Aerial view of q village beside an ocean

How the WE Wai Kai/ ICAN Water Security Team Partnership came into being

The We Wai Kai Nation wanted to find out more about their water resources on Quadra Island when the ICAN water security team approached them about a possible partnership. 

“I wanted to find out  how much water we have? Where is it coming from? We want to know if the water’s good on Quadra, and protect those watersheds. We want to map out where everything is and get educational pieces out there about our drinking water – ‘don’t be polluting this area!’” explained Jason Price, Director of Lands for the We Wai Kai First Nation.

Jason Price, Director Director of Lands for the We Wai Kai First Nation – submitted photo

“The ICAN Society was trying to do the same thing for a watershed study. I went over to Quadra to see what the group was about, and what they’re trying to do.”

ICAN had just applied for a $50,000 grant from the Real Estate Foundation and been denied. 

Jason Price: “So I was like, ‘I’ll keep my eyes open and if something pops up maybe we could jointly submit an application under the Nation’s name, because we’ll have better chances using the Nation’s name. There are millions of societies, but there’s only X amount of First Nations.’” 

“We are open to partnerships with any groups that have a common interest with what we’re trying to accomplish. If nobody’s talking to each other, we’re both fighting for the same money, but if we go in together it looks ten times better. They’re funding two interest groups with one application, if you’re looking at it from a funder’s perspective.”   

“I got an email maybe a few months later about a new initiative through the Indigenous Watersheds. So I was like, ‘that sounds exactly what we’re wanting to do.’ I worked with some of the ICAN Society to develop what they’re actually going to be doing. Then I submitted it all and  I ended up hearing back later that we got funded for I think it was $280,000 for the entire project.”

Jason Price administers the grant.

There are several components: measuring rainfall and streamflow, mapping wetlands and monitoring wells. Shane Pollard and the We Wai Kai Guardians will be doing the fieldwork on We Wei Kai land. ICAN started monitoring wells last month, and 3 or 4 wells in Cape Mudge are coming into the program. 

Jason Price mentioned two of the nations now in Campbell River. 

“There’s Wei Wai Kai and  We Wai Kum. They’re both part of the Laich-Kwil-Tach Nation.  So Wee Wuh Kum means Campbell River and We Wai Kum is Cape Mudge.“ 

According to the We Wei Kai First Nation website, about 60% of the Nation’s houses are on the Quinsam Reserve in Campbell River. The Quinsam Crossing Economical Development Area and  Band Administration Offices are there. 

Jason Price: “The main reserve from the early 1900s to the 1950s or so, was Cape Mudge. That’s where everybody resided. I believe my grandfather moved to the Quinsam Reserve with one or two houses in about the 1950s.”

“Quadra is more of the older crowd now.”

“The main reason why a lot of members have been residing on Quinsam IR instead of the Cape Mudge is you need resources, you need hospitals and jobs. All the younger kids have moved to the Quinson Reserve to start families. The high school is over here, all the sports and recreational activities are over here.”

The We Wai Kai have close to 1400 acres of designated reserve lands, as well as a significant percentage of their population, on Quadra Island.  

Four of their five reserves are there.

Jason Price: “There’s Cape Mudge, Open Bay, Drew Harbour and Village Bay.”

Village Bay and Open Bay are currently uninhabited. The We Wai Kai Campground and We Wai Kai Nation Seafood Corporation are at Drew Harbour. The largest of the We Wai Kai reserves is at Cape Mudge, which is home to about 40% of the Nation’s ‘on reserve housing.’ That’s also where you find the We Wai Kai Nation Administration office, Cape Mudge village and the Tsa-Kwa-Luten Lodge. There are ancient petroglyphs on the shore.

Jason Price: “We just created the guardian program, and that’s where Shane Pollard comes into play. They’re like the eyes and ears out in the field, to see what’s happening on the territory.” 

You have been listening to an interview with Jason Price, Director of lands for the We Wai Kai Nation, describe how his nation and the ICAN Water Security Team became partners in a project to determine Quadra Island’s water budget.

Top image credit: Aerial view of Cape Mudge village – courtesy Google Maps

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