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First Nation feels snubbed by Vancouver Island Indigenous Peoples Day ceremony

Both Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations lay claim to Port Alberni waterfront
Hupacasath First Nation council comprises Councillor Ricky-lee Watts, left, Elected Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder, Coun. Jolleen Dick and Coun. Warren Lauder. (2022) (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

A Port Alberni area First Nation is calling on the city to create a protocol when dealing with both nations whose unceded territories cross city boundaries.

The move comes after the Hupacasath First Nation felt snubbed on Indigenous Peoples Day when the Tseshaht First Nation held a Wolf Ritual and unveiled the Wolf Tower at Harbour Quay.

Not only did the city not invite the Hupacasath to participate in Indigenous Peoples Day festivities on June 21, but the nation was sidelined as a host nation during opening remarks and “treated like guests” in their own territory, Hupacasath Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder said.

READ MORE: Tseshaht First Nation’s wolf ritual returns to Port Alberni’s waterfront

“What is now being called the Wolf Tower at a ‘Hikwuulh7ath village site’ is not a full depiction of the history of the site,” Lauder said. Statements made at the tower’s unveiling “misrepresented” the story of “Wolf Ritual Site” for the Hupacasath, she added.

“We’re a little hurt that the narrative that the Tseshaht pushed the Hupacasath out is dominant,” Hupacasath Councillor Jolleen Dick said. Hupacasath say what is now called Alberni Harbour Quay was owned by the joint ha’wiih of Hupacasath in 1860, and sold to William Bamfield by Kaanowish and Quilthcheenam, who maintained continuous ownership over the lands in tsuu-ma-as (Alberni Valley).

“We have been here forever and we will be here forever,” Dick said.

The whole situation could have been avoided if proper communication and protocols had been in place, Dick and Lauder said. Tseshaht officials did apologize for the miscommunication during the welcome.

The Hupacasath waited until after Indigenous Peoples Day to make a statement because they did not want to disrupt the day, Dick said. However, the nation sent a letter to the city last September outlining their concerns about the event unveiling the refurbished tower at Harbour Quay, she added.

“We’re curious why the city didn’t reach out.”

The Hupacasath FN has a good working relationship with the city, Dick said, adding that sometimes information gets lost through informal conversations.

“This is why we’ve stated a formal protocol would prevent misunderstandings and miscommunication in the future.”

Dick said letters were sent to both the Tseshaht First Nation and City of Port Alberni on June 23, but she had yet to hear back by June 25.

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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