Building fisheries educational pathways the Nuu-chah-nulth way

Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih (hereditary Chiefs) directive to restore Nuu-chah-nulth ways of managing Ha-ha-houlthee (Chiefly territories) is one step closer to fruition thanks to funding secured by Ehattesaht/Chinehkint First Nations to begin the development of a Fisheries Certificate Program.

“This is history-making … it’s long overdue, and it’s rubber hitting the road,” said Judi Thomas, Pathways / Student Success Supervisor at the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. “I’m so excited because I see the significance of it.”

One hundred and thirteen thousand dollars ($113,00) in seed funding was granted by the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) – an advocacy organization whose mandate is to support First Nations students and advance First Nations education in the Province – to cover the first year of a five-year program development process.

The program will be created, delivered and evaluated in collaboration with Nuu-chah-nulth communities, North Island College, and Uu-a-thluk. Approval from the Ha’wiih to continue development of the program was given unanimously at the February virtual Council of Ha’wiih Forum on Fisheries.

“The first year will be the Fisheries Pathway Program, a bridging program co-created to meet our cultural and educational needs,’ said Victoria Wells, who is with the Ehattesaht Language Program and worked closely with Thomas and Uu-a-thluk Program Manager Eric Angel on the proposal to FNESC.

Planning for the Fisheries Pathways Program is already underway. Similar to college preparation, the program will focus on developing adult education learning plans to cater to individual student needs so students can meet admission requirements for further education.

Program collaborators ultimately hope to build up the individuals’ abilities to obtain a certificate, a two-year diploma, or a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree since the vision behind the program is a five-year laddered approach.  

“It’s important to note that the program will be designed so individuals can jump off the post-secondary path and head into employment,” said Thomas at the February Forum. “It’s going to be their choice at which point they want to exit.”

Curriculum development will be Nuu-chah-nulth led, and the teaching framework will be mentor-based, with a hands-on learning approach.  Each Nuu-chah-nulth community will identify their own knowledge-holders who are familiar with the Nation’s rivers, streams, landforms and culturally significant sites and who will work with the students to deliver course content that is meaningful to the community.

“We had them [mentors] beside us when we were tying hooks, we had them beside us when we were looking at the weather, we had them beside us when we were getting ready on the boat. That mentoring has to be built in is the direction I’ve heard so far,” said Wells at the February Forum.

Ehattesaht/Chinehkint has contracted Dr. Dawn Sii-yaa-ilth-supt Smith of Ehattesaht to work on the development of the Fisheries Pathway and Fisheries Management Certificate Programs.

Smith holds a Doctor in Education – Education Leadership and Policy and is an Indigenous/Nuu-chah-nulth educator who has developed post-secondary curriculum since 2007.  Her recent work includes assisting faculty at Camosun College’s Centre for Teaching and Learning to Indigenize their curriculum.

“I’m hoping to secure an RV to spend long periods of time in Nuu-chah-nuth territories,” said Smith of her spring and summer plans in an email to Uu-a-thluk.

The development of the Ehattesaht Fisheries Certificate Program has been, and will continue to be a joint effort.

Angel, who championed the idea of a Nuu-chah-nulth-led fisheries training program on behalf of Uu-a-thluk, and Alison Wale, Capacity Building Coordinator for Uu-a-thluk, will coordinate Uu-a-thluk’s input to the development of the program which will include advice on possible courses and ideas for course development and delivery methods.

Wale and Angel will work with Thomas, Wells, Smith, North Island College representatives and Judith Sayers and Ian Caplette of NTC, under the continued direction of the Ha’wiih, with the hope that funding will be secured for years two to five of development.

“This is the very beginning of a long-term goal to be able to train our own people from within our own ideas and philosophies and resource management practices,” said Wells.

The Ehattesaht Fisheries Certificate Program will be available to all interested Nuu-chah-nulth-aht, and will soon be given its Nuu-chah-nulth language name.

Knowledge-holders who would like to participate in the creation of the program are encouraged to contact Angel at to express their interest in serving on the steering committee, or to provide information or guidance in the development of specific courses. 

Any community members interested in signing up for the Fisheries Pathway Program commencing in June are encouraged to contact Wale at, or at 250-735-5684.

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