary Graduates

Eileen Taylor Amber-Lynn – Cert. in Indigenous Family Support/Mental Health & Addictions, Camosun College
Tommy Happynook – PhD Anthropology, UVIC
Karen Haugen – Master of Arts in Professional Communications, Royal Roads University
Samantha Haugen – Bachelor of Arts, Tourism Management, VIU
Petrina Joe-Lanham – Associate in Business, Olympic College, Bremerton, WA
Alyssa Johnson – Bachelor of Science in Nursing, VIU
Judith Johnson – Food Processing Fundamentals Cert., NIC
Jennifer Joseph – Bachelor of Arts, Criminology, VIU
Mikaela Lopez – Human Services Cert., NIC
Patricia McCarthy – Health Care Assistant Cert., Sprott Shaw College

Huu-ay-aht Inquiry Panel to Host a Meet and Greet

The Inquiry Panel looks forward to meeting you this week! Please join in person or virtually to learn more about the inquiry panel process.

In response to serious allegations that have recently come to light, Huu-ay-aht Executive Council has directed that an inquiry be conducted into allegations of abuse of power committed by members of government. With that an Inquiry Panel has been formed and will be hosting a meet and greet in Anacla at the House of Huu-ay-aht and in Port Alberni at the Huu-ay-aht Government Office.

Meet and Greet Details:

Anacla – House of Huu-ay-aht
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
5 – 8 p.m.
In-person only

Port Alberni Government Office
Thursday, October 6, 2022
5 – 8 p.m.
In-person and Virtually

Zoom Meeting Details:

Zoom Meeting ID: 838 1221 1119
Passcode: HFNINQUIRY (all caps)

*There will be a waiting room, please ensure your first and last name are visible so the host can admit you into the meeting. If you are unable to edit your name, please message the host in the Zoom.

Please click here to read the notice of Inquiry Panel terms of reference on the public notices page.

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.