On July 15, TFL 44 LP staff participated in a virtual Huu-ay-aht First Nations 101 session led by Tayii ḥaw̓iił ƛiišin and Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. with support from Kevin Neary, anthropologist and owner of Traditions Consulting Services Inc.
As part of the ongoing commitment to the partnership between Huu-ay-aht and Western Forest Products Inc, TFL 44 LP staff were invited to participate in a session to learn more about Huu-ay-aht’s culture, way of life and connection to the land since time immemorial.
Traditions & Treaty
ƛiišin started the session by sharing his traditional name and speaking to his responsibilities as Tayii to take care of the land resources and people, and carrying out the Nation’s three sacred principles of ʔiisaak (utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one).
Chief Councillor Dennis then shared his traditional name, Emchayiik, with participants, described the colonial Indian Act process, and how anglicized names came to be. He also spoke about the treaty process and Huu-ay-aht’s path to self-government which spanned 18 years from start to finish and was guided by approval and input from the citizens. He also spoke about the importance of potlatches and the close connection between Huu-ay-aht and neighbouring nations.
Huu-ay-aht in Forestry
Chief Councillor Dennis shared the history of forestry on the ḥahuułi when the land wasn’t being taken care of in a good way. He explained that those types of things wouldn’t happen today because of the relationship between Western and Huu-ay-aht. He remembers when he was elected into the role as Chief Councillor, there were only two Huu-ay-aht citizens working in the forest sector: Jeff Cook and Kelly Dennis. Now there are 44. He also spoke about the importance of the rivers and streams to Huu-ay-aht, and how salmon has always been the most important resource to Huu-ay-aht people. One of the most important priorities for the Nation is seeing the Sarita River restored and he is encouraged by Western’s support with renewal work.
A Resilient Nation
ƛiišin also explained to participants that Huu-ay-aht has been through a lot from residential schools and being removed from the ḥahuułi. However, going through all of the challenges and still having the teachings passed down from his ancestors demonstrates how resilient Huu-ay-aht people are. He spoke about wisdom that was passed on from his father, the ƛiišin before him, who shared his vision of building long-term relationships based on Huu-ay-aht values with others who have interest in the ḥahuułi.
Kevin Neary shared stories of Huu-ay-aht’s history, economy and connection to the land, including a photo of the Tayii ḥaw̓iił ƛiišin at the time meeting with the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Province of BC in 1874, and sites of villages, camps, burials, fish traps, clam gardens that represent at least 5,000 years of Huu-ay-aht occupation by as many as 3,000 people spread over the territory.
More to Come
The 25 in attendance found the session educational and were grateful for the opportunity to participate. One TFL 44 LP staffer stressed the value and importance of understanding the history and shared vision moving forward while giving thanks for the session on behalf of the group.
ƛiišin extended an invitation for all TFL 44 LP staff to come out to Kiix̣in and participate in the tour to see and hear more about and experience Huu-ay-aht’s culture and history first-hand.
More sessions with other TFL 44 LP staff and contractors and Western Forest Products employees will be held over the coming months.