Building Indigenous cultural and nature-based tourism

Bamfield Huu-ay-aht Community Forest

It’s very important for us to share our history and culture with visitors in our way… These are exciting times for us.” – Wišqii, Robert Dennis Junior, Anacla-Bamfield trail Indigenous cultural and historical guide

The first time Wišqii visited the ancient Kiixin Village in Bamfield, he was 10-years-old. Little did the young Huu-ay-aht boy realize at the time, that just over three decades later he’d be back in this very spot working as a tour guide.

“I remember feeling very proud that day,” recalls Wišqii, Robert Dennis Junior. “I’ve always been very attuned to our language, dance and songs, but this was the first time I visited our historical village and could see the structures of ancient houses.”

Sharing the history and culture of the Huu-ay-aht people, through activities including guided nature tours is an integral part of the Nation’s vision for economic development.

“Land for us is cultural and our whole life derives from land,” says Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert Dennis. “It’s very important for us to share our history and culture with visitors in our way, and we really appreciated the past work done between HFN and ICET to help achieve this.”

Over the last several years, the Nation and Trust have partnered on a range of projects that help support the Huu-ay-aht people’s vision of economic development.

“We want to shift from being a resource-dependent nation to one that is building a more diverse economy,” continues Chief Dennis. “Cultural tourism plays a major component of our (long-term) economic plan and a main reason for (developing) our trails.”

Creating new walking routes and offering new amenities in Huu-ay-aht territory has also presented opportunities to create more local businesses and jobs, while also expanding visitor markets. Building new routes – such as the Anacla-Bamfield walking trail and the upcoming 2.5km connector trail and loop that joins East and West Bamfield – will attract a broader range of visitors. It will also support sustainable growth in the local hospitality and tourism sectors.

“Our tourism plans are to become a destination place where visitors are excited to be here, to connect with the land and to our people,” says Chief Dennis. “It’s also about allowing the Huu-ay-aht to showcase who we are, where we come from and to be proud of this.”

For Huu-ay-aht Nation members, like Wišqii, guiding a wide range of ages and abilities along the Anacla-Bamfield trail inspires an unparalleled sense of pride. At the end of every tour, he stands on “Story Rock” and retells the ancient stories of his people’s resiliency.

“These are exciting times for us,” says Wišqii, who was a school teacher for 16 years before retiring to work as a guide. “The best part of my work today is that I am an educator outside the classroom.”

In his traditional Huu-ay-aht language, Nuu-chah-nulth, Wišqii means someone who doesn’t speak out of line. A name perfectly suited for someone welcoming guests to his nation’s rich culture and history. And a name his boyhood self would certainly be proud to grow into.

The Trust is contributing $25,000 towards the Bamfield Huu-ay-aht Connector Trail and Loop (2022) through the Capital and Innovation program and has previously contributed $280,000 towards the Anacla-Bamfield Walking Trai (2017).