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The MaMook Coulson joint venture is a challenging and interesting one. It takes a great deal of work and understanding on the part of all participants in the joint venture to move forward and achieve success. In order to understand what success means we have to understand and get to know out joint venture partners and their objectives in managing a TFL. In this newsletter, I will profile the Hesquiaht First Nation, one of five Nuu-chah-nulth central region First Nations involved in the ownership of MaMook.
The Hesquiaht First Nation (pronounced Hes-kwee-aht) traditional territory is a large area on the outer West Coast of Vancouver Island including the Escalante River watershed, the Hesquiaht peninsula, Hesquiaht Lake and drainages, Boat Basin and areas around to HotSprings Cove. At the time of European contact, the Hesquiaht people are thought to have numbered between 6,000 and 10,000 people in up to 5 villages around Hesquiaht Harbour. Introduced disease, particularly smallpox, reduced the population drastically over the past few hundred years. The community became centered in one village with a few residents living on isolated reserves around the harbour. After the devastating tidal wave in the early 1960s, the village was moved to its current location near Hot Springs Cove.
The current Hesquiaht FN population is approximately 690. Only about 80 are full time residents of Hot Springs with some additional members living nearby. The majority of the Hesquiaht people live in Tofino, Port Alberni Victoria, Vancouver or further away in Seattle and other areas. Today, the tide may be turning with more Hesquiaht people returning to live and make a living at home. This is not without its challenges.
Chief Dominic Andrews is the head hereditary chief of the Hesquiaht people. Joe Tom is the Chief Councilor of the elected council of the Hesquiaht community.
Hot Springs is about 50 kilometres and over an hour by boat from Tofino when the weather is good. Transportation is expensive and any trips out to Tofino or Port Alberni or beyond to conduct business, get medical treatment, continue an education or to do recreation are very expensive. In addition, maintaining facilities including power generation, bringing in groceries, supplies, repairs or service people is a major logistical and economic challenge.
In recent years, Hesquiaht FN leadership has put in a major effort to adopt programs and establish infrastructure and facilities to allow people to live at home. In August 2008 a new modern and state of the art “green’ school was opened in the village. This school is built as a focal point to ensure children have the opportunity to get an education in a world class facility but in addition to provide a facility for the entire community to use when school was not in session for community events, sports, recreation, library and cultural activities. The school is a great achievement and more people will return and live in Hot Springs because of it.
Hesquiaht people place great deal of optimism on the operations on TFL 54 as a business venture and because operations provide an opportunity for employment of local people and other economic opportunities in support jobs.
Local jobs are hard to generate in remote communities. Hesquiaht make it very clear that if TFL 54 is to be successful it must include Hesquiaht people in decision making and employment. We had a good start this year in logging and milling and we hope to do more in the future.
The Hesquiaht community also demands that logging be done sustainably and in an environmentally sound manner.
Recently, MaMook Coulson and the students from the Hesquiaht School shared some time on the logging and dryland sort sites at Stewardson. Students saw logging first hand, and saw members of the community working hard on the job and were able to look at their traditional homeland on a brief helicopter tour of the local area. Scott Davidson of the Coulson Group as well as with Greg Charleson, a Hesquiaht community member and councilor, as well as a employee of the Coulson Group, felt it was a very successful trip and another important opportunity for getting to know each other. The photo below shows the group of students from Hesquiaht who attended the field trip.