Nuu-chah-nulth cultural centre proposed for Port Alberni

Port Alberni, BC

Members of Port Alberni city council are in support of a proposed Nuu-chah-nulth Cultural and Interpretive Centre for the Alberni Valley.

Mary Mason and Joel Marriott of Owls Path Foundation, Denise Young of Tigers Eye Advisory Group and Scott Jeary with the First Nations Education Foundation presented the plan to city council at a regular meeting on Feb. 22 seeking support.

The proposed multi-level facility would include space to showcase Nuu-chah-nulth artifacts, local artists, retail space and cultural events. The centre could also be used to host meetings, workshops and celebrations.

“Each floor will have something different to offer. The bottom two levels of the building would be for undercover parking…the next floor up would be a public market that would have a fish selling opportunity in it for local fishermen with merchant retail spaces as well,” Mason told council. “Another floor would have office spaces and a board room for rental options. The second highest level would be a cultural interpretive museum, and that would be a place to showcase Tseshsaht and guest nations’ art, culture and history.”

Mason said the top floor of the building would be used for conventions and have the capacity to hold approximately 1,000 people.

The group’s ideal location for the cultural centre would be in a vacant parking lot adjacent to Jack’s Tire on Kingsway Avenue, but they’re also looking at other spaces.

The group has received support from the Tseshaht First Nation and are still waiting to hear back from the Hupacasath First Nation.

With no permanent hub in the Alberni Valley to showcase history and culture of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth nations, the group says the proposed centre would provide valuable and authentic information to visitors about the history, government and cultural practices of Indigenous people.

The estimated cost of the project is $20-$25 million.

The group recommended that each of the 14 nations buy into a co-operative using a percentage of their gaming revenue to ensure the day-to-day operating costs of the centre are covered, which would give them access to use the centre’s rental facilities. Other revenue streams would include visitor fees, gift shop revenue and venue rental fees.

Moving forward, the group would be looking to fund the project through grant opportunities, membership buy-ins, donations, fundraisers and sponsorships.

Mayor Sharie Minions said the cultural centre is a “beautiful concept” and that she’s thrilled someone is working on it. She said the city will look into appointing either a member of council or city staff to an advisory committee to continue working closely with the group as plans progress.

Minions said her main concern was that the group hadn’t yet received support from the Hupacasath First Nation.

“It sounds like you’re working closely with Tseshaht which is fantastic, but for projects within the city and the traditional and uncededed lands of Tseshaht and Hupacasath, we like to see really strong engagement and support from both nations, not just one,” Minons said. “Also the preferred piece of land (next to Jack’s Tire) the city doesn’t own. So we can’t help give land that isn’t ours, but overall I think this is a fantastic concept you’ve come up with.”

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