Land deal between First Nation and BC Hydro could breathe new life into Vancouver Island hamlet

Eco-tourism venture proposed on land returned to First Nation

The Pacheedaht Fist Nation hosted a community feast Thursday to celebrate the return of their traditional territory near Jordan River on southwestern Vancouver Island. (Liz McArthur)

Speaker after speaker offered congratulations Thursday as the community of Jordan River celebrated an historic land deal between the Pacheedaht First Nation and BC Hydro.

The 28 hectares of land the Pacheedaht now own are regarded as the original home of the Pacheedaht and Dititaht peoples in an area known as diitiida, or “drifted ashore” on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.

Pacheedaht First Nation Chief Councillor Jeff Jones says the land has significant cultural value.

“For many, many decades, centuries, our people always talked highly of this land as a very important origin site.”

He says the Pacheedaht will now preserve original village sites and are developing an eco-tourism venture, which would breathe new life into an area that has become a ghost town.

In 2014, a BC Hydro study revealed that a magnitude 8.0 or 9.0 earthquake could cause the nearby dam to collapse. BC Hydro purchased all but one of the residential properties and demolished the homes.

Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk says this closes the chapter involving BC Hydro’s involvement.

“But it’s a great beginning now for the Pacheedaht. It’s an exciting future … to see the area develop not only for them, but for the whole community of Jordan River.”

Jordan River is still a popular spot for surfers on south Vancouver Island and locals like Josh Constandinou welcome the plans for an ecotourism venture.

Constandinou is the owner of the only remaining storefront in Jordan River, the Cold Shoulder Cafe, and says the land deal will benefit everyone in the area.

“I know it was a lot of hard work and they’ve been working at it a long time. We’re pumped for them. It’s awesome.”

Elected Pacheedaht councillor Roxy Jones says the land purchase also means they can begin a cultural revitalization.

“So we all can thrive and make our way of living again.”

She says they are currently in community consultation and then could apply for a loan from the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation to start the proposed ecotourism business.

Jones says it could include features like a traditional pit cooking area for barbecuing salmon.

Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks is among the people looking forward to the Pacheedaht’s plans.

“The land is back where it rightfully belongs, and that’s with the Pacheedaht people. They own the land again. It’s fantastic.”

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