We all know how it feels to be forgotten about. It feels pretty crummy. And it seems Port Alberni forgot some folks during their June 21st celebrations.
Port Alberni’s Indigenous Peoples Day ceremonies were awesome. They hosted some beautiful acknowledgements and unveiled the new Wolf Tower to honour the Tseshaht First Nation.
Tseshaht chief councillor Cynthia Dick applauded the project when it was first announced in 2019. She said that “[w]ith this project, the Tseshaht First Nation and the City of Port Alberni will continue to move forward together in the spirit of reconciliation, building a partnership that fosters true collaboration.”
Only when they unveiled the Wolf Tower, Port Alberni forgot about the Hupacasath, who also call the area home.
Settler history tells the story of two nations in the area, the Tseshaht and the Hupacasath, as warring nations.
Records paint a picture where the “dominant” Tseshaht Nation pushes the Hupacasath out.
Apparently these notions are still playing out in the way the City of Port Alberni conducts acknowledgements.
Brandy Lauder is the Elected Chief Councillor for the Hupacasath. She told Alberni Valley News that the Hupacasath were not invited to be part of the unveiling of the Wolf Tower at Harbour Quay. She also said they were sidelined as a host nation during opening remarks and “treated like guests” in their own territory.
The Hupacasath waited until after the day to make a statement, as they did not want to disrupt the ceremonies. But now they’re petitioning the city to create a protocol when dealing with both nations whose unceded territories cross city boundaries.
Lauder said the Hupacasath should have been consulted for the telling of the story of “Wolf Ritual Site.”
“What is now being called the Wolf Tower at a ‘Hikwuulh7ath village site’ is not a full depiction of the history of the site,” she said.
Indigenous folks were not simply one group, but an interconnected web of nations sharing space. Each had complex customs and relationships and often separate histories within similar areas.
“We’re a little hurt that the narrative that the Tseshaht pushed the Hupacasath out is dominant,” said Hupacasath Councillor Jolleen Dick. “Even settler historical records easily prove that what’s now referred to as Alberni Harbour Quay was owned by the joint ha’wiih of Hupacasath in 1860.”
They say that regardless of how the ceremonies were conducted, tsuu-ma-as (Alberni Valley) is and always has been their home.
“We have been here forever, and we will be here forever,” Dick said.
They’ve reached out with letters to both the Tseshaht First Nation and the City of Port Alberni to try to avoid the same misrepresentation in the future.