Huu-ay-aht economic development surges ahead

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation have a lot of things on the go—and that’s the way Huu-ay-aht First Nation Councillor Trevor Cootes likes it.

Huu-ay-aht First Nation director of economic development Shawn Standley

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation have a lot of things on the go—and that’s the way Huu-ay-aht First Nation Councillor Trevor Cootes likes it.

“There’s about six opportunities we’re working on right now that can really change the landscape of what our business looks like,” said Cootes.

The Huu-ay-aht’s recent surge of economic development isn’t unusual if compared on a national level.

Cootes attended the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers conference in Toronto at the end of October and got a chance to learn about what other nations across the country were doing.

“A lot of the delegates that were there were economic development officers, executive directors and business operators,” he said.

“The one common theme is that a lot of first nations are trying to take on their economic development.”

But while many are trying, the Huu-ay-aht’s circumstances make it a little bit easier.

They became a treaty nation four years ago under the Maa-Nulth First Nations Treaty (along with the Uchucklesaht, Ucluelet, Toquaht and Ka:’yu:’k’t’h/Che:k’tles7et’h’.

With that, the Huu-ay-aht got control over their finances and operations.

Non-treaty nations or treaty nations that signed 200–300 years ago are all governed by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; self-governing nations like the Huu-ay-aht control their own economic development.

“It’s easier to spend money, it’s easier to make decisions, it’s easier to build business,” Cootes said.

They’ve started that already by partnering with Vancouver-based Steelhead LNG on a proposed $30 billion LNG facility at Sarita Bay. (see a timeline of that project here)

The 24-million-tonnes per year facility would be located on Huu-ay-aht land up the Alberni Inlet, approximately 10 kilometres north of Bamfield.

The Huu-ay-aht and Steelhead signed an agreement in July 2014 to explore the possibility of an LNG facility at Sarita Bay. At their People’s Assembly at the end of November 2014, Huu-ay-aht citizens voted in favour of continuing the project.With that, the project moved into stage 2, where it has remained since. Stage 2 consists of feasibility and environmental studies, the results of which Cootes said should be available by spring 2016.

According to Cootes, Huu-ay-aht citizens will get another chance to vote once the current studies are completed.

The LNG facility is proposed to create 3,000-4,000 jobs during its construction and 300-400 once it’s operational.

Construction won’t begin until after the final investment decision in 2018 but the Huu-ay-aht are preparing to meet the demand for workers already.

“There is a plan to offer trade-based education and training for citizens and there have been six citizens who have taken that opportunity,” Cootes said. The training so far has been to fill jobs for the construction phase.

But Cootes isn’t counting on LNG to fulfill all of the Huu-ay-ahts’ economic development goals.

“The economic plan [to be presented at the People’s Assembly] will show the short-term, mid-term and long-term goals,” he said.

“Long-term goals will definitely be something large like LNG, mid-term would be something of an overall strategy to do with forestry, tourism and fisheries. For the short term, I see tourism as the top priority.”

That would involve exploring tourism with a cultural edge—something that Cootes said other first nations in B.C. have explored with great success.

Just an hour away from Port Alberni, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation partnered with West Coast Wild Adventures to build a zipline park on their tribal land.

The partnership has so far included training and will eventually see the ownership of the park transferred over to the Tla-o-qui-aht.

Something in that vein could be a possibility on Huu-ay-aht land.

“There are operators in our territory that we’re looking at partnering with to offer them a better experience and at the same time give us a chance to build our cultural tourism program,” Cootes said.

A key part of that could be Kiixin—an old village designated a heritage site by the federal government.

“It’s an old summer village…it actually has remains of the old chief’s site,” he said.

“Close to the Bamfield community, on Trevor Channel.”

The Huu-ay-aht have visited the site on tours with students from the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, Cootes added.

“It’s something that we want to use as an attraction; build an interpretive centre around it and bring back half the artifacts that we have at the B.C. Museum in Victoria,” he said.

“I’ve seen amazing strides in Aboriginal growth in B.C. and the demand for cultural tourism around the world because of the art, the culture and the language.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

twitter.com/AlberniNews

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberni Golf Club reopens with new COVID-19 rules

J and L Mixed Scramble kicks off 2020 season

Help is available for Port Alberni businesses restarting after COVID-19 closures

Popular food truck finds a new location on Johnston Road

A LOOK BACK: recreation in Port Alberni’s downtown

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

QUINN’S QUIPS: Port Alberni woman honoured for her love of helping

Carolina Tatoosh earns provincial honours for her work with Nuu-chah-nulth elders, youth

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

B.C. woman launches First Nations search, rescue and patrol program

Linda Peters envisions trained searchers ready to go at moment’s notice in each B.C. First Nation

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Stolen gargoyle returns to its perch on central Vancouver Island yard

Petey, a concrete gargoyle statue, was returned by Nanaimo RCMP after being found by city crew

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Most Read