The west coast communities of Anacla and Bamfield received a funding boost on Friday, July 3 in their twin efforts to create community centres.
With $1.8 million in federal and provincial infrastructure funding, Huu-ay-aht First Nations will be able to move ahead with plans for a community cultural centre to be built in their upper village, next to the House of Huu-ay-aht.
“There are a few aspects that are pretty exciting,” Huu-ay-aht First Nations councillor Charlie Clappis said. Clappis has the infrastructure and housing portfolio within the Huu-ay-aht government. “There is a piece (of the centre) that will be holding some of our cultural treasures.”
In 2016, the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria returned a number of cultural treasures to the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, including masks, carved wooden birds, a ceremonial screen, basketry objects and items associated with whaling and whaling rituals. It has been more than 100 years since some of the treasures left Huu-ay-aht’s territory.
A condition of the repatriation was having a place to put them on display, Clappis said. Presently they are in a small room on display at the Anacla government office. The treasures’ return was part of Huu-ay-aht treaty negotiations.
“As we provide space, we will slowly get cultural treasures released back to us over time.”
The centre will also hold space for the nations’ elders, giving them a modern feature where they can uphold traditions such as storytelling, or creating artwork.
The community centre will provide smaller meeting spaces to complement the large gathering space at House of Huu-ay-aht, Clappis added.
Plans for the centre are underway now, with a hopeful completion date of fall 2021. Construction of the centre coincides with the Huu-ay-aht’s wastewater treatment plant, which should be completed next summer.
The treatment plant and community centre will both be out of the tsunami inundation zone in the coastal community; Clappis said a future project will be to equip the community centre with backup generators so it could be used as an emergency operations centre in the event of a natural disaster cutting off Anacla from other communities.
A bad winter storm two years ago cut the community off from Port Alberni for seven days, leaving everyone without power over Christmas.
Through Infrastructure Canada, six projects in central Vancouver Island and the west coast will receive a combined $10 million.
Along with the cultural centre, Anacla will be getting another playing field for the upper village, including seating. This is an important step for expansion in the upper village, Clappis said: there is already a multipurpose field in the lower village, which is separated from the upper village by a river.
“This helps us with the momentum in developing our upper village,” he said. “We have an aggressive goal in developing our upper village and this helps with movement in there.”
There are a number of housing developments in progress in the upper village, including two duplexes, a fourplex and two single family houses. Anacla is home to approximately 90 people right now, with hopes of growing in the future, Clappis said.
The nearby community of Bamfield is also celebrating news it has received $1 million in funding for a new community hall. Bamfield’s old hall was connected to a church, and when the church was sold they lost their hall, Clappis explained.
Bamfield has been working for a dozen years to secure a new community hall.
Both Bamfield and the Huu-ay-aht submitted their proposals for funding in January 2019.
“In partnership with the federal government, we are investing in infrastructure that will strengthen our local communities,” said Scott Fraser, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim.
“The construction of the Ahtaapq Creek Hydropower Project will support the Hesquiaht First Nation in their transition to cleaner energy sources and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New cultural gathering places are coming to the Huu-ay-aht and Toquaht First Nations and a new Matsquiaht Dock is coming to Meares Island on the territory of the Ahousaht First Nation. We’re also investing in a community centre in Bamfield as well as upgrades to the lighthouse in Ucluelet to allow for safe storm watching.”
Investments made through ICIP are designed to create economic growth, sustain well-paying jobs, build inclusive communities, and support a low-carbon, green economy.
Of the $41.9 million in federal and provincial funding announced last week, more than $23.2 million will be going to eight projects in Indigenous communities.