With the Wi-Fi off, northern nations reconnect under the sun in Kyuquot | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

With the Wi-Fi off, northern nations reconnect under the sun in Kyuquot

Kyuquot, BC

In recent years federal and provincial governments have prioritized the need to connect remote communities with internet service, but it became clear while planning this year’s Northern Region Games that the Wi-Fi in Kyuquot needed to be turned off.

“We wanted the kids to be away from technology, away from the internet so they can enjoy the games,” said Anita Buck, a lead organizer for this year’s games, which were hosted by the Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' First Nations July 5-8.

For years northern Nuu-chah-nulth nations have held their own games each summer, giving families from Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h', Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Ehattesaht and Nuchatlaht a chance to gather for summertime events.

This July the games doubled the population of Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h's village of Houpsitas, as 160 came to the location that is only accessible by boat or float plane on Vancouver Island’s northwest coast.

“It’s mostly reconnecting with families, reconnecting with each other,” said Buck.

Steinar Vage, who manages Program and Project Development for the Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' First Nations, added that the games serve as a natural gathering, as so many of the northern Nuu-chah-nulth nations are interconnected.

“There’s connections between different communities, so to have one gathering where everyone is pulled together is really wonderful,” he said. “It’s like a big family reunion.”

This year the gathering took place at the Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School, where dozens of tents spotted the field behind the facility, as children’s events like potato sack races, egg relays, badminton and soccer were underway under a beaming sun.

John Amos was part of the 30 Mowachaht/Muchalaht who travelled to the remote community.

“We had a lot more interest this year from our community members that have never gone before,” he said, adding that for many this was their first time in Kyuquot, which is accessed by a three-and-a-half hour drive from Campbell River – much of it on a logging road - followed by a boat ride from Fair Harbour. “They were just amazed with the trip itself from Campbell River to Fair Harbour, and then the boat.”

Most of Amos’ group camped on the field, while some others stayed at the homes of extended family in Houpsitas. He’s been involved with the Northern Region Games since 2010, and sees the impact that the time away from everyday distractions has on youngsters.

“You can see the realization that there’s more to life than technology - to be an actual kid, to be an actual teenager doing things with other teenagers from neighbouring tribes,” said Amos.

Adults were also active at the games, taking part in tug of war, volleyball and an endless series of half-court basketball matches in the school gym. On the third day of the games a salmon-cutting race was even planned.

“We’re going to be using that fish to barbeque tomorrow’s dinner,” said Buck.

Audrey Smith recalls this competition being introduced to the games about 15 years ago when her Nuchatlaht nation hosted the event in Ocluje. At the time the few cooks on hand were faced with a dilemma in the form of two huge tote containers full of fish that needed to be filleted.

“All the fish got cut,” said Smith, after the competition was added that year.

For the 2024 gathering a focus was put on minimizing waste. Participants brought drinking vessels to fill up with Kyuquot’s clean drinking water, rather than relying on plastic bottles, and eating trays were reused after being cleaned at a dish-washing station. That too sparked a competition, and on the Saturday of the event children could be seen hunting around for unwashed plates, the two stacks at the end of the washing station serving as a running tally.

Each year the northern nations take turns hosting the games, sharing in the costs.

“The food cost was probably about $10,000,” said Buck, noting that Tla-o-qui-aht also contributed, sending a few members to the gathering. “They joined in, they sent in a really generous donation towards us.”

The games are a strictly drug and alcohol-free event, and security bearing Yacmiił on their shirts could be seen ensuring this remained the case over the four days.

“I made a couple of announcements yesterday and I’ll be making a few announcements today just as a reminder,” said Ka:'yu:'k't'h'/Che:k'tles7et'h' member Kevin Jules.

Jules, who lives in Campbell River, brought his son Noah to the gathering to reconnect with family.

“Having a setting like this, I can tell him who he’s related to,” said Jules. “He’s a bit allergic to mosquito bites. Other than that, he’s loving it here.”

At the end of each day one of the northern nations gave a cultural performance, singing, drumming and dancing to their traditional songs.

“Culture is some of the best medicine,” added Jules. “It doesn’t matter how you’re feeling, as soon as you get up there to sing the songs and you hear the music and see the dancers, you’re in that element.”

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