Guests of the Homalco First Nation check out a bear viewing platfrom at the mouth of the Orford River. The bear season gets underway later this month when the salmon return to spawn.

Homalco debut new Bears of Bute orientation centre

The Orford River delta was quiet on Saturday except for the breezes sending waves through the long grasses lining the estuary.

The Orford River delta was quiet on Saturday except for the breezes sending waves through the long grasses lining the estuary.

In a few weeks, however, the grasses will be disturbed by the heavy footfall of 400 kg grizzly bears and that’s when the reason for a celebration held Saturday will become evident.

The Homalco First Nation transported 105 guests to commemorate the latest addition to the Homalco Wildlife Tours facility at Orford Bay, an orientation centre that will introduce visitors to the Homalco First Nation’s story from the pre-colonial period to the present.

“I just want to thank you for sharing and celebrating this special day for ourselves,” Chief Richard Harry told the visitors.

The Homalco Band’s story is one of a proud and powerful aboriginal nation suffering at the hands of European colonists through the loss of traditional territory. They then endured relocation to a permanent site, the loss of their children to residential schools and then, finally, in the 1970s, the loss of their livelihood through a federal fisheries reorganization plan that left band members without commercial fishing licences.

After that, band members dispersed, many ending up in the downtown east side of Vancouver. To reconnect their community, the band traded some traditional territory for a reserve in Campbell River near the airport to allow their people to have a community near modern services.

Meanwhile, in the bank, so to speak, was their traditional lands in Bute Inlet which became key to forging a new livelihood. The Orford River valley is one of those areas. It provides forestry opportunities as well as a site for a fish hatchery.

“We’ve got a well-balanced, integrated resource management plan for the Orford,” said Shawn O’Connor, band manager.

But the highest profile asset, in many ways, is the bears who feed on salmon that have returned to the Orford for millennia. In the modern economy, the sight of those bears scrambling to catch a major food source has proven to be valuable to tourists and the convenience of the location led to the Homalco people building a facility to accommodate tourists’ desire to see the bears in their natural habitat.

The Bears of Bute program was established a few years ago and Saturday’s opening of the Orientation Centre is another step in the development of a powerful relationship with the land, the salmon and the natural cycle that depends on them, like the bears that return to feed each fall.

“The salmon enhancement and the wildlife tours complement each other,” Chief Harry said.

Along with the orientation centre, the band debuted a team of guides that will take visitors to the bear watching sites.

Saturday’s celebration was also an opportunity to thank partners and funding agencies.

“I think it’s a very historic day for Homalco,” band council member Bill Blaney told the gathering.

Blaney was the lead carver for a series of signs that were erected at the bear viewing platforms.

Blaney who worked with younger carvers to create signs based on traditional designs said it was an opportunity to teach young people about their culture and history and “bring the past right back to the future so they can really tell the true stories about our beliefs and our culture.”

Blaney said the project will bring a lot of pride to the younger people and the community as a whole.

For more see: www.bearsofbute.com

Just Posted

Families learn to navigate the perils of the Internet

Speaker talks to Campbell River kids, parents about staying safe in a social media world

‘Priceless’ hat stolen from Indigenous art store in Campbell River during break-in

Ernie Smith, co-owner of Awatin Aboriginal Art, looking for help in recovering stolen hat

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

BC Hydro increasing flow down Elk Falls to assist steelhead migration and spawning

Water flows within Elk Falls Canyon are increasing today to assist steelhead… Continue reading

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

City of Port Alberni cancels tourist train operations for 2019

Steam train to McLean Mill is out of commission for repairs; city wants to re-examine rail costs

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Most Read