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Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation

The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation of Port Hardy has a vast territory on the South Central Coast of British Columbia and in the Great Bear Rainforest. For thousands of years, the abundance of marine and water resources has sustained both the Gwa’sala and Nakwaxda’xw. The result is a rich identity and culture that continues to be embodied and practiced in the community through ceremony and kin relations.

The Nation has had to rebuild their community since being relocated from traditional villages in the 1960s. The connection to their homelands continues to drive their development in the Blue Economy. They were always ocean peoples, and now they have established themselves in the North Vancouver Island economy beyond the traditional fishing and forestry sectors. This includes the tourism industry with their Indigenous boutique hotel and two restaurants and housing, construction management, financial and IT services. They have started a shellfish aquaculture farm in their traditional homelands, growing their own GwiGwi Pacific oyster.

K’awat’si Marine Services division is the Nation’s flagship company. It is managed by one of the Nation’s own Band members and is now one of the Nation’s biggest employers. K’awat’si Marine Services investments into marine transport infrastructure serve the BC coast from the ports of Vancouver and up to Klemtu on the North Central Coast, providing critical services for the fisheries and aquaculture community.

The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw asserts their sovereign rights and responsibilities of stewardship over their Traditional Territory. Rural communities and their citizens need access to good jobs in order to stay and support British Columbia and Canada in supplying healthy seafood to a growing world population. The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation people are committed to creating and sharing a prosperous future for themselves and for their local rural communities. This is what reconciliation looks like. It’s happening in communities like Port Hardy, making the future look hopeful.

The GNN has hired community member Ethan Shaw as their Salmon Farm Monitor. His role is to learn all the operations of the farms and ensure that any concerns of the community are addressed and work towards a framework for implementing the Nation’s traditional knowledge along with current scientific monitoring practices already in existence.

This is an opportunity for us to study the impacts of the farms and ensure that our fish, shellfish, seaweed and all other life remain healthy so that we have food for our community on a regular basis. Our Elders miss our traditional foods that they can no longer eat because of various rules and laws and because there’s not enough of these stocks anymore. We are working towards sustainability of both fisheries and aquaculture: they can both exist in our waters, but it should be our community that decides what that looks like for our Traditional Territory.

Ethan Shaw