Good to be home in the territory, say Uchuklesaht members

Ha-Shilth-Sa, August 10, 2007

A view of the Henderson Lake fish hatchery. The photo was taken during a helicopter tour of Uchuklesaht territory.

Henderson Lake — 

On Aug. 10 and 11, the Uchuklesaht First Nation hosted its fourth annual community picnic and there were as many as 60 participants in attendance.

A lunch was ready and waiting for all of those who traveled the three-and-a-half hour trip by road or took the water taxi to the lake. After lunch was served, Chief Councillor Charlie Cootes Sr. welcomed everyone to the Tii-kwin-powats (Thunderbird’s nest) picnic.

Cootes explained that during the day there were tours set up for those interested in either a helicopter tour of the traditional territory, a boat tour on the lake or a walk in the forest to see culturally modified trees.

“While you are here enjoying the community picnic, I feel it is important for our community to physically see the traditional territory and lands that have been negotiated on your behalf (in the Maa-nulth Final Agreement). Later, during the course of the two days we will have a treaty update” said Cootes.

Cootes then called on Chief Councillor Robert Dennis to say a few words as Dennis was only able to stay for the first day. Dennis thanked Uchuklesaht for inviting him and also for being in the traditional territories of the Uchuklesaht. Dennis, like many others, was looking forward to seeing the territory from a helicopter.

There were 10 trips made by the helicopter for the community members and their guests. Most of the guests took the helicopter tour.

Community members said they thoroughly enjoyed the scenic tour of their lands and territories.

Mitchel Cootes, age 15 (soon to be sixteen), Megan Cootes, 18, were a couple of young people who attended. Megan brought her friend Brittany Denton from Nanaimo as a guest.

“I liked pretty much everything about the picnic, but my favourite was the helicopter ride. It was cool,” said Mitchel. He is a student at Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo.

His older sister Megan also enjoyed the helicopter ride. Megan said she enjoyed the boat ride to see the Thunderbird nest, as well as the walk in the forest.

“I enjoyed knowing what and where everything (traditional territory) is and am able to appreciate it more because I can see it,” Megan said.  Megan is in her second year of college at Malaspina and is doing her first year of business administration.

There were community members from as far away as Yakima, Wash. in attendance.

A feast of fish, crab, vegetables and baked potatoes was served for dinner.

After dinner many of the participants sat around the fire talking and reminiscing about families and growing up in Uchuklesaht. Later in the evening a big bonfire was lit and people were in awe of its size.

At a smaller fire, many enjoyed a wiener roast. People were happy to be home. It had been a long day and gradually everyone went to their tents, the cabin and or the fisheries house to call it a day.

The following day was the business aspect of the two-day gathering as everyone would be given a treaty update.

Story by Jack F. Little