The Hesquiaht First Nation is the most northerly and remote of the five Central Region Nuu-chah-nulth Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Canada.
The Hesquiaht First Nation Place of Learning isn’t just a school. It’s a community centre, a post-disaster facility and most of all, something that community members built with their own hands, reflecting their own vision, using natural resources from their own traditional territory.
Through well-attended meetings, the community was instrumental in the design and construction of the school. In fact, more than half of Hesquiaht’s members helped with its construction. “We wanted to build the school we wanted, not have one given to us,” said Cecil Sabbas, Band Administrator and Project Coordinator. “The process was exciting for us all.”
Exciting. And challenging too. With no road access to Hesquiaht on Vancouver Island, supplies had to be brought in by barge or floatplane. But then this tiny, remote community tucked into the inlet by Hot Springs Cove, is used to overcoming hardship. In 1964, a devastating tidal wave destroyed the community, forcing its members to disperse to Port Alberni and Victoria. Starting from scratch, the community has rebuilt and those who remain are proud to call this place by the sea home.
Words: Anita Bedell, AANDC
Image: Donovan Williams