The Bighouse is one element in a broader 'Come Back Home' initiative intended to create jobs and bring members back to their traditional territory.
The Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation community of Gwa-yas-dums is one of the few communities built on the original village site where people have lived for thousands of years. Due to a lack of jobs, many have moved away to find work and support their families. People expressed to their leadership that they would rather live in Gwa-yas-dums and would return if there were opportunities for them. The Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation developed the “Come Back Home Initiative”, and embarked on an award-winning five-year plan to create a tourism-based economy centred on their unique cultural heritage.
The Gwayasdums Bighouse Restoration Project involved renovating the community’s central cultural gathering place, the Bighouse. To restore the ancient structure, the existing beams were reinforced, the floor lowered and refinished and the original cedar siding repaired and reapplied. To honour the village’s heritage, the traditional design (originally on the front of the house) was repainted based on archival photographs of the building.
Completed in June 2014, the Bighouse is ideally situated to capture the attention of passing boaters and provides a welcome stopping point for tour operators and visitors. The community will also be developing experiential tourism products to enable visitors to experience First Nations culture, food and heritage firsthand. The rebuilding of the Bighouse, along with the other tourism initiatives in the community plan, are contributing to the revitalization of this renewed area.