The Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation (KHFN) are going into business for themselves.
KHFN has purchased a marina and lodge in their traditional territory from the retiring owners. Pierre’s Lodge and Marina is in Echo Bay on Gilford Island, about 15 minutes by boat from KHFN’s home further west on the island.
The full-service marina, grocery, post office and lodge caters to tourists and forestry workers in the Broughton Archipelago.
The bay has long been a part of KHFN life. The village that used to be there was a hub for the Nation. Elders remember visiting Echo Bay for groceries, ammunition and hunting licences, said Andrea Lyall, a KHFN member and forestry professional who helped orchestrate the purchase.
It’s an awkward time to buy a tourism business with so many American sport fishing customers kept across the border, but the decision wasn’t just about economic development, Lyall said.
“It meant re-establishing ownership in our traditional territory.”
The purchase was supported with funding from B.C.’s Strategic Forest Initiative, a program meant to invigorate the forestry industry.
The Echo Bay project qualified because it’s used by forestry field crews for lodging.
The outgoing owner, Pierre Landry, owned the lodge and marina for 40 years. He and his wife are retiring and moving closer to their grandchildren. Landry will stay on for the summer to help train staff and transition the business.
Elected Chief Rick Johnson said the marina is one part of his Nation’s plan to rebuild health and strength.
“When our people first welcomed the Europeans, we were the stewards of our lands. We harvested our trees, we built our own houses, we worked the land and we had a sophisticated system that kept us strong.”
Then when the Indian Act was established, First Nations were moved onto reserves, and over time were cut off from resources. “We were With the IA, we were put on reserves and over time we had no longer had access to our resources. But industry did.
“We’re almost invisible, one of my elders said to me very recently. You’ve got industry that passes our village on a daily basis, and there’s millions of dollars going past our village. The associative economic gap between us and white society is getting larger.”
Owning this business, with 15 acres of land is healthy for the community, Johnson said. “One of the things our old people passed on to me is that we get our self esteem from work. We need to teach that to our young kids, to be part of creating jobs and entrepreneurship.”
While the first year will be slow, Johnson is looking ahead to the economic boon they expect over time, with plans to expand tourism at the lodge.
“In the north Island, you have the logging industry, and most of the money doesn’t stay, and it hurts the community. We need to employ locally and keep the money in the communities so our small communities can survive and be strong.”
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