Ahousaht tourism venture celebrated with ceremony at Nišmâqin

Hot Spring Cove, BC

Ahousaht Ha’wiih started their 2023 tourist season in grand style as invited guests joined them for an excursion to the place formerly known as Maquinna Park. The day began with a departure from the docks just behind Ahous Adventures, in Tofino, where visitors boarded for either a zodiac, or covered boat. The boats are part of a fleet managed by Ahous Adventures, owned by Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS).

As the boat neared Schindler Point, they slowed down identifying the current territory boundary where visitors would leave Tla-o-qui-aht territory and enter Ahousaht (ʕaḥuusʔatḥ) territory. The driver took note of the shallow water in the area known to be populated with otters, a keystone species to the coast, who were likely hunting for horse clams.

To the right of the boat, rugged and snowy mountains became visible behind the lush and green mountains hugging the coastline.

Sea otter after sea otter, the boat made its way to Nišmâqin, meaning the land that is ours, where Ahous Adventures' opening ceremony would be held.

It is Ahous Adventures’, owned and operated by Ahousaht, first official season, providing eco-cultural tours as seen through the lens of Ahousaht, sharing their “knowledge, culture and history through storytelling” connecting visitors with “the true spirit of this remarkable ecosystem,” reads a joint press release from Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) and Ahous Adventures.

Tyee Ḥaẁilth Maquinna Lewis George, said that a large component of his nation’s eco-cultural tourism business is educating people of Ahousaht’s history, including wars.

“We have over six hundred place names of the whole territories of Ahousaht in our language; every place has a name,” said Maquinna. “Prior to European contact it all belonged to us.”

“Now we're having to reclaim our lands back that we never lost,” he said.

Nišmâqin, an area of cultural significance to Ahousaht, is colloquially known as Maquinna Provincial Marine Park, however, ʕaḥuusʔatḥ Ḥaẁiiḥ, began the renaming process with B.C. Parks. 

Once a totem pole is complete, they will awaken the pole at Nišmâqin with a ceremony for the renaming of the park, said Maquinna.

The day's ceremony began with an opening prayer, which then was followed by warm up songs, after, the drummers welcomed their guests with a song, shared Maquinna.

Next, they sang the Nuu-chah-nulth song, which was gifted to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council by, Maquinna’s father, Earl Maquinna George. An old warrior song, most likely composed by the people that originated Ahousaht.

After, the Swan’s dance was performed, followed with the dinner song, he said.

“We picked all of those songs today because we wanted to tie everybody into one,” said Maquinna.

Troy John, lead stewardship guardian, said that their team had stayed in tents for seven months when building the new boardwalk for the two-kilometer trail to the hot springs.

The guardians worked for seven long days to complete the building of a guardian’s cabin so that it was finished for the ceremony, said John.

“It’s just awesome that we’re able to show people that we are capable of looking after our own traditional lands,” said John.

Since 9:30 a.m. that day John had been preparing suuhaa clup-chus (salmon barbeque) for the ceremony. After visitors enjoyed the hike to the hot springs, the boats departed from Nišmâqin.

On the way back to Tofino, visitors took a new route back. The boat slowed as steller sea lions fed on a fish, and soon after kakawin (orca whales) would make an appearance breaching and slapping their tails on the water.

From first light to 11:00 a.m. and, from 4:00 p.m. to dusk, use of the hot springs is exclusive to Ahousaht members and Ahous Adventures. 

Ahous Adventures is now open to book tours for the season, including the Hot Springs Eco-tour to Nišmâqin, bear watching tours, and whale watching tours.

It was noted that on June 21st, for Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an official ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at Ahous Adventures for its opening.

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