A Cultural, Community, and Recreation Centre for all Huu-ay-aht
The House of Huu-ay-aht was the first longhouse to be constructed in Huu-ay-aht territory in more than 100 years, and serves as a place for gatherings, ceremonies and feasts, sports and recreation, and for meetings with other First Nations Peoples.
Built almost entirely of natural materials, the House expresses the strength of Huu-ay-aht heritage and culture. Its open layout and post-and-beam construction echo traditional Huu-ay-aht designs. As Jim Traynor, one of the architects involved in the project, commented, “the inspiration is on the ground, in the remnants of the old longhouses at Kiixʔin.”
Kiixʔin (pronounced “kee-hin”) was once the capital community of the Huu-ay-aht. Located on the southeast shore of Barkley Sound near Cape Beale, Kiixʔin has been unoccupied since the 1880s. Still visible, however, are the remains of several traditional-style Huu-ay-aht longhouses. The massive posts and beams of these structures, some standing and some lying on the ground, provide inspiration for the present-day House of Huu-ay-aht. Kiixʔin was commemorated as a national historic site by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1999.
“In close consultation with the Huu-ay-aht, we structured the building as much as possible in the traditional way. The roof beams are a good example. Unlike most buildings, where the roof is supported by crossways beams, the roof beams in the House of Huu-ay-aht run the full length of the building.”
Larry Johnson, then Forestry Officer with Huu-ay-aht First Nations, began the process of sourcing the wood for the roof beams three years before the building opened. Five giant spruce trees were eventually chosen from a traditional forestry site in the Klanawa watershed in Ditidaht territory, almost 100 km from Pachena Bay. An agreement was reached with the Ditidaht First Nation to selectively log the trees, and MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. provided the equipment and expertise needed to cut and haul the logs to Pachena Bay.
The trees were cut in accordance with the Huu-ay-aht principle of Hishuk Tsawak (“everything is one”), which recognizes the essential connection between people, nature and the spiritual world. Harvest plans developed by the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks ensured the trees were harvested in an ecologically sensitive manner. On the day of the harvest, the late Huu-ay-aht elder Willie Sport led a spiritual ceremony to bless the trees in the traditional way.
Hauling the logs to Pachena Bay presented another challenge. Each of the five logs measured at least 130 feet long and five feet in diameter: too large to haul intact on any standard logging truck. To make the trip possible, MacMillan Bloedel retrofit two of their logging trucks with extra trailers. Even then, the logs hung some sixty feet off the back of each truck. What would normally be a three-hour journey took sixteen hours, with frequent stops to navigate bridge crossings and tight corners on the road to Anacla. In the final leg of the journey, where the roads proved too narrow for the big MB logging trucks to pass, Mars Contracting and Hayes Logging provided a cat and crane to “walk” the logs the last kilometre to Anacla. As Larry Johnson remembers, “None of it would have been possible without the help of MacMillan Bloedel, the contractors, and the agencies involved. With the hauling and the wood, MacMillan Bloedel donated a significant portion towards the construction of the House of Huu-ay-aht.”
Construction on the House began in October 1999, led by builder Herb Nelson together with four Huu-ay-aht members and a crew from Knappett Construction. Herb considers the House among his greatest achievements in his 15-year career as a professional carpenter. “It involved a lot of mathematical theory to put the poles in the right places,” he commented. “The top four logs each weigh around 30 tons so everything has to fit just right to hold the 108 and 118 foot long Spruce logs up there.”
From its position on the hill in upper Anacla, the House of Huu-ay-aht looks out over spectacular Pachena Bay and the Huu-ay-aht hahoulthlee (chiefly territories) to the southeast. At the centre of Huu-ay-aht lands and the centre of their community, the House is an expression of the Huu-ay-aht’s common purpose to “honour the past, strengthen and shape the present, and realize a vision for the future.”
Thanks to the following agencies, businesses and corporations for the donation of services and in-kind support during the planning and construction of the House of Huu-ay-aht:
BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
BC Ministry of Forests
Ditidaht First Nation
MacMillan Bloedel, Ltd.
And thanks to our Generous Sponsors:
Gold Sponsorship: $5000.00
Ratcliff & Co. Law Offices, North Vancouver BC
Traditions Consulting Services, Inc., Victoria BC
Silver Sponsorship: $2500.00
Knappett Construction, Victoria BC
Bronze Sponsorship: $1000.00
Bamfield Marine Station
David Spearing & Assoc., Architects, Nanaimo BC (Plaque Donation)
Hayes Logging Co., Duncan BC
Great Sponsors of the House of Huu-ay-aht $500.00
Port Alberni Friendship Center
David Spearing & Assoc., Architects, Nanaimo BC
And to numerous other sponsors on Vancouver Island who helped make
the House of Huu-ay-aht a reality.