A smiling First Nations leader and man in suit are siging a paper. Four First Nations people are standing behind them

Homalco expand lands in Campbell River through purchase from Mosaic

Gleaned from various sites on the web

The Homalco First Nation recently expanded its Campbell River holdings by the purchase of 390 acres from Mosaic Forestry Management. Chief Darren Blaney and Rob Gough, CEO of Mosaic, signed the deal in a ceremony at Homalco Hall. 

“We are celebrating more than the acquisition of land for the Homalco people. The land deal has been decades in the making, and it lays the foundation for a future filled with promise and prosperity,” said Homalco Chief Darren Blaney in a press release. “Our community is strengthened by our connection to lands and resources, and our relationship with community. I want to thank Mosaic Forest Management for supporting this vision and making the sale a reality.” 

Gough added, “Everyone at Mosaic Forest Management and Couverdon (Mosaic’s real estate arm) are pleased we could make this land acquisition happen with Homalco First Nation after years of working together. It’s so much more than a mere transaction.”

While up until 40 years ago the Homalco appear to have been more closely associated with Bute Inlet, Campbell River is part of their traditional territory.

According to the Homalco First Nation website, “The Xwémalhkwu or Homalco territory includes all of Bute Inlet and Homathco Ice Fields, extends west to Campbell River on Vancouver Island, south to Comox and north to Sayward, including the Discovery Islands and the Discovery Passage. It extends from Dent Island, slightly west of the mouth of Bute Inlet, to the vicinity of Raza Passage and Toba Inlet. Historically, there were many temporary camps for hunting, fishing and gathering. Our permanent winter villages were at Look-out point (Aaron rapids/Sonora Island), Mushkin Village on Sonora Island and Aupe at the mouth of Bute Inlet, which later became known as Church House.”

Quadra, Read and the northern half of Cortes Island were also in this area. 

Chief Blaney described his people’s pre-contact lifestyle to Caitlyn Harrison, in a thesis paper:

“Our people] migrated in and out of the Bute Inlet, and out here to Campbell River and down to Denman Island for different food resources throughout the year or even just [to get] away from the Bute Inlet’s winters, because the winds blew pretty strong.”

Oblate missionaries arrived in the later 1860s, shortly after the Homalco were forced onto reservations. They moved the Homalco to Mushkin and “forced our ancestors to burn all of their regalia, masks and carvings. They banned our ancestors from holding ceremonies and practicing traditional songs and dances. They forced our ancestors to adopt Christian rituals. Our ancestors spoke their language in secret to avoid consequences from the colonizers.” 

Mushkin was too exposed to the elements and most of the village buildings were flattened during a fierce storm in the early 1900s. 

“Our People were moved again, to the mouth of Bute Inlet to “Aupe” or New Church House. Here, there was shelter from strong winds with bountiful fishing and clam beds.”

By the 1930s, the Federal Government was forcing the Homalco to send their children to residential schools. 

“Although our families resisted this, for generations, our children were taken and forced to attend these schools. There, Xwémalhkwu people were subject to physical, mental, spiritual and sexual abuse. The loss of family units, culture and language has had a lasting impact.”

Harrison wrote that New Church House was too remote to offer most of the services available in more urban centres. After the fishing economy faltered, the Homalco dispersed throughout the West Coast. Many ended up in urban centres like Vancouver and Campbell River. 

The Homalco people currently have 12 reserves in Bute Inlet, Sonora Island and Campbell River. The latter consists of 165 acres obtained through a land exchange with the government of BC in the 1990s. This is now their principal village.

Chief Darren Blaney told the Campbell River MIrror that as a result of the recent purchase from Mosaic, the Homalco now own 550 acres in the South of Campbell River. They are exploring the possibility of opening ‘a gas station, a hotel, some office space and potentially more housing.’

The Homalco are also expanding into other business ventures.

Last October they purchased Way West Water Taxi, which ‘connects Campbell River and North Central Vancouver Island to areas such as Stuart Island, Dent Island, Sonora Island, the Thurlow Islands, and multiple inlets on the mainland.’

On March 4 of this year, Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours and Klahoose Coastal Adventures announced they were partnering in a new “Toba Bears & Wilderness Tour” which is to operate daily from late August to late October. Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours will convey tourists from Campbell River to Toba Inlet. There, Klahoose Coastal Adventures will guide guests for an immersive wildlife viewing experience in Toba Inlet, watching grizzly bears in their natural habitat.

Top image credit: Homalco First Nations Councillors from left to right (back row), Jamie Wilson, Preston Joseph, Alison Trenholm and Robert Harry Sr with Chief Darren Blaney and Rob Gough, President and Chief Executive Officer, Mosaic Forest Management (front row) – courtesy Mosaic press release

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