Qqs Youth Programs seek to provide Heiltsuk youth with opportunities to experience social and educational success, feel confident on the land and water, build a strong sense of cultural identity, and feel supported in their path to community leadership.
At Qqs, we believe cultural education is vital. We work to incorporate cultural identity and nurture cultural resurgence through programs on the land and water. We aim to lead culturally inspiring programs to negate the years of oppression for a new era of reconciliation.
Qqs Community Programs seek to meet community-identified needs, and uplift community-rooted strengths and leadership that we believe to be the path to a vibrant and resilient future for our people.
Qqs Environmental Programs use a mixture of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and western science to promote an understanding, build connection, and support responsible stewardship of Heiltsuk lands, waters, and resources.
Koeye River Youth Camp
Koeye Camp is a land-based language and culture program for Heiltsuk youth.
Since 1999, we bring generations of young leaders and learners to the Koeye Watershed, around 30 nautical miles south of Bella Bella, where they participate in an immersive and hands-on program that incorporates daily language lessons, ancestral foods and medicines, weaving, canoe pulling, and a deep dive on potlatch protocols in Dhadhixsistala – our bighouse in Koeye.
We prioritize space for urban Heiltsuk youth and youth in foster care and strive to make equitable space for all Heiltsuk youth who wish to participate. We welcome exchanges with other communities and registration of non-Heiltsuk participants as space allows.
Our camp staff are typically former campers who grow with our programs, providing a depth of continuity and leadership that enriches our work immensely. We strive for zero barrier programming and operate Koeye Camp free of charge with individual equipment and supplies provided as needed.
Photo credit: Kalina Hunter
Photo credit: Kalina Hunter
Q̓váx̌a'ila Food Systems Resiliency Program
Our food systems work started in Koeye, where we run our youth camp and Koeye Sanctuary.
Originally, we sought to balance growing vegetables with tending wild food and medicine plants in a food security initiative that formalized in 2013. This work enabled us to provide our participants with nutritious food while creating an opportunity to teach them life skills related to food security.
In 2017, we brought our food systems work back into Bella Bella when we converted an empty lot into a community garden. The La̓iás (garden) in Bella Bella has around 30 raised beds designed for accessibility, and all the produce is given away to community members. We also use the La̓iás as a learning space for hands-on workshops in partnership with our local Health Centre.
This community collaboration has branched out over the years to jointly support garden spaces at our community school and Elders Building. We root our food systems work in an understanding of gardening as an ancestral practice that we carry on today.
The Granny Garden program emerged as a COVID resiliency measure to support Heiltsuk households experiencing challenges with pandemic lockdowns.
Unable to run our typical garden programs and workshops, we pivoted our delivery model and gave away planter boxes, soil, and seeds to over 100 households in Bella Bella throughout Spring 2020.
Early in the pandemic, we shifted from in-person workshops to social media support, audio tutorials on Heiltsuk Radio, and 1:1 video chat support. We constructed a small greenhouse to increase people’s success rates by giving away started plants. We supported 3 Heiltsuk students to champion physically distant community garden spaces at the La̓iás, Elders Garden, and school garden. When the situation was stable enough, we offered COVID-safe workshops to keep our sense of a gardening community strong.
This household-level food security work found its moment in the pandemic as people turned to growing food as a measure to support their physical and mental health. Regardless of global health scenarios, we intend to keep this personalized support in place in 2021 and beyond.
When we started Koeye Camp in the Koeye Watershed in 1999, we began our program with handful of tents on the beach.
But after experiencing conflict with the owners of a private fishing lodge at the mouth of the bay, we worked with NGO partners to raise the purchase price of $1.2M and rematriated the property in 2002.
We converted the original facility into a family programming space and, following a devastating fire in 2011, transformed the land into a new, purpose-built sanctuary for Heiltsuk families and social programs. This includes 9 cabins, a gathering hall, a library, gardens, and a solar/micro-hydro array to minimize our diesel consumption.
The facility serves as a support base for field programs in Koeye and an low-barrier venue for partnered programs and events such as intergenerational family camps, workshops, retreats, and the “University of Koeye” field class. We welcome inquiries on how this space may align with your programs or gatherings.
Photo credit: Kalina Hunter
Thistalalh Memorial Library
The first iteration of the Thistalalh Memorial Library was created in 2007 with a curated collection house in our office, a former bank located in the bottom of a central service building that also housed our community’s only grocery store and post office.
When this building burned in an accidental fire in 2013, our collection of around 1,500 books was lost to smoke and water damage. However, with incredible support from the Write to Read program and donors across the province and country, we were able to reopen only 8 months later with a beautiful collection of nearly 3,000 books in a converted Britco trailer.
We pride ourselves on our collections of Indigenous literature and natural history books and support an active local book club. The library is named for the late Ed Martin, who – in addition to being a formative cultural teacher in the early days of our programs – was also a lover of stories, ranging from Heiltsuk oral history to poetry and Shakespearean soliloquies.
