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Duane Nookemis sworn in as member of Executive Council

On September 26, Duane Nookemis won the by-election for an empty seat on Huu-ay-aht’s Executive Council.

Duane was officially sworn in on October 5, 2020 on Zoom, in order to follow COVID-19 guidelines. Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters) carried out the official oath of office. Members of Executive Council, administration staff, as well as friends and family joined to meeting to witness the event.

Each member of Executive Council offered a message of encouragement to their newest councillor. Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Derek Peters) offered congratulations to Duane and reminded him that this is an important role and he must take his new responsibilities seriously. He added that he is confident Duane will serve Huu-ay-aht citizens well in his new role.

Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. also congratulated Duane and offered him some words of advice. He said to always remember we are all one big family and that decisions must be made with that in mind. He said Duane focused on making things better for the people when he spoke during his campaign. He said this is an important thing to remember. He stressed the importance of Duane’s interest in finding employment for citizens and focusing on education, pointing out this is something that will make the Nation stronger. The Chief said it is an essential step in order to close the gap that exists between the average Canadian and that of Huu-ay-aht citizens when it comes to economic stature and income.

Robert offered a personal congratulations to Duane and said he should be proud of himself. He said Duane is a role model in how he conducts himself and how he has raised his family.

Duane thanked everyone for their kind words and support. He also offered his appreciation to all of the citizens who supported him. He looks forward to continuing to have open communication with citizens so he can address their issues and work with them. He said he particularly looks forward to working with the youth and being the role model Robert spoke about.

The next step is a review of Executive Council portfolios. These will be announced soon.

Huu-ay-aht is one step closer to opening Mother Centre

Offering support and healing from multi-generational trauma is a key focus that came out of Huu-ay-aht’s independent Social Services Panel’s work. In the final report one of the recommendations was to work to establish a centre modeled on the Vancouver Mother Centre.

“Building a road to healing the effects of multi-generational trauma will be of fundamental and central importance to bringing Huu-ay-aht children ‘home’ and keeping them safe, healthy, and connected with Huu-ay-aht community and culture.  This healing must be done family by family and collectively as a Nation.” (Social Services Project p. 24)

Huu-ay-aht First Nations and the Port Alberni Mother Centre Society has been working with B.C. Housing to develop an Aboriginal Mother Centre, Oomiiqsu, in Port Alberni (Recommendation 26 of the Social Services Project).  Oomiiqsu, which means mother in Nuu-chah-nulth, is a unique, creative, and culturally appropriate approach to keeping families together, while providing them with the necessary guidance and tools to not only prevent children from entering care, but also for the families to flourish once outside of Oomiiqsu. Mothers and children (12 and under) will live in Oomiiqsu and receive wrap-around supports to address ongoing safety concerns from Usma (DAA) and/or Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Oomiiqsu will house multiple programs and services to support Huu-ay-aht and other Nuu-chah-nulth families:

  • 12-unit residential program for mothers and their children, ages 9-12
  • Four second-stage housing units
  • Oomiiqsu Child Care Centre
  • Office space for the Child and Family Wellness Department

Land has been purchased by BC Housing at 4305 Kendall Avenue and design plans for Oomiiqsu and Oomiiqsu Child Care Centre are complete. The Nation is still finalizing the plan for the centre, and we look forward to sharing this rendering with everyone once plans are finalized.

 Further progress on the project is subject to other approvals and funding from partners, but Huu-ay-aht is committed to making this centre a reality. As we move through the initial steps, we will continue to offer regular updates when they are available.

Huu-ay-aht made a rezoning application to the City of Port Alberni on September 14, 2020. Signage notifying the public of this rezoning will be posted at the proposed site within 15 days to notify the public. 

This is an exciting project for Huu-ay-aht and the Alberni Valley, and we look forward to sharing more information from you as the plan progresses.

