New funding to replace mouldy daycare in tsunami path

The Ucluelet First Nation's elected president says it is hoped a new, larger daycare will encourage the return of members currently living off reserve.

Grant will be used to create 34 new daycare spaces for the Ucluelet First Nation

A Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ daycare pupil and his mother work on traditional cedar weaving. (Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government – Ucluelet First Nation)

New daycare funding for the Ucluelet First Nation will be used to replace a mouldy building located in a tsunami flood zone.

The $500,000 grant will help create 34 spaces in a new daycare centre to be named Qwayaciik?iis, which means "wolf cubs."

Les Dorion, the elected president of Ucluelet First Nation, also known as the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ, said the community's existing daycare was moved out of the mouldy building into temporary space in the First Nation's government office, but the location is not ideal.

"The daycare is adjacent to the reception area," he said. "It can be a little unfriendly at times. People are coming in and they're looking for their social assistance or they're looking for health care or they're looking for whatever."

Earlier this month, the B.C. government announced $33 million in grants to create 3,800 new daycare spaces across the province, 535 of them in Indigenous communities.

The Qwayaciik?iis child-care centre planned by the Ucluelet First Nation will include spaces for children from infancy to school age. (Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government – Ucluelet First Nation)

The new daycare spaces will be built in a separate wing that will be added to the three-year-old government building in Hitacu, across the bay from the village of Ucluelet. The site is on high ground in the tsunami safe zone.

The new daycare will also be used for cultural and traditional language programs for the children.

"One of the biggest challenges that we're facing is we only have seven fluent speakers remaining in our tribe," Dorion said.

Children to learn traditional language

The First Nation is working to preserve their language through digitization, but Dorion said there is potential for retaining the language by teaching it to young children.

"They mimic and parrot and reflect on anything that you do, so we want to get the elders involved in the language program in that daycare," he said.

The new daycare spaces will more than meet the current need of the Ucluelet First Nation, but more children are likely to come from the District of Ucluelet, where daycares are at capacity. 

Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (Ucluelet) daycare pupils participate in a graduation ceremony to mark their transition to kindergarten. (Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government – Ucluelet First Nation)

Meanwhile, Dorion said, there are hopes that members who are living off-reserve will begin to return as the First Nation continues to expand housing and infrastructure.

Ucluelet First Nation is one of the five Maa-Nulth Treaty nations that reached a settlement in 2006 that included nearly $500 million.

"We just built seven more homes and hopefully that will help bring people up to speed and bring more people home," he said. 

Dorion said only about 200 members live in the community, while there are about 500 urban members of the First Nation. Dorion himself returned two and a half years ago, after his election as president.