the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’ / Che:k’tles7et’h’ Bighouse

The Project

Since the destruction of the original 24 bighouses on Aktis Island and the forcible removal of the children to residential schools, the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ community has been scattered across the Pacific Northwest.

For over 30 years the Elders and Council have been holding onto a dream – that someday a new bighouse would be built, and the healing process could begin. That dream is now becoming a reality.

In the spring of 2016 a consultation with the Elders was held. Out of this meeting came unanimous support for a bighouse and the project officially started. This bighouse would bring the community together and share the rich Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ culture and history with the youth of tomorrow.

The first phase began with research and selection of the master carver (Moy Sutherland), architect (Scott Kemp), engineer (ISL Engineering), and preliminary drawings were created. This information was then presented to the Hawiih and Council in September 2016 and the bighouse committee and subcommittees were formed. A key concept in the design and construction was to keep the bighouse traditional, minimizing the modernization with the exception of lighting, fans, bathrooms, and audio system.

In addition to the main bighouse, there will also be a separate multi-use building with a commercial kitchen to accommodate meals for events (i.e. potlatches, feasts, etc) which would see many community members returning to Kyuquot. The multi-use building will house a gymnasium, a library, a museum and a cultural learning centre.

The Rotary Club of Canada has initiated cornerstone support for the multi-use building through their Write To Read Program which will be run out of the library.

Cultural and language revitalization are critical considerations in all bighouse processes and because this project would span years and is in most regards unique and precedent-setting, it was suggested that the process be documented through video, including interviews and audio recordings.  In the last two years since work began, 15 elders and community members have passed away but some of their voices – their wisdom – have been recorded to encourage and guide the spirit of the project moving forward.

Video interviews continue to be recorded with the Elders to ensure their voices and cultural knowledge are captured and stored safely for future generations.

The voices of the youth are also very important in the process and educational sessions have been conducted ensure their input is taken into account. Youth engagement has involved classroom visits, drumming circles, and a visit to Aktis Island to learn about its history and importance to the story of this bighouse project.

In November of 2017, the first tree for use in the bighouse was felled following a traditional tree blessing by Daisy Hanson and Moy Sutherland. This tree was then transported to Kyuquot where it will be used as part of the bighouse.

December 2017, engineers started work sorting all of the wood and construction materials in order to create an accurate building cost estimate. Phase 2 of the project starts January 2018 where a project manager will come on board and a Geotechnical survey will assess the building site. Once the area is approved it will be time to officially break ground on the project. Stay tuned.