Frequently Asked Questions about the Kunsoot Wellness Project
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE KUNSOOT FOR A LOCATION?
We wanted to identify a site that was accessible year-round regardless of weather – a site with the kind of topography that would allow us to build an accessible facility for people of all mobility levels. We wanted a place that was a suitable distance from Bella Bella to allow for wellness and healing programs to occur with a sense of safety and quiet. A place of strong emotional and spiritual significance to the community.
While there is no one place that hits the nail on the head for every feature on our wish list, Kunsoot came the closest. It’s a place where many families in the community have a cherished history of picnics, smokehouses, berry picking, and fishing. It’s reasonably protected from the weather, and ideally suited for an accessible facility. Most importantly to us, when we presented an array of options to our Hemas, Kunsoot is the location they directed us to pursue. Following the wishes of our Heiltsuk title and rights holders on this matter was of utmost importance in our decision.
ARE YOU IMPACTING ANY ARCHAEOLOGICAL FEATURES?
We have engaged with HIRMD to ensure that we complete any required assessments related to the project. And we’ve contracted Central Coast Archaeology to survey the area to increase our knowledge of the archeological features. We are committed to low-impact building that will not significantly disrupt the existing trees or soil. And we are keeping a distance from the stone fish traps and the wooden stakes in the river.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO PROTECT THE GRAVESITE THERE?
While the proposed facility is near the grave, we will not be disrupting it in any way as part of the construction process. We are engaging with the family to ensure we do what they feel is best to preserve the site, including options like constructing a fence around the burial. We will follow the family’s wishes on this matter.
WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THE EXISTING CABIN?
Although it was in a dangerous state of disrepair, we’ve done work to make the existing cabin serviceable again. This includes improvements to the infrastructure and woodstove. In the long term, we plan to rebuild a more durable cabin as a year-round caretakers’ residence.
WHERE’S THE MONEY COMING FROM?
We’ve projected a total budget of $3.5 million over 5 years to build the facility of our dreams. The initial $2 million has already been raised from a Canadian foundation. With that seed funding, we will complete a basic facility within a projected period of 2 years.
What happens when that phase is complete? We’ll have an operational facility that will be used by local Heiltsuk agencies to run land-based wellness programming. As they use the facility, we know that more ideas will emerge about additional buildings and features that would make the site an even better place. We have a developing plan to raise another $1.5 million through additional fundraising and “revenue” from agencies utilizing the space.
WHAT ROLE IS QQS PLAYING?
Because Qqs is a federally registered charity with corporate knowledge of remote capital projects, we have agreed to assist with fundraising and the construction phase. We raised the first $2 million for the project and we are now in a project management phase. Direction is still coming from the Kunsoot Working Group and the newly-formed board of directors for Kunsoot Wellness Society and our role is in service of their vision.
WHO SUPPORTS THIS PROJECT?
Presently, we have a motion of unanimous support from a Hemas meeting in September 2018, and a BCR from Heiltsuk Tribal Council supporting the project. We also have support from the Health Centre, Kaxla, Social Development, and the Heiltsuk College. The hospital and BBCS have been involved in the conversation at different stages and we hope to broaden our Working Group to include their voices as well as other key community entities. This project is inclusive and we welcome broader involvement!
WHO WILL MANAGE THE FACILITY INTO THE FUTURE?
In the interest of transparency and stability, we’ve opted to incorporate a new society to manage the facility once it is constructed. The founding board of this Kunsoot Wellness Society includes representatives from Kaxla, the Heiltsuk College, HTC, Hemas, the Health Centre, Social Development, and a youth representative. We anticipate that this board may expand in the future to include other voices. Our vision is for a space that is collaboratively run by all the Heiltsuk agencies who have a mandate to improve the wellbeing of Heiltsuk people.
The society will be subject to the same rules as other local societies like Health or the School Board – it will have a constitution and bylaws, a membership roster, and AGMs with financial reporting requirements.
HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH POWER, WATER, AND SEWAGE?
Our goal is to make this facility as low-impact as possible. We are taking our time to work with the watershed and develop a strategy for basic services that fits the landscape and reflects Heiltsuk values around taking care of the land.
Presently, we’re still exploring potential power options for the facility, building on Qqs’ program of diesel offets + solar + microhydro in Koeye. We’re planning an above-ground waterline that works with the contours of the watershed without disrupting the forest floor or requiring that any trees be felled. And we’re in conversation with industry leaders around the globe who are defining new best practices for waste management, including options like blackwater and biohabitats, to ensure that sewage will have a zero-impact at Kunsoot.
ARE THERE ANY IMPACTS TO THE SALMON?
We are not constructing any buildings close to the streambank to avoid erosion and other risks. We do not anticipate that any of the building process will impact salmon or other species of fish. Based on a request from Heiltsuk Tribal Council, we are exploring options for a salmon monitoring and enhancement project through HIRMD that could take advantage of the increased year-round human presence in Kunsoot and apply it to better understanding and nurturing salmon populations in the watershed.
HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MY OWN USE OF THIS WATERSHED?
This project is NOT about excluding anyone from the area. Kunsoot has been an important place for Heiltsuk people since time before memory. We know that the community continues to use it as a place for hunting and fishing, picnics, camping, medicine gathering, and more. Not only do we hope these activities will continue – we plan to incorporate them into future programming at Kunsoot so this facility can play a role in making these activities easier and more accessible for community members.
Being on the land is healing. What you already do in Kunsoot is healing. What we want to do is amplify that healing!
HOW CAN I GET WORK ON THIS PROJECT?
This project is only as strong as the team behind it! We have a preferential hiring policy that puts qualified Heiltsuk first and we strive to provide competitive wages. If you’d like to put your name on the list, please send your resume and a cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a copy off in person to Jess at the library. We have a small crew, but we expect our needs will grow over time.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MITIGATE THE RISK POSED BY ICE IN THE WINTER?
No location is perfect, and while Kunsoot hits many of the notes that make for a great location, it does sometimes ice over in the winter. We’ve already had some experience with this as we travel back and forth in the lingering arctic outflow. We’ve had success taking it old-school with a V-shaped icebreaker made of logs on the front of our boats to break up the ice and protect our vessel. In the long term, as we think about transportation for programs, we’d like to factor icebreaking into our thinking about a permanent Kunsoot vessel.