The search is back on for a member of the Ahousaht First Nation who has been missing for more than a year.
Travis Thomas was sent to Bartlett Island, located about 30 minutes by boat from Ahousaht First Nation last July as part of an Indigenous tradition to help him heal from addiction and reflect on life choices, but he never came home.
His family has been looking for him regularly but Thursday is day three of the latest co-ordinated search effort for Thomas.
About 60 volunteers including friends, family, and members of the Ahousaht search and rescue were out combing the Bartlett Island. The tiny island near Tofino is only about 1.5 kilometres long and 700 meters wide but it is dense and difficult to search.
It could be that Thomas just doesn’t want to be found but the 41-year-old Indigenous man suffers from mental health issues and his family wants him home to give him the help he needs.
They aren’t giving up on finding him and even though he has been officially missing for over a year, Thomas is a former athlete and trained in survival so his family and community believe he is living off the land.
A belief that was reinforced yesterday when they found a cave filled with pictures of his kids and late wife along with personal items they say weren’t there last week.
“Yesterday we found a cave that had pictures of his mom, his late wife, and his kids along with with a cross, a candle it’s set up like a shrine and it wasn’t there when they did a search last week,” said Curtis Dick, part of Ahousaht First Nation Search and Rescue.
While that gives them hope it hasn’t been easy for anyone involved.
“It’s tough country out here so they recognize that it would be very difficult for him to spend another winter out here but at the same time, there is also fear they may have lost him so clearly this is a difficult time,” said Frank Brown, a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation from Bella Bella, B.C., who came to the community to help search and support the family.
There is a level of frustration for the family as well because the RCMP are not participating in the search,
Those from the Ahousaht First Nation are hoping what they found on the island will compel police to believe Thomas is still alive get involved to help bring him home.
“Its frustrating to the family added resources would be great,” said Dick.
Up to this point, the three-day coordinated search has been funded mostly by the First Nations Health Authority who donated $25,000, a $5,000 contribution from the federal government and a $500 donation from a neighbouring community.