WATCH: There are big plans in the works to develop Newcastle Island across from Nanaimo into a tourism mecca. On Friday, the Snunymuxw First Nation unveiled plans to add camping spots, a restaurant, interpretive centre and market to share the cultural past of the island with tourists. Skye Ryan has more.
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Weathering whitecaps and wind, Rose Scow set out Friday for her childhood playground, Newcastle Island. It’s where she remembers running over the bright green hills each Sunday after church, having family stew cookouts and learning how her Snuneymuxw First Nation ancestors used the island as a training ground for warriors and a healing place for the soul.
“Stew was a big meal back then,” she remembered smiling.
The 90-year-old Snuneymuxw elder returned in a wheelchair with excitement that a whole new generation will soon immerse themselves in this place’s history.
“It’s a historical place that connects me to my ancestors and who they are and where I come from,” said Snuneymuxw Cultural Ambassador Thomas Jones.
Historical photos capture how busy a picnicking and holiday spot Newcastle once was, but its rich First Nation history has never been a big part of that until now. The Snuneymuxw First Nation now hopes to build a tourist destination out of this place they call Saysutshun.
“We’re very excited with the opportunity that’s in front of us today,” Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wise told the gathered crowd.
The plans involve the construction of a longhouse, restaurant and market, the doubling of current camping spots and an increase in shuttles bringing people over from Nanaimo’s harbour. Once here, First Nation traditions would be shared, like weaving, canoeing and storytelling that Rose Scow remembers so fondly.
“It’s going up,” Scow said happily.
“We hope that with the culture and the history that we can bring back the life that was once here in this community,” said Jones.
The Snuneymuxw First Nation is now actively looking for partners to invest in Saysutshun and with it, bring an elder’s memories of childhood back to life.