media release

New website brings together thousands of years of Heiltsuk Nation voices

January 24, 2019
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Contact:
William Housty, Heiltsuk Nation, william.housty@heiltsuk.ca
Dana Lepofsky, SFU Department of Archaeology, dlepofsk@sfu.ca
Justin Wong, SFU Communications & Marketing, 778.782.3035, jrwong@sfu.ca

Photoshttps://flic.kr/s/aHsmG95XXX

A new website that illuminates thousands of years of Heiltsuk Nation voices and history— “Húy̓at: Our Voices our Land” (www.hauyat.ca) — is being launched on Friday, Jan. 25 with a special celebration at Simon Fraser University.

The website uses video, photos and stories to present an engaging overview of Heiltsuk connections to Húy̓at (Hauyat), one of an immense network of culturally important landscapes in Heiltsuk territory on the Central Coast of British Columbia. It is where the Heiltsuk have lived for millennia, learning from and caring for the land, plants and animals on which they depend.

Says Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett: “With this publicly accessible website, we’re sharing our inseparable connection with our homelands as it holds true for all First Nations up and down the coast. We believe the Húy̓at website will become a great resource for schools and for people who are interested in better understanding First Peoples’ culture.”

From mountaintop to ocean floor, the Húy̓at website project documents the history of the Heiltsuk by integrating ethnoecological, archaeological, anthropological and audio-visual knowledge and techniques. Heiltsuk identity is embedded in the songs, language, place names, oral traditions, ceremonies, archaeological sites and memories of Húy̓at.

Many Heiltsuk elders today say they have profound memories of their time growing up in Húy̓at—where they could freely be Heiltsuk outside of the oppressive time spent in residential schools and away from the watchful eyes of Indian agents and other forces of assimilation in the community.

The website is the result of more than eight years of collaboration between the Heiltsuk people, SFU, the University of Victoria (UVic), the Hakai Institute, and producers from Greencoast Media. Its integrated approach aligns with Indigenous worldviews, which see connections among people and their history that move fluidly across boundaries of space and time.

SFU archaeology professor Dana Lepofsky, academic lead for the project, says the project grew from the community’s desire to present their connection to their lands and seas for their own communities and for others.

Students from SFU and UVic collected much of this knowledge during archaeological digs and surveys.

The website is featured in an exhibit in SFU’s Bill Reid Centre on the Burnaby campus. As well, the Heiltsuk have placed a large touch-screen featuring the website in the Community School in Bella Bella where many Heiltsuk live today.

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