On Sunday, September 17, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust partnered with the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ government and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to host hišinqʷiił, which means “gathering” in Nuu-chah-nulth.

Hišinqʷiił brought together over 600 people from Vancouver Island’s various local communities for a day of healing and cultural exchange. The gathering began with an official welcome from the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ government that featured a blessing and a language lesson. The free event included lunch, after which community leaders made cultural presentations. The Nuu-chah-nulth display included drumming and songs; two municipalities shared poetry and ballet with the guests.

“There was lots of positive feedback and a really great attendance,” Rebecca Hurwitz, executive director of the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, said over the phone after the event was over. “More importantly, for us, is that every community in our region participated.”

The success of hišinqʷiił came as result of careful planning and dedicated outreach. Beforehand, there was concern that an event tied to the sesquicentennial was something that local people would be unlikely to embrace, given the region’s history of inequality caused by the impacts of colonialism. To ensure that communities in the area had an active say in any celebrations, the folks at Clayoquot Biosphere Trust engaged concerned parties through one-on-one meetings and by collaborating Leadership Vancouver Island alumni at a grassroots level.

“People said they needed more opportunity for truth and for healing before we could even begin thinking about reconciliation and even celebration,” explained Hurwitz. “What that meant for the area was bringing people together and giving them the opportunity to share.”

In May, staff at Clayoqout Biosphere also received advice from Victoria Grant, the Community Foundations of Canada’s Board Chair, at this year’s Belong conference in Ottawa-Gatineau.

“We were telling her about our vision and really expressing our desire to have an event that met this grassroots need, and she said ‘The best way to achieve that is through volunteerism, to ensure you’re getting through to the needs of the people,’” said Hurwitz. “We took her advice to heart and worked with these leadership program alumni. They really helped us to collaborate on an event that was welcoming to all.”