Building capacity in Nuu-chah-nulth communities one training course at a time

Water safety and first aid skills are critical components of a life lived on and around water.

This past month, 14 Nuu-chah-nulth-aht from multiple nations participated in training courses that increased their safety awareness and employability, and equipped them with the skills needed to help save lives in their communities.

Two multi-day courses – Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT-1) and Marine Basic First Aid – were offered in Port Alberni in early August. The courses were coordinated by Alison Wale, Uu-a-thluk’s Capacity Building Coordinator, as part of Uu-a-thluk’s ongoing effort to empower and equip Nuu-chah-nulth-aht to take advantage of opportunities in the marine resource sector through training, education, mentorship and workplace opportunities.

“A lot of our Nuu-chah-nulth communities, or where we work, are remote, and we don’t have the immediate service of having an ambulance nearby,” said Huu-yiik, Sabrina Crowley, Southern Region Biologist for Uu-a-thluk and Uchucklesaht Tribe member.

“This training can provide the skills required to put a person in need in a secure state until medics arrive, so it can save lives” she added.

Huu-yiik was referring specifically to the Marine Basic First Aid training course she participated in from August 5 to 6 at Alberni First Aid. The two-day comprehensive course (which meets the requirements of Transport Canada) includes a combination of in-class lectures, discussions and scenarios taken from the marine/fishing industry, and covers a multitude of topics such as:

  • The EMS system
  • Bone, muscle and joint injuries
  • Breathing and circulation emergencies
  • Environmental emergencies
  • Wound care

Alberni First Aid has been offering first aid training services to the Alberni Valley for 30 years, and owner Wendy Lukas recommends community members review their fist aid skills annually to be proficient, even though Marine Basic First Aid certification lasts for three years.

When asked what piece of advice she would give people if she could only provide one Marine Basic First Aid safety tip, Lukas replied, “Wear a life jacket.”

“Preventing injuries is easier than dealing with a profound accident,” she added.

From August 7 to 9, a different set of safety skills were the focus for nine participants who gathered on Tseshaht territory.

Seven Nuu-chah-nulth-aht and two other First Nations participants took part in SRT-1 training with Raven Rescue, global leaders in safety, rescue and remote medicine.

Funding for the course was provided by the Nuu-chah-nulth Employment and Training Program. On average, Uu-a-thluk offers SRT-1 training two to three times per year throughout the three Nuu-chah-nulth regions, in response to community needs.

According to Wale, all of August’s course participants live and work on Nuu-chah-nulth territory, and stand to benefit from the valuable training that was provided by instructor Karsten von Hoesslin.

Michael Jeffrey of Ditidaht First Nations is one of those people.

“I spend a lot of time in the bush, but I need this for when I’m on the water with my family,” said Jeffrey during the in-class component of the course on day one.

Jeffrey goes fishing with his brother and feels better knowing he has swiftwater rescue training “under his belt.”

The three-day SRT-1 course consisted of a full day in class, followed by two days in the field.  Instructor von Hoesslin – whose expertise is informed by a fascinating background that includes hostage rescues and disaster response in remote and hostile environments – covered a multitude of topics before giving participants the opportunity to put theory into practice.

Lesson topics included swiftwater guidelines, self-rescue, swimming techniques, hypothermia, hyperthermia, decision-making and night considerations.

Uu-a-thluk’s Wale participated in the course in addition to coordinating it. In an effort to push through her personal comfort zone during the training, Wale volunteered to be swept into a rapid along the Somass River in order to experience what it feels like, and to provide an opportunity for another participant to practice throw bag techniques.

“It was so awesome to overcome my fears and it was so fun,” she said.

“Of course, our instructor went down the river first, but what made me even more confident was Tseshaht resident Shane Seiber (who grew up swimming that spot) explaining exactly where was safe and where to avoid,” Wale added.

Marine Basic First Aid and SRT-1 training help keep Nuu-chah-nulth communities safe, and help individual Nuu-chah-nulth-aht remain competitive in the job market by providing training that sets them apart from other candidates.

For more information on the training Uu-a-thluk provides, please contact Alison Wale at, or 250-735-5684.

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