Guardians of the trail

Parks Canada, first nations celebrate 20-year relationship on West Coast Trail.

Danna Jones of the Pacheedaht First Nation talks with hiker Wei-Quin Wong

Kevin Peters can’t stop grinning when he talks about the last 15 years he has spent as a First Nations Guardian of the West Coast Trail.

‘“It’s fun. You meet a lot of cool people, the work is very interesting,” said Peters, a member of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation who oversees the 25 kilometres of Huu-ay-aht territory on the trail.

Peters and dozens of other guardians, both past and present, were celebrated at a ceremony Friday at the Alberni Athletic Hall.

The guardians program was set up 20 years ago as a partnership between the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht first nations, whose territory the 75-kilometre-long West Coast Trail traverses. Each nation is responsible for 25 kilometres.

(story continues below)

Guardians keep the trail clear, offer first aid and information to travellers, but most importantly share their culture and history of the land.

“The agreement is more than what is says on paper,” says Huu-ay-aht Chief Derek Peters, whose late father Spencer was the signatory on the original agreement.

“What this agreement does is acknowledges the territory and the nations that live in the territories. That’s a really respectful thing. It allows us to educate the world about who we are and we get to meet the world.”

Karen Haugen worked with Parks Canada for 12 years before joining the Huu-ay-aht earlier this month. She was the manager responsible for implementing the guardian program with Parks Canada.

The guardians do much more than keep the trail safe, says Haugen: they enrich travellers’ experiences.

“They arrive to make a 75-kilometre adventurous hike but they leave with pieces of Canadian history by hearing about the land from the traditional guardians.

“It’s not the bridge system or the beauty they remember, it’s that personal connection that makes it the most memorable visit to our country.”

Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle presented Jeff Jones (Pacheedaht), Jack Thompson Sr. (Ditidaht) and Derek Peters (Huu-ay-aht) with the CEO’s award of excellence on Friday.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Vehicle catches fire near China Creek Marina

No injuries in blaze, according to witnesses

North Island College issues brief statement on bomb threat

Threat forced college to close all campuses for one day

Premier wades into fishery closure debate

John Horgan questions the federal government’s approach

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

Horse riders resurrect public riding ring near Port Alberni

Open house planned for July 22 so public can check out Beaver Creek facility

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

VIDEO: Firefighters put out brush fire in Nanaimo

Fire broke out in the area of a new development under construction in East Wellington

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations

Activists protest outside Kinder Morgan terminal in kayaks, canoes

Tsleil-Waututh elder Ta’ah Amy George led the water ceremony from a traditional Coast Salish canoe

Most Read