Hupacasath regains ancestral land with purchase of Gill School | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Hupacasath regains ancestral land with purchase of Gill School

Port Alberni, BC

With a history that goes back 6,000 years, Hupacasath is regaining ancestral land, formerly known as Gill School.

Over the period of the last year Hupacasath Chief Councillor Brandy Lauder had been in conversation with the Ministry of Education and Child Care, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, as well as the new superintendent of School District 70, among others, to which they unanimously agreed to the sale of the land back to Hupacasath, explained Lauder. Gill Elementary School ceased operations in 2015 due to declining student numbers.

Lauder said that when she started on council, they began the process of obtaining the land due to its cultural significance to Hupacasath. She hopes to have keys in hand by June.

When a portion of Gill school was under construction years ago, a box of remains was dug up. The box was then returned to Hupacasath, shared Lauder.

“The chiefs were thankful that they were kind enough to give it back,” said Lauder. “That's how we kind of settled it, ‘at least they're giving it back’,” said Lauder.

The remains were then buried in Hupacasath’s current graveyard located on the reserve.

“We know there’s more there,” said Lauder.

The first plan of action for Hupacasath is LiDAR surveying, and if necessary, ground-penetrating radar, to figure out the number of burial sites on the land, said Lauder.

“Our goal here is to protect what we have,” she said.

Once that is complete, discussions will open to the community on deciding how to proceed with the use of the land and school.

“This has been a long time coming and our board is excited and proud to be part of the historic shift of these important traditional lands from the school district to the Hupacasath Nation,” said Pam Craig, SD70 board chair, in a joint press release.

“Knowing that we're going to be able to have that further ability to protect our late ancestors of Hupacasath…is very satisfying,” said Lauder.

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