Lake Cowichan prioritizes reconciliation efforts through historical gathering space

COURTENAY, 23 September 2021 – A new meeting place featuring Indigenous art, history and information displays will be built by the Kaatza Historical Society in Lake Cowichan, with support from the Island Coast Economic Trust (ICET)’s new THRIVE Small Capital Program.

The Ts’uubaa-asatx and Kaatza Historical Society Totem Pole Gathering Space project is a partnership to create a prominent outdoor seating area centred around a new and locally carved totem pole, alongside historical information panels in front of the Kaatza Station Museum. The museum is located close to the mouth of the Cowichan River, a tourist hotspot in the summer. The proximity to this attraction will help attract more visitors and residents to the new gathering space.

“This project perfectly aligns to the new THRIVE Small Capital Program goals of helping to drive innovation and energy back into our communities,” says Aaron Stone, ICET Board Chair. “The new gathering space will play an important role as a shared place for open exchange, across ages and cultures, and will help promote visitor interest and pull economic activity and growth back into Lake Cowichan’s downtown core.”

The centrepiece of the project will be a newly built totem pole, designed and hand-carved by young Ts’uubaa-asatx artist Josh Watts under the guidance of Indigenous elders and community members. Information panels flanking the pole will interpret the pole’s meaning, highlight carving techniques, as well as tell the story of the Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation. The seats themselves will be designed and constructed as a collaboration between Watts and a local woodworker.

The THRIVE Small Capital Program was launched in late May to help stimulate and promote vitality in downtowns, Main Streets and business districts across the region. One-stop funding support of up to 100% of eligible project costs (to a maximum of $50,000) is available thanks to a joint collaboration with Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI) and the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains tourism region (managed by Destination BC).

“We are honoured to be a funding partner of the THRIVE Small Capital Program to help cultural projects such as this be realized,” says Anthony Everett, President & CEO, Tourism Vancouver Island. “Initiatives which share and celebrate the Indigenous histories and cultures of the Vancouver Island region not only promote the coming together of communities, but support our goal of reconciliation through tourism in connection with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Accessibility and inclusivity have been built into the project’s design, helping to ensure it appeals to various ages and abilities. A fully wheelchair accessible pathway from the visitor carpark to the gathering area will be built, the information panels will include a Braille section (as well as abide to best design practices such as colour contrasting, headers and images) and an audio-recording will be made available at the Museum.

“We are excited to work with the Ts’uubaa-asatx to execute this socially important partnership project as a ‘new way of doing things’,” says Pat Foster, President, Kaatza Historical Society.  “We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Island Coastal Economic Trust for their contribution that supports this initiative which represents the coming together of two cultures and two shared histories and helps facilitate Lake Cowichan’s economic recovery in a way that prioritizes reconciliation efforts.”

The project is set to get underway shortly.

The second intake to the THRIVE Small Capital Funding Stream closed on September 17th. All future applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until the program is fully subscribed.

For more information on the THRIVE Small Capital Funding Stream, please visit our website:


About the Island Coastal Economic Trust
Created and capitalized by the Province of BC in 2006, the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) mission is to create a more diverse and globally competitive Island and Coastal economy. In partnership with local and regional governments, non-profits and Indigenous communities, ICET serves over half a million residents. Funding and support for economic infrastructure and other economic diversification initiatives is delivered through a unique community centered decision-making process. Since inception, ICET has approved more than $55 million in funding for over 280 initiatives. These investments have leveraged over $270 million in new investment into the region creating more than 2600 construction phase jobs and 2750 long-term permanent jobs. To learn more, visit

For further information:
Amanda Fortier, Communications Officer
Island Coastal Economic Trust
Tel. 250-871-7797 (Ext. 232)

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