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Huu-ay-aht First Nations Receives $375K Contribution for Watershed Renewal from Western Forest Products Inc.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations (“Huu-ay-aht”) and Western Forest Products Inc. (“Western”) are pleased to announce that Western will provide $375,000 in support of Huu-ay-aht’s Watershed Renewal Program. The program began in 2017 in an effort to renew and enhance fish and wildlife habitats on Huu-ay-aht’s traditional territory (“Ḥahuułi”) for the benefit of future generations, specifically in the Sarita, Pachena, and Sugsaw watersheds.

“Western’s contribution to this program signals its understanding of Huu-ay-aht’s goals, of both our current Hereditary (“Ḥaw̓iiḥ”) and Elected Councils, and from our elders for generations before us who passed on the teaching of: what you take out, you must put back in,” said Tayii Ḥawił ƛiišin (Head Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “Huu-ay-aht’s values and sacred principles of ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and hišuk ma cawak (everything is one), must be upheld, and Western recognizes this. They are clearly implementing these principles and this contribution is an example of reconciliation and ʔuuʔałuk in action.”

“Western is pleased to support this work as it reflects our common interest for the long-term stewardship of the forests,” said Shannon Janzen, Western’s Vice President, Partnerships & Sustainability and Chief Forester. “Through our collaborative relationship with Huu-ay-aht, we have developed a shared vision for forestry based on leading industry practices for sustainable forest management, and through this work we intend to apply our shared knowledge and understanding to enhance forest ecosystems and the values we all care about.”

“Following the wisdom of our elders during the 90s when they spoke loud and clear that urgent action needed to be taken to restore the watersheds – this contribution will ensure we can move these objectives forward,” said Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “I am very thankful for Western stepping up and working together with Huu-ay-aht to restore our watersheds.”

ƛiišin emphasized that Western’s support of Huu-ay-aht is a great example of healthy working relationships between governments and business; one that has resulted in several outcomes that reflect a shared understanding and model for forestry. “This is what reconciliation looks like for our Nation on the ground. This type of relationship is unheard of – there is a lot to focus on and there needs to be balance – but when you work together, good things happen,” ƛiišin (Derek Peters) said.

Funds in support of Huu-ay-aht’s Watershed Renewal Program will be provided in equal installments of $125,000 over three years, for a total of $375,000. Huu-ay-aht intends to use some of the funds to apply for additional financial support through programs such as the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Community Salmon Program, and others that may arise.

There are over 20 separate projects and 14 technical reports that comprise Huu-ay-aht’s Watershed Renewal Program. Key outcomes include salmon enhancement, habitat restoration, fisheries and wildlife research, and enhanced forestry initiatives, such as improving riparian zone protection and windthrow management. The program has provided training and employment to Huu-ay-aht citizens since its inception. Huu-ay-aht has also established its own Watershed Renewal Fund and thus far, has allocated more than $1 million towards watershed and fisheries efforts.

Huu-ay-aht sees cultural centre partnership as exciting step in reconciliation journey

Huu-ay-aht First Nations is excited by the announcement of funds that will alow the community to move forward with their cultural centre in their village. The announcement was made today by the governments of Canada and British Columbia, and the Nation sees it as an exciting and important step toward reconciliation.

Today, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development; and the Honourable Scott Fraser, Member of Legislative Assembly for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, on behalf of the Honourable Selina Robinson, B.C. Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced funding for 22 projects on the Island under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan.

Huu-ay-aht’s cultural centre was among the recipients. The projects are an investment in community infrastructure by the two levels of government to benefit communities on Vancouver Island. The project is also expected to support economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.

Huu-ay-aht will build a new culture centre to provide the community with a language training room, a kitchen, dedicated areas for the production and the sale of arts and crafts, multi-purpose rooms, and washrooms. The facility will also have a multi-purpose field with bleachers for soccer and softball, and a presentation stage with stands for outdoor cultural events.

Huu-ay-aht Councillor Charlie Clappis attended the announcement and spoke about the important role this cultural centre will play in the remote community on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“We want to find ways to continue to invest in our community as we work toward bringing our people home,” Councillor Clappis said. “We are excited to participate in this partnership, and we look forward to starting this long-awaited project.”