Huu-ay-aht and Province agree to upgrade Bamfield Road

Premier John Horgan and representative from Huu-ay-aht, the City of Port Alberni, and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District stop in November 2019 to recognize the loss of life of two UVic students on the Bamfield Road.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations is pleased to announce a project with the Province of B.C. that will bring significant safety upgrades to Bamfield Road.

The announcement made today in Victoria is welcome news to the Nation as it has been working diligently for decades to upgrade Bamfield Road. This is the Nation’s top priority as Bamfield Road provides a vital link for citizens living in the Huu-ay-aht village of Anacla, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Without upgrades, the 76-kilometre logging road is a safety concern to all who travel it. This is a very positive end to the first part of this journey, and the Nation looks forward to working with the Province over the next three years to complete the next phase of their vision.

Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. would like to acknowledge the commitment made by Premier John Horgan and Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser. They took time out of their busy schedules to prioritize the Nation’s concerns, even travelling the road in November 2019 to see first-hand the challenges the road poses for travellers.

“By working in a respectful way with Huu-ay-aht to make upgrades to Bamfield Road a reality, we see that the Province is ready to work on true reconciliation with First Nations and is honouring the importance of the safety of our community,” said Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “The upgrades they announced today will make Bamfield and Anacla safer places to live, and it will open up economic opportunities for our communities to prosper together in the future.”

The bus crash in 2019 that claimed the lives of two young University of Victoria students highlighted the need for these upgrades, but their families are not the only ones to lose loved ones along this dangerous stretch of logging road. Through the years, Huu-ay-aht has lost a number of citizens in accidents on Bamfield Road. This project is a legacy to all of the lives lost.

“The Province is honouring our elders and the Nation’s sacred principles of ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of….), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is One) with today’s announcement,” explained Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Hereditary Chief Derek Peters). “Our Nation was forever changed when Tayii Ḥaw̓ił Art Peters, my grandfather, was killed on Bamfield Road. It is tragic that it took the loss of so many to highlight the need for chipsealing the road, but we honour the ones we have lost by doing everything we can to prevent the loss of life along this vital link in the future.”

The project is expected to cost approximately $30.7 million. Huu-ay-aht will contribute $5 million, and the Province will contribute $25.7 million from its COVID-19 Re-start and Recovery program. The Nation will manage the project with technical support from Urban Systems, as well as contributing gravel from its pit on treaty lands.

The project is expected to start soon, beginning with geotechnical and design work, and will likely take approximately three years to complete. The Province and Huu-ay-aht will ensure measures are in place during the COVID-19 pandemic to complete this major construction project in a way that protects the safety and health of the people in Bamfield and Anacla.

Upon completion, the road will have a seal-coat surface that will offer a safer, smoother drive for travellers. The upgrades will decrease many of the risks travellers currently face on the logging road such as dust, uneven surfaces, loose gravel, flooding and washouts, and dangerous corners and road edges.

Although the main reason for upgrades is to improve safety on the road, construction is expected to also offer a significant economic boost to the area.

Bamfield was at one time a booming fishing village, but in the past two decades that has changed and the community has struggled economically. The construction of the road will bring its own economic opportunities to Bamfield and the surrounding communities, and when the road is complete it will improve the economic outlook for the whole community.

Roads are a crucial contributor to economic success for a community. With a reliable link to its neighbouring communities, the Bamfield region could see many opportunities come its way. In 2016, Huu-ay-aht First Nations invested in Bamfield through the purchase of 11 properties, including a number of turnkey operations. That investment has already proven to be beneficial to the business community in Bamfield, and the Nation believes it is only the beginning. When a community flourishes economically, it has a significant impact on social development and community health. With this announcement that the Bamfield Road will be chipsealed, the Nation believes the whole community will benefit on many levels.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations would like to acknowledge that the success of this project was built on the framework of working together. Today’s announcement is possible because all the parties worked together to solve this challenge, including the Province, the City of Port Alberni, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, Western Forest Products, Mosaic Forest Management, Urban Systems, University of Victoria, the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, and the many residents and business owners who showed their support for the project.

For full news release, click here

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.