National Indigenous Peoples Day also marked the grand opening for Ahous Adventures, an eco-cultural tour company that offers whale watching, bear watching, and the hot springs tour through the lens of Ahousaht nation.
On June 21 the day started early in Tofino, before guests arrived, with the blessing of the boats, shared Tyee Ha’wilth Maquinna Lewis George. After, at the Ahous Adventures office, a ceremony was held where staff were brushed and when it was time to cleanse the floor, guests were asked to move outside.
Outside the office, the youngest Ahousaht child was tasked with cutting the cedar bark ribbon, and later, when the celebration moved to Industrial Way, elders were tasked with cutting the cedar bark ribbon.
“Right from the youngest person in Ahousaht, to the oldest person in Ahousaht cutting that cedar bark,” said Maquinna.
Maquinna explained that it was important to cherish the children and elders of Ahousaht during the ceremony.
“Sooner or later, those children that are singing and performing, are going to be grown up and they’re going to need jobs,” said Maquinna. “This is the idea of what Ahous Adventures is.”
Savannah George is front desk supervisor at Ahous Adventures. She found it uplifting to see the support of those who gathered to celebrate the official opening for Ahous Adventures.
“It’s good to know that all of our people do stand behind us,” she said.
George shared that Ahous Adventures tours offer a perspective that is woven with stories of Ahousaht and Nuu-chah-nulth language.
“Along the tours we talk about our traditional territory, we acknowledge the different namesake that the territories hold, 1/8 and 3/8 we’re able to offer the language,” she said. “When we’re showing whales and bears, we’re able to convert it into Nuu-chah-nulth for people.”
For example, rather than just taking note of sea otters sightings, Ahous Adventures tours share the significance of how these animals have affected Ahousaht, said George. Meanwhile stories from prior to contact with Europeans are shared, she added.
“The tourism sector in Tofinoâ€¦ our nation has been historically marginalized from,” said Tyson Atleo (Ikaatius), hereditary representative of Ahousaht. “It’s important to celebrate our new venture as it’s going to create opportunities for our people to participate in that sector.”
“And not only participate, but to lead and to invite people into our territories and have them recognize who we are as the Ahousaht Nation,” he continued.
Atleo is looking forward to seeing Ahousaht members fill the employment positions that Ahous Adventures creates.
“Whether that’s in marine mechanics, or in boat driving and guiding, or front of house/front office,” said Atleo. “I have aspirations to help create these opportunities for our people to take on those general manager or CEO roles in organizations like this.”
Eugene Stewart of Tla-o-qui-aht is a tour guide with Ahous Adventures. A professional guide for 21 years, Stewart is living his dream job with the opportunity to be on the water every day on his traditional territory.
“Just to see that reaction on the guest’s face,” he said. “It could be just a harbor seal in my world, but to somebody who came halfway around the world just to see that animal, 1/8 it 3/8 really uplifts your spirit.”
Stewart is currently training two Ahousaht members, David Frank and Marshall Richard Thomas.
“Ahous Adventures means recognition of the rights and responsibility of our people,” said Atleo. “It’s a historical right and responsibility that we’ve had, always, to invite people into our territories, to welcome them, to feed them, and show them who we are.”
After lunch was held along Industrial Way, the youth performed songs and dances to conclude the day’s festivities.
By Alexandra Mehl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter