Creating a Future As Rich as Our Past.

Benefits Continue from Guardian Program

Benefits Continue from Guardian Program

Twenty years ago Nuu-chah-nulth Nations and Parks Canada launched a partnership that would see aboriginal guardians caring for the West Coast Trail. As one of three nations involved in the partnership, Huu-ay-aht First Nations embraced the responsibility to maintain 15 kilometres of this world-famous destination.

Today that partnership has expanded to include 25 kilometres of trail maintenance, along with cultural and emergency services for hikers. Huu-ay-aht citizens continue to play an important role in the partnership, caring for both the trail and the hikers who visit our traditional lands.

The HFN group of businesses manages this contract for Huu-ay-aht First Nations, coordinating training programs and building skills for a crew of four to five Huu-ay-aht guardians. Although trail work is seasonal, experience on the crew leads to other opportunities.

“The training programs offered through the partnership with Parks Canada and the HFN group of businesses have helped workers get other jobs,” says Duane Nookemis, supervisor of the West Coast Trail crew for the last five years. In some cases, this includes jobs that are year-round and permanent.

Tyee Ha'wilth Derek Peters and CEO of Parks Canada Alan Latourelle celebrate 20 years of guardians on the West Coast Trail. Photo courtesy of Parks Canada.

Tyee Ha’wilth Derek Peters and CEO of Parks Canada Alan Latourelle celebrate 20 years of guardians on the West Coast Trail. Photo courtesy of Parks Canada.

In other cases, the contract with Parks Canada leads to other opportunities with the national agency. This summer, Parks Canada required a second crew to conduct major improvements along the trail. That meant hiring twelve workers from Pacheedaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Ditidaht First Nations to build and replace boardwalks from the Cheewaht River to Nitinat Narrows.

Beginning in August, two crews of six worked for rotating shifts of seven days while stationed at a base camp on the Cheewaht River. “The plan is to move the camp to different areas of the trail for the next couple of years and replace as much as we can,” said Duane, who was hired to supervise one of the extra crews. “We expect to finish up at the end of October.”

After six years working on the trail, Duane sees the many benefits provided by the contract with Parks Canada. He also sees future opportunities. “Hikers use our campground, shop at our store, and eat at our restaurant. I believe there are business opportunities still available to take advantage of the roughly 6000 people that travel to our territory to hike the trail every year.”

Others agree that the contract has brought many benefits to Huu-ay-aht lands, including recognition of occupation and history. Twenty years ago, hikers on the West Coast Trail were largely unaware that the lands they visited traversed Huu-ay-aht territory. Today Huu-ay-aht guardians may be the first people they meet when visiting the area.

“The program has been a stepping stone for many of our people over the years and there is definitely a sense of pride when anyone has been involved,” says Charlie Clappis, General Manager for the HFN group of businesses. “I can tell from speaking to the staff that they absolutely love what they do.”

And with hard work and solid partnerships, Huu-ay-aht guardians can expect to continue finding opportunities on the West Coast Trail for another twenty years and beyond.

For more information about future opportunities with the West Coast Trail crew, contact the HFN group of businesses at 250-728-3080.

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