Nisga’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw Opens Welcome House Café and Gift Shop

The Welcome House Café and Gift Shop in the Nisg̱a’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw opens in November 2020 and will be a cornerstone of the villages tourism strategy. Photo by Linda Morven.

In the midst of a global pandemic, you might be more likely to hear news about a business closing than opening, but the Nisg̱a’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw is forging ahead on its business development, working around the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Near the end of 2020, the Village announced the opening of the Welcome House Café and Gift Shop. The business is operated by Nisg̱a’a entrepreneur Sally Nyce and will be one of the few places to dine out in the beautiful Nass Valley.  

Overlooking the brilliant green of the Nass River and beautiful lunar-like landscape of the Nisg̱a’a lava beds, the Welcome House is to become cornerstone of the Village’s bourgeoning tourism strategy. “The Welcome House will be the hub for all of it,” says Chief Executive Officer Linda Morven. “People can stop in there to buy something to remember the Nass Valley. It will be the starting and ending point for visitors coming to Gitwinksihlkw.” 

Sally Nyce, a Nisg̱a’a entrepreneur, will be operating the café and gift shop inside the Welcome House. Photo by Coast Funds.

The Village has commenced developing the Saasak hiking and biking trail system that encompasses a brand-new viewing platform overlooking the picturesque Lava bed.  The Village is looking to expand it to include River Walk along the banks of the Nass River, and a Lava Walk trail through the stunning landscape produced by the volcanic eruption of the of Tseax Cone.  

Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government is developing ways of uplifting and connecting tourism attractions throughout the Nass ValleyTo enhance the visitor experience, the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government developed a cultural tourism and marketing initiative; its centrepiece is an auto-tour along 100 kilometres of the Nass Valley 

“We needed to develop and invest in tourism infrastructure,” says Bert Mercer, Economic Development Coordinator for Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government “The whole idea was to draw people into the Nass Valley. 

Gitwinksihlkw is pursuing a similar path. They’re building the infrastructure to bring people into their community, and to keep them coming back. “The Welcome House is beautiful,” says Morven. “It’s going to be part of the Main Street experience in Gitwinksihlkw.” 

Completing construction during the COVID-19 pandemic was no small feat says MorvenShe had to work closely with Timber Creek Homesthe construction company who designed and built the Welcome Houseto ensure that there were correct safety protocols in place. The Village, too, developed their own safety plan during the construction of the building. 

Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl (Nisg̱a’a Memorial Lava Bed Park) is the site of the most recent volcanic eruption in Canada. Photo by Brodie Guy.

Although the Nass Valley remains closed to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Village sees the importance of opening the Welcome House. Morven has worked closely with Sally Nyce to address the difficulties presented by the pandemic, and developed solutions to ensure the successful operation of the business including catering for local meetings, serving takeaway meals for the four Nisg̱a’a Villages, and ensuring COVID-19 safety requirements are met onsite.  

It has been a long road to completing the project, and Morven is grateful for the support the Village received throughout.  

“We’re very thankful for everyone who supported this project and for the understanding over the length of time it took,” she says. “We couldn’t have done it without that understanding.” 

Coast Funds Board of Directors approved $250,000 in funding to the Nisg̱a’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw toward the Welcome House Café and Gift Shop.