Early in December 2011, the Koeye River Lodge was destroyed in a tragic fire. No one was harmed, but much was lost, including an important symbol of community healing. We uplift our community, our colleagues, and all the Koeye Family for their hope and resilience. To find out how you can help us rise to the challenge of continuing our Koeye programs for 2012 and beyond, please contact Jessie for more information.
The original owner erected a number of buildings and accommodations at the edge of the property with the intention of operating a small fishing lodge; however, Heiltsuk protests prevented the building of a dock system in the sensitive marine environment of Koeye Bay. The venture was never a success, and subsequent owners clearcut large portions of the property to recoup their losses.
As Qqs moved its youth camps to the river’s edge in Koeye in the late 1990s, interest grew in the acquisition of the lodge as a structure to support the camp and a means of returning this property back to Heiltsuk hands. When the property came up for sale, Qqs quickly mobilized and, with the help of Ecotrust Canada and a substantial donation from the Buffett Foundation, a sum $1.2M was raised for its purchase. In 2001, the property was formally acquired, and our nation gathered in Koeye to celebrate the land’s return to Heiltsuk ownership. The property was blessed by our hereditary chiefs, and we began the long work of healing the land.
Rapidly, we realized the property offered us a unique opportunity: a chance not only to heal the land, but to heal ourselves as well. We have always envision the lodge as a place of positive energy dedicated to empowering us as individuals, and as a nation. As we planted raised beds and native plants, salmonberry orchards and wildflower gardens, we found that our spirits were rejuvenated along with the landscape at the mouth of Koeye. What you’ll see there today is beautiful, natural green: the forest creeps to the edge of the buildings, thick hedges of salal ring the lodge, and the meadows trail down the slope to the tideline. It has become an emblem of growth and resilience.
But ownership of the property has come with challenges, as well. The lodge has proven extremely valuable in supporting the Koeye Camp, which operates out of cabins near the river mouth, and in realizing opportunities for families and special groups to participate in the magic of Koeye and experience the cultural and natural wonders it offers. However, we have been faced with the large costs associated with year-round lodgekeepers, generators, fuel, docks and the difficulty of access during winter storms. Maintenance of the property and buildings is problematized by the challenge of bringing resources and expertise to Koeye.
As a result, Qqs is open to exploring partnerships with other organizations and institutions on the coast who might benefit from having a central base in the Great Bear Rainforest. Substantial use by our programs is limited to around 7 weeks each year, and the remaining time sees the Lodge sitting unused. It is essential for ownership to remain in Heiltsuk hands, and we are committed to ensuring that the land is allowed to become good forest again as we capitalize on the monitoring opportunities offered by our vantage point over the bay. However, if a mutually beneficial partnership can develop, we are interested in sharing the opportunities that the Lodge affords with like-minded parties.