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 Partnership

For more than a decade, Huu-ay-aht First Nations and Heather Castleden have worked together to ensure their community-based participatory research projects are useful to the Nation, timely/relevant, and feasible.

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 the research. The research methods we use result in new knowledge and understanding, and create awareness about the challenges and priorities for Huu-ay-aht.

In this project, we are looking at the challenges and priorities for implementing the Treaty. An Advisory Committee helps guide the research team and aids decision-making. We meet every four months to check in, revisit, revise, and analyse all aspects of the research project before moving forward.

Research Goal and Objectives

The goal of this project is to conduct a comprehensive case study with Huu-ay-aht First Nations to document, understand, and evaluate the journey to accepting the Maa-nulth Treaty, as well as the issues, decision-making processes, and outcomes associated with implementing the Treaty.

Four objectives guide this research:

  • Situate the Treaty within the broader historical, socio-political, geographical, economical, and cultural context;
  • Document and understand how Treaty negotiators express and differentiate the complex negotiation process;
  • Investigate the issues, challenges, and opportunities with implementing the Treaty at multiple scales; and
  • Monitor and evaluate the research in terms of community empowerment, ownership, and control.

Research Methods

In order to meet the above goal and objectives, we are using a variety of research methods:

  • Archival material from Huu-ay-aht, provincial, and federal archives:
    1. Over 3000 pages of material were collected from Huu-ay-aht First Nations archives! Marc Calabretta (Queen’s University student researcher) is in the process of making sense of this information to story how Huu-ay-aht First Nations made the treaty negotiation process work for you
  • Interviews with lead negotiations from Maa-nulth, federal, and provincial parties, and Huu-ay-aht Ḥaw̓iiḥ elected leadership, Elders, and citizens:
    1. Sixty-five (65) interviews with Huu-ay-aht musčim (citizens), Elders, and Ḥa’w̓iiḥ, and with Maa-nulth Treaty negotiators and implementation teams were conducted between May 2014 and December 2016. Jane Peters, Wišqii, and Vanessa Sloan Morgan (Queen’s University student researcher) collected the interviews; Vanessa is in the process of analyzing the interviews now to share how implementation is going and how Huu-ay-aht self-government is structured under the Treaty
  • Huu-ay-aht community engagement sessions:
    1. In November 2016, the research team with the guidance of the Advisory Committee held their first community engagement study for the project. The sessions were held in Port Alberni, Anacla, and Vancouver and were well attended! Huu-ay-aht musčim shared their thoughts about life under treaty in the sessions. Keep an eye on Huu-ay-aht’s facebook page for future engagement sessions in July 2017 and November 2017.
      [Summary notes and the presentation from each session are found here]

      Powerpoint – Our Journey, Our Choice, Our Future
      Anacla Meeting Summary     
      Port Alberni Meeting Summary
      Vancouver Meeting Summary

  • Photovoice with Huu-ay-aht musčim:
    1. In May 2017, Becki Nookemis and Ayanna Clappis (Huu-ay-aht and post-secondary student researchers) joined the research team, along with Jon Aarssen (Queen’s University student researchers). Over the summer, Becki, Ayanna, Jon, and Vanessa will be working with Huu-ay-aht musčim using photovoice – a research method where pictures are used to share your thoughts – to hear how life under treaty is going for you. They are actively looking for Huu-ay-ahts to take part in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, and Anacla. Please reach out to the research team or the advisory committee if you want to learn more!

 Huu-ay-aht Advisory Committee

  • ƛiišin (Derek Peters), Ḥaw̓iiḥ Council Representative
  • Simon Dennis, Elder & Mainland Representative
  • Wišqii (Rob Dennis Jr.), Port Alberni/Anacla Representative
  • Stella Peters, Anacla Representative
  • Jane Peters, Anacla Representative
  • Mercedes Williams, Youth Representative

Research Team

  • Ayanna Clappis (Student Researcher)
  • Becki Nookemis (Student Researcher)
  • Jon Aarssen (Student Researcher)
  • Vanessa Sloan Morgan (Student Researcher)
  • Marc Calabretta (Student Researcher)
  • Heather Castleden (Project Lead/Supervisor)


Contributions from this research will create a record of the historic journey to the Maa-nulth Treaty and the first five+ years of implementation. Through a variety of ways (print, media, oral, creative) we will seek to:

  • Create a record to understand Huu-ay-aht’s journey to negotiating, accepting, and now implementing the Maa-nulth Treaty;
  • Provide information to other First Nations considering a modern treaty as their path to relative self-determination;
  • Contribute to insights and critiques of modern treaties and Indigenous-settler relations in Canada;
  • Shed light on implementation to aid Huu-ay-aht government in the self-governance process; and
  • Contribute to a national understanding amongst all Canadians that we are all treaty people.

Project updates will be provided regularly through the Uyaqhmis and Huu-ay-aht’s Facebook page. For more information on this research, or if you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact Heather Castleden at or (902) 489-2412 or any member of the Advisory Committee.

For more information on Heather and the research team, please visit:

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

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