Dawn Foxcroft (taaʔisumqa) is from the Tseshaht First Nation’s Gallic family and is proud of her Nuu-chah-nulth roots. She grew up surrounded by her elders and attending Haa-huu-payak School where she learned the traditional songs, dances, and language of her Tseshaht people (one of fourteen First Nations belonging to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council). A graduate of the University of Victoria with a double major in Anthropology and Sociology, Dawn has also received a certificate in Community Based Natural Resource Management from the Coady Institute. An active volunteer in her community, Dawn sits on several committees (most notably the Rotary Arts District, Community Futures, Quuquuatsa Language Society, and Tseshaht’s Custom Election Code Review). Dawn began coordinating communications and outreach for the Uu-a-thluk team in 2005.
In March of 2005, Nuu-chah-nulth hereditary and elected chiefs gathered at a historic meeting to launch Uu-a-thluk, a new approach to managing aquatic resources in Nuu-chah-nulth ha-ha-houlthee (territories).
In our Nuu-chah-nulth language, Uu-a-thluk means “taking care of.”
Uu-a-thluk is an aquatic resource management organization administered through the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC). Uu-a-thluk works to increase Nuu-chah-nulth access to and management of sea resources and builds Nuu-chah-nulth capacity to find jobs and careers related to the ocean.
Uu-a-thluk brings Nuu-chah-nulth-aht together to work with other governments and groups. Its framework allows us to manage our aquatic resources consistent with the Nuu-chah-nulth practices and principles of hishukish tsa’walk (everything is one) and iisaak (respect with caring). Together we are increasing Nuu-chah-nulth participation in the harvest and management of our aquatic resources.
Uu-a-thluk’s vision is to see that the Ha-ha-houlthee (Chiefly territories) of Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih (Hereditary Chiefs) are managed in a sustainable manner, consistent with Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge and values. The use of aquatic resources should provide for sustenance, ceremonial and societal needs, and an economic base for healthy communities.
Nuu-chah-nulth Ha-ha-houlthee (traditional territory) is located on the west coast of Canada in British Columbia. The territory spans the west coast of Vancouver Island from the Brookes Peninsula in the north to Port Renfrew in the south. With a long coastline, the area has rich coastal ecosystems, barrier islands, and major sounds (Barkley, Clayoquot, Nootka/Esperanza, Kyuquot) and includes hundreds of lakes and watersheds. There are over eight thousand Nuu-chah-nulth people living alongside non-first nations within this territory.
Since time immemorial Nuu-chah-nulth Nations have built our societies, economies, and culture around fishing. For this reason, colonizing forces settling in our territories allocated our ancestors small fishing stations as reserves, while denying the larger land claims of our Nations. Over the next hundred years, regulations created by Canada diminished and excluded Nuu-chah-nulth participation in the West Coast Fishery. With little access to fisheries coming through the treaty process, Nuu-chah-nulth Nations (led by their Ha’wiih and elected leaders) launched a civil litigation in support of Nuu-chah-nulth title and rights to regain access to the sea resources. On November 3, 2009, the BC Supreme Court ruled that five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations have an aboriginal right to catch and sell any species of fish found within their territories. Since that time, Canada and these Nations have been discussing ways to create economic fisheries that work for First Nations and coastal communities.
The 2009 Nuu-chah-nulth court decision was the first decision recognizing Nuu-chah-nulth economic fishing rights in Canada. Because of this there are many opportunities for respectful, community-led research projects. The need for this research could focus on a number of areas such as: nation building, traditional governance practices in a present day system, rebuilding the relationship with the aquatic resources after having been displaced by government policies and practices. Research could also focus on how the relationship with the resources is vital in maintaining cultural identity. A key element of this research is its community-led focus.
On November 3, 2009, the BC Supreme Court ruled that five Nuu-chah-nulth Nations have an aboriginal right to catch and sell any species of fish found within their territories. The case was upheld at the BC Court of Appeal in May, 2011, but the Supreme Court of Canada recently sent the case back to the BC Appeal Court for further examination, which was heard in February of 2013.
Since the original trial decision directed Canada and Nuu-chah-nulth Nations to negotiate a fishery that would accommodate Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights, Nations have met regularly with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to put forward fishing plans that recognize these rights. So far, Canada has not permitted an aboriginal, rights-based fishery outside existing licence limitations and fisheries policy.
The focus of our project is to evaluate the fishery as it develops, along with other indigenous fisheries that might inform its design and progress. This includes researching up to five case studies of indigenous communities with economic fishing rights that will show elements of success, opportunities and challenges; and identifying through community conversations what successful economic fisheries look like for Nuu-chah-nulth and what other benefits would they anticipate as a result of this success.
Through this work the following questions will be explored: