Laughter is good medicine to Ah-neets-nahs

Ha-Shilth-Sa, August 16, 2007

Ah-neets-nahs Tom Curley

Ah-neets-nahs (Tom Curley) is a proud member from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (TFN) and was born in Kildonan, B.C. at the cannery there in 1939. This was at a time when there were many canneries up and down the coast.

His parents were the late Ernest and Cecelia Curley, and grandparents were Tim and Lucy Manson. Tom currently lives at the Esowista Reserve and has a picturesque view of the famous Long Beach.

Tom has been happily married to his wife Christine for 27 years. Together they have raised eight children: Tom Jr., Marvin, Christina, Frenchie, Matt, Alana, Terry and Justin. Justin is his late daughter Christina’s son. Tom and Christine have looked after their grandson most of his life.

Tom also lost a son Fabien in a house fire many years ago.

Tom has been active with the TFN council and politics for the last 28 years of his life. He is also appointed to the USMA board by TFN. A couple of his portfolios are health and social development.

As a council member, he was instrumental in securing the land of the Old Christie Residential School, which was torn down in the mid-1980s to make way for the Tin Wis Best Western Resort, which is owned by TFN.

The late Dan David and Tom fought hard with the government to have the property, which was part of TFN’s traditional territory, returned to the nation. This is one of the highlights of Tom’s life and an accomplishment that is dear to him.

“I take a lot of pride in the establishment and re-acquiring of the land at Tin Wis, as I felt it was important to acquire the land so we could start our own business, the Tin-wis Best Western Resort,” said Tom.

Tom has also been a previous alternate board member for the Tin Wis board of directors. Tin Wis is one of Tom’s favorite places for coffee or a place to eat.

In his earlier years, Tom worked at the floating fish camps around the Tofino area. “There used to be a floating fish camp on the west side of the current government dock that many of the local people worked at,” he said. Other jobs included time employed by the Canadian Fish Company in Tofino and at a store that was called McMillan Store. It was situated where BC Packers is located today. Tom also worked at Jack Walters’ store as well.

Tom remembers fondly a time when he was a young man and he purchased his first vehicle; It was a 1952 Ford panel truck. He was a very happy man and had a great feeling when he purchased that first vehicle. He paid a whole $200 for it.

Tom was always a busy man. He was a logger for 20 years. He worked as a hook tender, engineer, loader and yarder, and even a truck driver. Areas he worked in have included Catface, Mill Stream, Bear River, Stewardson and he also spent some time working for McMillan Bloedel.

One of his jobs was as a sports fisherman guide. He was one of the first Aboriginal people that was involved in fishing charters in the Tofino area.

Tom also spent time as a disc jockey for the Tofino radio station CHOO FM, which no longer is in existence. Curley hosted one of the most popular shows on the air. It was called the Gumboot Show.

“This was one of the most enjoyable jobs that I ever had,” he said. Many of the residents in the Clayoquot Sound area looked forward to whenever Tom was on the air. Almost everyone from the local area knew him, and respected his on-air humor. He would say laughter is like medicine. One of his sayings was ‘Another rainy day on the West Coast, so don’t forget your gum boots,’ and he would laugh and laugh on the air.

Tom also enjoyed a brief acting career on the stages of Tofino and in Seattle, Wash. Tom has enjoyed entertaining people wherever he has been. Tom currently volunteers at the FM radio station in Tofino.

One of Tom’s many attributes is his ability to speak and understand the Nuu-chah-nulth language. Tom is fluent and is also very knowledgeable in his culture and traditions. He was taught well by his grandparents and parents, especially by his late mother Cecelia.

Tom holds a hereditary seat with the Ehattesaht Tribe, as he is the third hereditary chief, and also sits on the right-hand side of the Tyee Chief Mike Savey.

Tom enjoys watching and supporting sports, especially with the youth. At a recent slow-pitch tournament held in Tofino he was heard by all around him supporting his many nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

He is a fixture at many sporting events for TFN members.