He added that there are several components to the project that will help promote cultural wellness in their community. The centre will feature an elders’ section that will give opportunity storytelling, which is an important part of Huu-ay-aht’s culture. It will also offer recreational opportunities in the upper village with a plan to build playing fields beside the centre.

Under the treaty, Huu-ay-aht also negotiated the return of some significant cultural treasures from the Royal BC Museum and Archives in Victoria. Several of these items were returned in 2016 and are on display in the government office in Anacla. The cultural centre will give these items a permanent home and make room for the return of more treasures.

The Government of Canada is contributing more than $33.2 million, the Government of British Columbia is contributing over $8.7 million and the individual applicants are contributing more than $12.2 million to these projects through the Community, Culture, and Recreation Infrastructure Stream (CCRIS), and the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream (RNIS) of the Investing in Canada Plan.

More than $23.2 million of the federal and provincial funding is going to eight projects in Indigenous communities.

For more details on these projects, check out the full announcement.

Pachena Bay Campground will remain closed for 2020

Pachena Bay Campground Management and staff have made the difficult decision that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campground will remain closed for the 2020 camping season.

For more information, see the attached announcement related to the Pachena Bay Campground closure.

Thank you for your understanding.

Huu-ay-aht urges Province to upgrade Bamfield Road following release of report on 2019 UVic bus accident

Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. talks to Premier John Horgan and MLA and Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser at the site of the 2019 UVic bus accident. The Premier travelled the road in the fall of 2019 and met with Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations strongly supports the recommendations made in an independent report released today by the University of Victoria (UVic), but calls on the province to make the necessary safety improvements to the Bamfield Road.

The recently released report is in response to the bus accident on the Bamfield Main logging road September 2019 that claimed the lives of students John Geerdes and Emma Machado. It makes recommendations that will address travel policies for UVic, but it falls short when it comes to demanding upgrades to the dangerous road.

“The report refers to the road as dangerous and makes recommendations on steps they can take to travel it more safely, but what we really need are significant improvements to the road itself,” explains Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “No one else should lose their life on this road. It is time to chipseal it and make it safe for everyone who travels it.”

The 85-kilometre logging road is extremely dangerous. Chief Dennis believes that if the road had been upgraded prior to the UVic trip last fall, the bus would not have rolled down the embankment. He stresses that recommendations like using pilot cars and not travelling at night will not make the road safe for everyone. If the province wants to honour the memory of these young adults, it must move forward on the chipsealing of the Bamfield Road.

Last fall, Premier John Horgan travelled the road to Bamfield and agreed that safety improvements are needed. Huu-ay-aht First Nations has done the planning and engineering and is willing to contribute financially to a project that would see the 85-kilometre logging road chipsealed. Huu-ay-aht believes the time for action is now.

Chief Dennis adds that road improvements could be an economic stimulant for the province, post COVID-19, because it is shovel ready and workers could be on the ground soon if the province chooses to move forward. Investing in these upgrades would create employment and save lives by making the road safer to travel.

Chief Dennis does not want to come across another crash like this one or mourn more lives lost due to dangerous driving conditions.

“This accident was devastating, and as a Nation we felt the loss of these two young students and understand the impact this has had on their families as we have also lost friends and family on the Bamfield Road,” explains Chief Dennis. “UVic has shown respect to the students and their families throughout the process, and we are glad to have this report complete and see the recommendations, many of which echo the requests our Nation has been bringing to the provincial government for decades.”

Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Chief Derek Peters) stresses that by committing to following through on today’s recommendations, UVic is honouring the sacred principles of the Huu-ay-aht people: ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is connected). He appreciates the support the University has shown to the Bamfield Road project.

“The Machado and Geerdes families have asked that the road improvements be carried out as a legacy to their children instead of any form of memorial,” explains ƛiišin. “Since the road opened in the 1970s, Huu-ay-aht has also lost eight citizens and witnessed countless accidents on the dangerous road – including my grandfather. I would like this project to be done as a legacy for every life that has been lost on the Bamfield Road.” Huu-ay-aht will continue to work with the province, UVic, the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, and Western Forest Products to ensure the road improvements move forward.