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Parks Canada, Tseshaht partner in Broken Islands

Apr 18 2012

Members of the Tseshaht First Nation are celebrating an agreement with Parks Canada to co-operate on management of the Broken Group Islands, identified in traditional stories as the birthplace of the band.

"It is very important. It has a lot of meaning," said Cindy Stern, CEO of the Tseshaht.

A memorandum of agreement on planning and managing the islands, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, will be signed Thursday in Port Alberni.

The Broken Group Islands are part of Pacific Rim National Park reserve and the agreement reaffirms Tseshaht-asserted aboriginal title, said Chief Councillor Les Sam.

"This agreement will enable Tseshaht to develop aboriginal tourism opportunities through the exposure of our culture to park visitors," he said.

Negotiations with Parks Canada have been ongoing since 2007 and, three years ago, a campsite on Benson Island was closed because of the significance of the area to First Nations, said Karen Haugen, manager of the Parks Canada First Nations program.

"Benson Island is the birthplace of Tseshaht and it has huge cultural and traditional values," she said.

After an archeological dig revealed many artifacts, the campsite was closed and a welcome post and interpretive information was erected at the site, Haugen said.

The carving is a replica of the original house post at the site and pathways now wend through the island to it, Stern said.

Several Tseshaht members are working as beach-keepers and the new agreement will give greater tourism opportunities and more chances for elders and youth to visit the Broken Group, Stern said.

"But we want to retain the remote wilderness experience. That's why people want to go there," she said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com