Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation re-thinks re-opening of their territory

Melissa Renwick, July 31, 2020

The beach in front of Esowista is blocked off the tourists, on July 21, 2020. (Melissa Renwick photo)

As the BC Day long weekend looms, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has re-shaped their stance on the re-opening of their territory.

“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation received funding to support our [emergency operations centre],” said Moses Martin, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation chief, in a release. “We [used] this funding to operate our health information checkpoints at the entrance of the villages of Ty-Histanis, Esowita and Opitshat. The funds are nearly exhausted. As larger numbers of visitors [grow] increasingly complacent about physical distancing measures [who] come to enjoy our Tribal Parks, the need for adequately funded community services are more important that ever.

Since 2018, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has been developing the Tribal Parks Allies Certification Standard. By recruiting local businesses, they have been aiming to establish a tourism economy.

“We don’t know what donations and contributions are coming from our current allies – which are only a small handful of businesses,” said Saya Masso, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation tribal administrator.

Aside from the Best Western Tin Wis, which is owned by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Hotel Zed Tofino, “there are still all of the major hotels that need to sign on,” he said.

In spite of the declaration from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council on June 9, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation decided to support a soft opening with Tofino in accordance with the B.C. Emergency Operations Centre.

The nation recently released that its re-opening is conditional based on whether adequate funding is provided to support their “precautionary measures.”

“We’re kind of in limbo as we wait to see more funding,” said Masso.

If the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is unable to fund their measures to protect their elders, they will “have to rethink the number of visitors that are permitted into their territory,” said Martin.

“It’s everyone’s first time going through this,” said Masso. “Tla-o-qui-aht is here, wanting to rise with the tides of what’s going on here.”