Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations to Construct Big House

Gwa’sala-‘Nakxwaxda’xw youth celebrate the grand opening of Kwa’lilas Hotel. Since relocation, the Nations have not had a Big House to conduct important cultural and political activities. Photo by Kwa’lilas Hotel.

Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations will soon start building a Big House across from their reserve at Tsulquate, adjacent to Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island.

A model of the GNN Big House that is currently at the Tsulquate band office. Photo by Tyson Whitney.

The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations’ request for rezoning the site was approved by Port Hardy’s mayor and council at its first reading. The application is awaiting subsequent readings of the bylaw and the results of a public hearing that is taking place Sept. 5 inside the District of Port Hardy’s council chambers.

Since a 1964 relocation of Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations to the Tsulquate reserve removed the Nations from their traditional territories of Smith Inlet and Seymour Inlet, the Nations have not had access to their own Big House.

The Big House is a sacred place for potlatch ceremonies and traditional dance. Potlatches conducted in the Big House mark important events like marriages, naming of children, or mourning the passing of a loved one. It is also a place to conduct the traditional ways of governance for the nation. Hereditary chiefs can settle disputes over claiming a title or feuds between families within the Big House.

K̓awat̕si Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) will oversee construction management of the Big House when it comes time to break the ground.

KEDC has also recently finished constructing a carving shed on-reserve where master carvers will complete parts of the Big House’s beam structure, wood posts and totem poles. GNN is waiting to hold a blessing ceremony over the carving shed and the Big House totem poles made there.

Read more about Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations’ plans for their Big House on North Island Gazette and in the Nations’ September 10 newsletter.