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New campground off northern Vancouver Island expected to be a big ecotourism draw

Buddy Bay campground in the Broughton Archipelago a short walk from Gwa’yas’dums village
A rendering of the campground at Buddy Bay. Photo supplied by ICET

A new campground in the Broughton Archipelago off northern Vancouver Island is expected to help jumpstart the economy of a local First Nation.

The Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation government has initiated a ‘Come Back Home’ plan that will provide the necessary housing, education, health, transportation and other basic amenities that will allow for the return of their people to their homelands.

The cornerstone of this plan is the creation of a tourism economy that will replace the once vibrant forestry and fisheries industries that employed many of their people.

The First Nation received $50,000 in funding for the new new camping facilities at Buddy Bay, near the Gilford Island village of Gwa’yas’dums, from the Island Coastal Economic Trust’s Capital and Innovation Program.

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The project’s total budget is $324,971, and construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2022.

“Our Nation is one of the few First Nations who are still fortunate enough to live in their traditional village site, which we have occupied for thousands of years,” said Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation Chief Rick Johnson. “Gwa’yas’dums Village remains a strong draw for many of our members who live off reserve and who wish to return home.”

The Come Back Home plan has other initiatives that respond to public interest in Indigenous cultural and ecotourism experiences. These include the restoration of the Gwa’yas’dums Bighouse in 2014, the acquisition of the Echo Bay Marina and Lodge in 2020, and the completion of an interpretive ecotourism trail in Echo Bay in 2022. All of the initiatives were led by the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation.

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Gilford Island is the largest island in the world-renowned Broughton Archipelago, and the Village of Gwa’yas’dums is well positioned to become increasingly involved in the area’s growing tourism market,” said Chief Johnson. “Our new permanent campground at Buddy Bay will be a 10 minute walk from Gwa’yas’dums and will support business investment and attraction related to ecotourism including kayak rentals, marine wildlife sightseeing guide outfits.”

The Buddy Bay Campground will offer accommodation to visitors to the area arriving through group kayak tours, self-organized tours, and other marine excursions.

Amenities will include tent pads and a covered meeting area, outdoor shower and outhouse, potable water, safety and cultural interpretive signage, and trail improvements to existing trails to facilitate easy access to the village.

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Future offerings may include traditional experiences such as meals, marine tours, and cultural excursions led by Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation community members.

“First Nations have and continue to steward these special places which visitors come to experience. Too often in the past, kayakers and ecotourism companies have used the beautiful territories of First Nations without contributing back towards their stewardship,” said Aaron Stone, Island Coastal Economic Trust chair. “By introducing a new tourism experience to the Broughtons, this project will attract visitors to beautiful Gwa’yas’dums where they can experience Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis culture and community in a respectful way.”

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