Jay Miller tends the giant clupchas (salmon barbecue) on the beach during the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust's annual gathering on Sept. 17 in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Carla Moss photos)
“Us sitting together is a form of reconciliation,” said Ahousaht Chief Councillor Greg Louie at the regional Hišinqʷiił or “Gathering”, Sept. 17. “We can sit across from each other, be respectful, knowing that yes, we do have differences, but respect them.”
Over 600 people from the five First Nations, Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ucluelet and Toquaht, plus the municipalities Tofino, Ucluelet and Area C turned out at the Kwisitis Visitors Centre in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve for the event.
“In discussions recognizing Canada’s 150th anniversary, we have heard a need for ongoing healing and reconciliation within and between our communities,” said Clayoquot Biosphere Executive Director Rebecca Hurwitz. “As a UNESCO designated site, we see a link between this local need and the UNESCO mandate to build peace in the minds of men and women.”
“The purpose of this event was to bring people and communities together to create opportunity for people to share what they felt needs to be said, share in food, culture and fun and laughter with kids actives like face painting, scavenger hunt and bubbles,” said Hurwitz.
The Ucluelet Warriors tended clupchas (salmon barbecue) while the Ahousaht Soul Shakers warmed their drums over the hot fire on the Wickaninnish Beach.
Meanwhile in the parking lot, the Ucluelet chefs dished out prepared sides and deserts to over 600 people.
Ahousaht’s Tyee Ha’wilth Maquinna, Lewis George, spoke of history, present day political struggles with fisheries, concerns about global warming, and pride in Ahousaht youth, including his grandchildren. His grandson, who just graduated from high school, created the logo and poster for the gathering.
Mary Martin and her partner Art held a well-attended mini cedar bark workshop, while others painted children’s faces as giant bubbles floated lazily by. Julia Taffe and her Aeriosa dancers shared images of nature while suspended in the trees, as the centre stage was open for the communities to give histories, teachings, visions, thoughts and hopes.
“The CBT has come a long ways in the last 14-15 years,” said Ha’wilth Muuchinink Bruce Frank of Tla-o-qui-aht.
Reflecting on the CBT’s origins in the early 2000s, Ha’wilth Muuchinink spoke of beginning a collaboration with the organization’s original executive director, Stan Boychuck, Tla-o-qui-aht.
“With people like Moses Martin to remind we live together, there’s no way you or I are going away,” he said. “We might as well work together. That stays fresh in my mind at times like these.”
CBT Executive Director Rebecca Hurwitz was thanked for her decision to listen to the communities that make up the organization and to act on their needs to celebrate regional relationships outside of Canada Day.
“Knowing that the celebration was to coincide with Canada Day, we say thank you to you, Rebecca,” said Ha’wilth Muuchinink. “The nations that surround and make CBT wanted to have our own celebration and not celebrate Canada Day, we appreciate and respect that you made the decision…to have this event for today.”