K'ómoks, Project Watershed form alliance — heritage bid officially launched

THE KUMUGWE DANCERS and their drummers performed Sunday during a celebration of the estuary at the Puntledge RV Campground in Courtenay. - Lindsay Chung
THE KUMUGWE DANCERS and their drummers performed Sunday during a celebration of the estuary at the Puntledge RV Campground in Courtenay.
— image credit: Lindsay Chung

The work to gain National Historic Site Status for the ancient aboriginal fish trap systems in the Courtenay River estuary took two major steps Sunday afternoon.
The Kómoks First Nation (KFN) and the board of directors of the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society signed a Memorandum of Agreement to work together for the protection and preservation of the Courtenay River Estuary during a celebration of the estuary at the Puntledge RV Campground in Courtenay.
Dr. Paul Horgen, chair of the National Historic Site Committee (NHSC), officially launched a community bid for National Historic Site Status for the ancient aboriginal fish trap systems in the estuary.
"I'd like to officially announce today that we are going to move forward with a joint bid for National Historic Site status for the Courtenay estuary ancient fish trap systems, Kómoks First Nation and the community of the Comox Valley, to move this forward," Horgen announced during the celebration, hosted by the KFN and Project Watershed Society.
Sunday's celebration, MCed by Fran Prince, opened with a welcome by Coun. Barbara Mitchell of the K'ómoks First Nation and included dancing by the Kumugwe Dancers and performances by Emily Spiller.
Archeologist Nancy Greene and geologist David McGee have proven that the Courtenay River estuary possesses the remains of thousands of wooden stakes, which suggest that civilization occupying this area had an extensive fishery using wood-stake fish trap systems, and based on this important find, Project Watershed is co-ordinating a community-wide effort to make a submission to the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for National Historic Status for the Courtenay River Estuary.
Melissa Quocksister, KFN member on the Historic Site Committee, told the crowd that the band is behind the work being done to secure National Historic Status.
"I'm a member of the K'ómoks First Nation, and our ancestors built these fish trap systems which you can see in the estuary still today, and the way they were built and just the way they used the tides and their traditional knowledge to trap these large quantities of fish is just amazing," she said.
"The research that was done by Nancy Greene and David McGee really shows exactly how incredible these fish trap systems really were," Quocksister added. "I wanted to let everybody know today that the band is in support of putting in a bid to have National Historic Status for the estuary and these fish trap systems."
Many distinguished guests spoke about the importance of the estuary and the work being done by the community to recognize it and recognize the fish trap systems.
Coun. Stewart Hardy of KFN spoke about how happy he was when Greene and McGee began their work on the fish traps, as he used to always ask his mother what they were, and she didn't know.
North Island MP John Duncan, federal minister of aboriginal affairs, believes this is "quite a doable project."
"This is a very important measure that's taken years to get there, and I know there are a lot of people who have worked very hard to do that," he said. "This certainly will kickstart the process, having First Nations sign off and community backing from the Comox Valley communities that all represented here. I look forward to further progress on this important project."
Coun. Jon Ambler of Courtenay was so interested in the work being done that he specifically asked if he could sit on the NHSC and if he could represent Courtenay at Sunday's celebration.
"History is not made my things," he said. "History is made by people, but the people don't last forever, and what remains are those things. Those things are the physical, tangible link with those that went before."
Coun. Marcia Turner of Comox spoke about the significance of the estuary, for both its environmental and its historic value.
Comox Valley MLA Don McRae recognized and thanked Horgen, Project Watershed and the K'ómoks First Nation for their work and dedication.

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