Photo credit: Louise Whitehouse and The Narwhal
Qqs Projects Society is proud to collaborate with many organizations both inside and outside the Heiltsuk community. Building and sustaining partnerships has always been, and will always remain, one of our top priorities.
Kunsoot Wellness Centre
Kunsoot is an emerging healing space in the heart of Heiltsuk territory, envisioned by Heiltsuk leadership and supported by an incredible interagency collaboration in Bella Bella.
The vision for the Kunsoot Wellness Centre is “an inclusive, accessible, and safe space for land-based healing and learning.”
Qqs is proud of its role in raising the capital funds for this initiative and project managing the construction phase of the Kunsoot Wellness Centre. We are represented on the Kunsoot Wellness Society board by our Executive Director.
Granny’s Kitchen is the next phase of our collaborative food security work, building on the momentum from our Granny Garden program to hopefully deliver year-round nutritional support to our people. It’s more than a food bank. We want to uplift. We want a way for us to ensure everyone has the means to feast even when we can’t gather together in the Bighouse. We want a Haíɫzax̌v love language. We want you to think of the unconditional love, comfort, and nourishment of walking into your granny’s kitchen and sitting down at the table.
We prepare hampers of groceries to share with those who need them. They include dry goods and fresh produce and they’ll be organized weekly to share with anyone who needs a helping hand.
This is administered by Qqs but it’s also supported by our partners at the Interagency Committee: Heiltsuk Kaxla Society, Bella Bella Community School, Kunsoot Wellness Society, Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Hailika’as Heiltsuk Health Centre, and the RCMP.
When the Granny Gardens program starts growing food in spring, we envision sharing produce from the gardens through the Granny’s Kitchen program. We also hope to hire local harvesters to bring in traditional foods we can include in our hampers for those who would like them.
Photo credit: Sara Wickham
Through a long-time partnership with Nature United (formerly The Nature Conservancy), Qqs was an early partner in the visioning process for the Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards (SEAS) Program.
Today, we operate the summer portion of the Heiltsuk program through hands-on internships with our land-based programs, and in the fall and spring, we support our local community school as they deliver education programs on the land for Heiltsuk students.
The magic of SEAS is in its alignment with Indigenous knowledge systems, the valuing of community knowledge holders, and the opportunities for youth to learn on and from the lands and waters of their homeland.
(NB: The SEAS program also exists in other communities, led in different local directions by their own needs and priorities.)
University of Koeye
The Indigenous Knowledge, Science & Resource Management Field School (AKA "University of Koeye") is based in Bella Bella and the Koeye Watershed.
This field school brings undergraduate students into Bella Bella where they connect with Heiltsuk knowledge keepers for a cultural orientation and meet with Heiltsuk stewardship leaders to learn about local priorities and gaps in lands and marine stewardship. With this foundation, we move our learning to Koeye where we are joined by additional community knowledge holders and Heiltsuk youth.
Assignments within the class are designed to give back to the land and community and connect to themes emerging from conversations with Heiltsuk knowledge holders. This class co-delivered by Qqs Executive Director Jess Housty and Dr. Chris Darimont of Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the ACS Lab at UVic.
Photo credit: Grant Callegari
Salmon Monitoring Program
From 2006-2019, Qqs administered research and monitoring programs throughout Heiltsuk territory designed to support informed decision-making by Heiltsuk stewardship authorities.
When the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department was founded in 2010, we organized our work to match their priorities, which grew into a long-term collaboration on salmon monitoring in the Koeye Watershed.
This work includes partners from HIRMD, Hakai Institute, and Simon Fraser University and involves monitoring of salmon populations in Koeye through smolt traps, beach seining, and an ancestral-style weir in the river for fish counts.
In 2019, Qqs shifted administration for all ongoing stewardship programs over to HIRMD and continues to provide in-kind support to the salmon monitoring program.
Photo credit: Grant Callegari
Heiltsuk Radio is a collaborative project in Bella Bella modelled after success stories like Nuxalk Radio and other grassroots Indigenous radio initiatives worldwide.
Currently, Heiltsuk Radio broadcasts as an FM station in Bella Bella at 91.1 FM. Heiltsuk Radio was a key part of our COVID success story in the Granny Gardens program as it provided us with a means of reaching households during pandemic lockdowns to provide home gardening support.
Qqs is proud to have raised the funds to purchase and install the initial Heiltsuk Radio system and to be an early contributor to its FM programming.
Bella Bella RAIN
(Rez Animals in Need)
RAIN is a volunteer-run animal welfare group in Bella Bella that connects pet owners to veterinary services, much-needed supplies, and emergency food.
The team helps community members navigate voluntary surrenders and connect animals to shelters, and provides education and support to help people and families have healthy relationships with their pets. Qqs is proud to support RAIN with fundraising, in-kind contribution of staff time, and space to foster animals awaiting flights to shelters.