Uu-a-thluk Mapping Project Engages Youth in Stories on the Past and Future

In decades past, Nuu-chah-nulth elders would exchange knowledge with youth in their Ha-ha-houlthee (chiefly territories) about ceremonial and other cultural practices, and Nuu-chah-nulth ways related to fishing and harvesting sea resources.

This year, elders and youth are participating in intergenerational knowledge sharing through Uu-a-thluk’s Marine Traditional Knowledge (MTK) mapping project. Twenty three Nuu-chah-nulth youth from Ahousaht and Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations took part in two three-day workshops. Partly funded by the BC Capacity Initiative to encourage youth engagement in mapping in their Ha-ha-houlthee the workshops focused on learning about Google Earth and GPS systems in the classroom, and locating and mapping out culturally and ecologically significant sites in their Ha-ha-houlthee, while also contributing to intergenerational knowledge exchanges.

“Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations are looking out for future generations to see that youth are involved in all aspects of resource management,” said Michelle Colyn, Uu-a-thluk Capacity Building Coordinator about the Nations’ willingness to participate in the workshops. Colyn, who is a former Uu-a-thluk intern, co-organized with Luc Bibeau both mapping workshops and is looking forward to being part of the upcoming workshop in her Nation’s Ha-houlthee of Tseshaht.

A participant and co-facilitator of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht mapping workshop, Fisheries Coordinator Kadin Snook hopes experiences like this will encourage students to consider fisheries-based careers. “Through these workshops youth are getting a better understanding of our Ha-houlthee and how we use it,” said Snook, also a former Uu-a-thluk intern. In the new year he would like to work with the local school to bring information to the students about fisheries related careers and the processes involved in utilizing our Aboriginal rights.

Uu-a-thluk launched the Marine Traditional Knowledge (MTK) mapping project in the fall of 2015 to record and map marine habitat for fishing, food, culture, and the spiritual well-being of Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. Funded by the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans to gather data and be prepared in case of natural disaster or oil spill, this project is ongoing until the end of March when it is expected that all Nuu-chah-nulth Nations will have contributed.

“We’re trying to create a product of value for the Nations by gathering quality information,” said Luc Bibeau, Uu-a-thluk MTK Mapping Coordinator. “And of course we hope that they won’t have to use any of the data due to an oil spill or natural disaster.” Bibeau added that disasters are a reality in today’s coastal areas and youth are gaining vital skills to prepare their communities.

Two additional youth-based mapping workshops will be happening in Tseshaht and Hupacasath Ha-ha-houlthee in December and January respectively. Erikk Dick-Frank, Tseshaht First Nation and Lesley Lauder from Hupacasath First Nation (Uu-a-thluk’s current interns from the Tomorrow’s Leaders internship program) will be taking part in these workshops in their Ha-ha-houlthee to better understand the connection between Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations and their lands and waters.

“There’s something special about physically being in the traditional territories where the stories we hear about took place,” added Colyn. “As youth we’re making connections to our Ha-ha-houlthee and to other community members as we create our own stories together.”

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