Using community-based participatory research to document the Huu-ay-aht journey to the Maa-nulth Treaty and looking at its implementation with BC and Canada

Our Research Partnership:

Community-based participatory research needs mutual trust and respect to make things work well, creating the space for us to engage in and benefit from research. With this approach in mind, Huu-ay-aht First Nations has worked with Heather Castleden since 2005, and Onyx (Vanessa) Sloan Morgan since 2010. Our overarching goal is to work in solidarity with the Nation and engage in research that responds to the Nation’s priorities concerning Treaty negotiations and implementation.

Our research is resulting in unique new knowledge and understanding about the Treaty, particularly from the perspectives of Huu-ay-aht citizens, and creates public, governmental, and nation-to-nation awareness about the challenges and priorities for Huu-ay-aht First Nations.  A Huu-ay-aht Advisory Committee meets with us on a monthly-to-quarterly basis to provide invaluable guidance, and to check in, revisit, revise, and analyse all aspects of the research before the research team proceeds.

 Huu-ay-aht Advisory Committee

  • yaalthuu-a (Jeff Cook), Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council Representative
  • Simon Dennis, Elder & Mainland Representative
  • Stella Peters, Anacla Representative
  • Jane Peters, Anacla Representative
  • hinatinyis (Brittany Coté), Port Alberni Representative
  • Mercedes Williams, Youth Representative

Our Research Funding:

Our collective research has always been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (we have received 4 grants: 2005-2008, 2010-2012, 2013-2018, 2019-2023). In the beginning, our findings contributed to the negotiation process of the Maa-nulth Treaty, and explored what Huu-ay-aht youth wanted for their community post-effective date (2011). Since then, we conducted an analysis of the negotiation process and we have been studying the first 10 years of modern treaty implementation.

Our Research Goals:

Tasiiʔakqin ʔuyaqhmisukqin (Our Journey, Our Story) is the continuation of this long-standing research collaboration. The goal of this new phase of research is to identify, document, and critically understand and analyze how Huu-ay-aht citizens are experiencing the first decade of implementation as the Nation prepares for the 2026 ‘Periodic Review’ of the Maa-nulth Treaty. Accordingly, our research runs alongside Huu-ay-aht’s implementation pathway to contribute to Huu- ay-aht First Nations’ effective self-governance and self-determination.

In 2019, Huu-ay-aht’s Ḥa’w̓iiḥ Council, Executive Council, and Peoples’ Assembly gave the research team four priority items. We are guided by the Huu-ay-aht Advisory Committee into how to explore these priorities, which are:

  1.  Land, culture and heritage; finances under treaty; self-government; and Huu-ay-aht social wellbeing;
  2. Huu-ay-aht citizens perspectives on what is going well and what needs to be improved under treaty;
  3. How Nation-level benefits translate into individual-level benefits; and
  4. The relationship Huu- ay-aht First Nations has with treaty partners (e.g., Canada and BC governments) and how these relationships can be improved.

Our Research Methods

We use a variety of research methods as per direction by the Huu-ay-aht Advisory Committee to address priority areas. Current methods include:

Interviews with Huu-ay-aht leadership, Maa-nulth, Federal, and Provincial treaty implementation representatives

As of Winter 2022, more than 20 hours of interviews have been completed to help us explore priority area #4: the relationship Huu-ay-aht has with treaty partners.

Interviews with current and former Huu-ay-aht employees

With the support of Executive Council, the research team will be inviting current and former Huu-ay-aht employees who are/were on the front line of treaty implementation to interview on how implementation is going. These interviews will begin spring of 2022 and will help us to answer priority areas #1 to #3.

Huu-ay-aht community engagement sessions

Prior to the impacts of COVID-19, the research team held community engagement sessions twice per year in five locations where Huu-ay-aht citizens reside: Anacla, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Victoria, and the Lower Mainland. These activities have been on hold, but we hope to resume sessions in summer 2022. Sessions are run with a member of the   Advisory Committee delivering opening remarks before cultural activities and a shared meal, followed by an update to citizens on our research activities with an open floor forum for discussion. Sessions focus on Huu-ay-aht citizens receiving updates on activities to date, and sharing their perspectives and experiences of the challenges, opportunities, and shortcomings of treaty implementation, contributing to priority item# 2 and #3.

Document Analysis

A critical appraisal of documents key to Huu-ay-aht treaty implementation is ongoing throughout the project. This includes the analysis of agendas and minutes, and reports from various tables and committees. These documents provide key contextual data and aid the us in developing questions to ask Huu-ay-aht citizens and Maa-nulth implementation teams, while also tracking developments over our study period. Document analysis will thus help the research address all priority items.

Archival Analysis

At the direction of Executive Council, the research team asked Johnathan Rose, Research Associate in Heather’s Research Lab, to draft a report examining policies that encouraged or forcibly removed Huu-ay-aht citizens from hạhuułi. He investigated 1950’s amendments to the Indian Act, Matrimonial Real Property laws, 1940s land claim documents, as well as off-reserve housing initiatives and enfranchisement statistics to develop a preliminary report. A draft of this report was shared with Executive Council and the Research Advisory Committee in 2020.

Document Analysis

The research team met with Crystal Jack, Huu-ay-aht’s Director of Implementation, in the spring of 2020 to explore how the priorities of the research project could complement the Implementation Department’s priorities as the Nation prepares for the 15-year review. Crystal suggested that the research team could support activities related to the Value Indicators survey; this would also complement the research team’s priority items. The research team hopes to:

  1.  translate the data from the 2018 Values Indicator survey into a final report;
  2. create a longitudinal report from the 2014, 2015, 2017 (research team survey), 2018, and forthcoming 2020 data. Madilyn Darrach, a Research Assistant in Heather’s Research Lab, worked with the research team to draft a report based on the data from the 2018 Value Indicators Survey. A draft of the report has been sent to Executive Council for their review and comment. Once comment and further direction is received, the research team will begin to develop a plan to conduct the longitudinal analysis of all data.

Research Team

Onyx (Vanessa) Sloan Morgan (Project Co-Lead)


Heather Castleden (Project Co-Lead)

Outcomes & Updates

We provide monthly updates to Huu-ay-aht’s Executive Council, in addition to regular updates in the Uyaqhmis. Findings from this study are intended to contribute to Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ implementation journey and those negotiating and implementing modern treaties across Canada and BC. We will make our findings available to all sides of the implementation table, in addition to the Land Claims Agreement Coalition and Nations’ that are part of the Alliance of BC Modern Treaty Nations.

For more information on this research, or if you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact or (902) 489-2412, Onyx (Vanessa) Sloan Morgan at or (250) 508-3410, or any member of the Advisory Committee.

For more information on the research team, please visit:

The research team from left to right:  Marc Calabretta, Heather Castleden, Ayanna Clappis, and Onyx Sloan Morgan; Jon Aarssen and Becki Nookemis

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