An inaugural Surfrider Foundation Canada conference took place on Meares Island in Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht shared territories over the May Long weekend.
Over 35 Surfrider representatives from the U.S.A., Victoria, Vancouver, and the Pacific Rim gathered at the Lone Cone Hostel for the three-day synergy session.
Anna Atleo, Lone Cone Hostel manager and Ahousaht First Nation, helped organize the retreat.
“It was really awesome to see that many people [at Lone Cone] knowing that they are all volunteers who take care of the Hahoulthee and the territories and be really about the lands,” said Atleo.
Most of the workshops took place in a unique indoor space called the Cedar Room, which is often used for healing ceremonies.
“It’s a beautiful room to have your downtime and serenity,” said Atleo.
She went on to explain that the special cedar wood smelling room was built within the structure of an old residential school gymnasium. Part of the old gymnasium is preserved, and Atleo showed it to some of the Surfrider members.
“It was my first time to open up the back door to anybody else. For the people that got to see [the old gymnasium], the experience itself was mind-blowing to them. To see that it was an old residential school and this back room had a lot of history to it.”
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Connor Paone, Surfrider Pacific Rim board member, thought hosting the first-ever Surfrider Canada conference at a place like Meares Island was a good way to create awareness about Canada’s true history.
“We are implementing frameworks on how to work with specific Nations in the ways that they want to be worked with and having the conference at at place like this really allows us to share that success with the other Surfrider chapters in Canada. It was the first time we’ve come together, so this was the first time we learned about what all the other chapters are doing and what’s on the radar for them. This was a really good way for us to put it on the radar in a not forceful way.
There is a lot of really great opportunity to working with Nations in a way that goes beyond the minimum bar of reconciliation,” said Paone.
Working from a place of respect and awareness is the first step, he notes.
“Surfrider Pacific Rim takes really seriously our relationships with all communities that we work with and especially the First Nations because of the fact that we are operating within their territories and they have so much knowledge and wisdom.”
Michelle Hall, Surfrider Foundation Canada’s conference leader, was honoured by Atleo with a blanket during a welcome ceremony.
“The gift was to to give gratitude for all the work she has done within Ahousaht territory. Michelle’s really brought a wonderful team together to our territory,” Atleo said.
She hopes more groups and students will come together in the Cedar Room.
“They cleanse it with all their goodness and wanting to learn and understand of what that place really was.”
Jason Sam, Surfrider Pacific Rim chair, teaches conference participants how to say the Nuu-chah-nulth word of the day, UU-A-TAK, which translates to “Taking care of” during the first-ever Surfrider Canada conference at the Lone Cone Hostel and Campground. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)