The search for a missing Ahousaht man continued on Monday.
Over 70 volunteers spent the day searching on and around Bartlett Island, where well known Ahousaht basketball player and coach Travis Thomas had been camping as part of a spiritual healing journey when he was reported missing on Aug. 9.
Alec Dick is leading the search from Ahousaht’s Emergency Operations Centre and told the Westerly News on Monday afternoon that Bartlett Island is often used for spiritual healing journeys, which involve isolation.
“It’s somewhere they go, just to clear out their system,” Dick said. “He was fasting first and then getting into his cultural world, spiritually…That’s what they do when they go on that Island. They’re in isolation by themselves.”
There are no permanent residents on Bartlett Island, which is roughly 30 minutes by boat from Ahousaht, and Thomas would not have had access to a vessel while isolated there, according to Dick.
“Once they’re put there, they stay there until they’re ready to come home. They don’t have any transportation,” he said. “Every now and then, someone would go out and check on them to make sure they’ve got water and food and the necessities to take them through.”
Dick said one other person was camping on the Island when Thomas disappeared, but the two likely would not have interacted.
“They were never together. They try to keep them in their own camp, so to speak,” he said.
He added that Thomas is a well-liked and important member of the Ahousaht First Nation.
“The thing about Travis is he touched many, many hearts in the Ahousaht community. Not only because of him playing basketball, but also him being a coach and a trainer to the younger generation,” he said. “He’d go out of his way to train the future basketball players of Ahousaht. That was his way of giving back to the community what they gave him. He’d go out there and train the next generations…He was also a loving person throughout the community. He was an excellent person to be around.”
He added the community remains hopeful that Thomas will be found.
“There’s a saying here in Ahousaht, ‘Never give up, there’s always hope.’ And, we live by that, especially in our traditional cultural beliefs. We all believe in our Creator and we know that we have to hope that he may be out there.”
Anyone willing to assist the search effort should contact Ahousaht’s Emergency Operations Centre at 250-670-9566.
Thomas is the second Ahousaht man to go missing this summer. Richard Amos has not been seen since heading out to fish in a canoe on July 22. Ahousaht stood down its search for Amos on July 30.