B.C. Premier announces partnership with Ahousaht

By Denise Titian, August 15, 2016

Premier Christy Clark visits Matsquiaht for presentation of the Medal of Citizenship to Ahousaht and to announce a economic protocol.

Photo by Melody Charlie

Matsquiaht (formerly Kakawis, Meares Island) — 

Lone Cone Hostel and Campground was buzzing with activity on Aug. 12 as the Ha’wiih and people of Ahousaht prepared for a visit from British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

People cooked salmon over fire pits while drummers sang in the blazing summer sun. Children sang, played together and picked apples from a lonely tree, a remnant of Christie Indian Residential School.

The former residential school site has been transformed into a summer tourist destination offering hiking, watersports and beautiful views to visitors. It is one of the economic development ventures created by Ahousaht’s Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society and Ahousaht Business Corporation.

According to the MHSS website, their Board of Directors, made up of Ahousaht Ha’wiih (hereditary chiefs), has been working diligently over the last year developing a new relationship protocol with the province of B.C.

The agreement will enable Ahousaht to have a dedicated process to discuss land use, Crown referrals, resource management issues and the development of an economic diversification strategy.

The Protocol is for a five-year term and is renewable.

On Aug. 12, the new Ahousaht Protocol Agreement was announced jointly by Ahousaht Tyee Ha’wilth Maquinna (Head Chief Lewis George) and B.C. Premier Christy Clark at Matsquiaht.

The agreement between Ahousaht and British Columbia will bring $1.25 million to Ahousaht over five years. The parties have agreed to work together to identify and develop business ventures and provide jobs for the Ahousaht people.

Since 2012 the leadership of Ahousaht has been working on economic development for Ahousaht people in the areas of renewable energy, aquaculture, ecotourism, commercial retail services, transportation and project management.

“This moment is so significant in the history of how we move forward,” said A-in-chut (Chief Shawn Atleo). “We have a vision of clean, renewable energy for our communities and we need to create employment,” he said. He recalled seeing diesel oil seeping up from the sand around the houses in Ahousaht. With its remote location on Flores Island, Ahousaht faces unique challenges in meeting the heating and energy needs of its growing community.

Speaking on behalf of Maquinna, Cliff Atleo Sr. said the people appreciated Clark’s willingness to come to Ahousaht territory to hear their voices. The Premier was blanketed by the Ahousaht Hakuum (queen) and given the name Cha-chum-wah.

According to Atleo, the name Cha-chum-wah relates to the spoken word. “Once delivered, you can’t take it back; our teachings are to always be careful what you say and how you say it,” said Atleo, adding that respect and honesty are essential when speaking.

Clark thanked the Ha’wiih and acknowledged other dignitaries.

“I am so profoundly honored to be blanketed and to be given a name that will forever connect me to the Ahousaht people,” she said.

She went on to say that she has a connection to Clayoquot Sound dating back to the 1880’s when her great grandparents settled on Stubbs Island. Her grandfather was among the first non-native babies to be born there, likely delivered by an Ahousaht midwife, she shared.

“I am here today because they survived and thrived and Ahousaht is an integral part of my family’s history,” said Clark, before thanking Maquinna for the honor. The new partnership between BC and Ahousaht, she said, will allow the people to survive and thrive.

Through the Ahousaht Protocol, the province and Ahousaht will work to improve the Ahousaht economy, develop a collaborative approach to natural resource management and permitting within their traditional territory. It will also allow the parties to explore the renaming of significant geographic place names to reflect Ahousaht’s historic connections to the land.

The Premier went on to talk about the October 2015 Leviathan II tragedy in which local first nations and the people of Tofino came together to rescue and support survivors of the sinking of the Leviathan II,  and recover those that didn’t make it.

“We recognize the need to always be prepared, and first nations need to have a more integral role with the Coast Guard,” she said.

She announced a $50,000 grant to support the needs of Ahousaht emergency response services after recognizing Ahousaht community heroism in responding to the Leviathan II tragedy.

Premier Clark then bestowed the British Columbia Medal of Good Citizenship on both communities of Ahousaht and Tofino in recognition of their respective rescue and recovery efforts.

In a separate presentation, Maquinna introduced his newly-trained and hired crew of Guardians whose responsibility it is to patrol Ahousaht Hahoulthee (chiefly territory), making sure people and the resources are safe.

He called forward Edward ‘Squeak’ Campbell to receive a jacket and hat, making him an honorary member of the Guardians. Campbell, a much-loved Ahousaht member, is battling illness, but still makes it to community events to show his support.

More gifts were exchanged, including flags and a crab apple tree that was planted at Matsquiaht by the dignitaries at the event.

Premier Clark presented the tree to Ahousaht, saying, “The crab apple tree has healing properties and it symbolizes joy, healing and our partnership which will continue to grow stronger over time.”

Special guests included Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, John Rustad, BC-Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council President Deb Foxcroft and Vice President Ken Watts.