Nuxalk hereditary leadership, supported by council, are enforcing a community lockdown a the base of the hill on Highway 20. (photo taken March 28, 2020)

Remote First Nation on B.C.’s central coast asking non-essential travellers to stay away

The remote coastal first nation is concerned about COVID-19 with increased summer tourism

The Nuxalk Nation is urging visitors to stay away even as B.C. begins to loosen travel advisories.

The remote First Nation has been fielding calls from people inquiring about travelling to Bella Coola. Nuxalk’s emergency operations centre is issuing permits to those on essential travel – mostly residents – and requesting that all others not come.

“There’s a few calls we’re getting that are for tourists and sport fishing, and people wanting to go to their summer homes. We’re asking that they please not do that, expressing to them that that’s not essential travel, and sharing the concerns of the Nuxalk leadership,” said Jessica Miller, acting deputy of the Nuxalk emergency operations centre.

“We’re seeing some of the people who we’ve asked not to come are coming anyway. It’s frustrating and disheartening to see that,” Miller said.

RELATED: Easing COVID-19 restrictions too soon could jeopardize vulnerable communities

READ MORE: Nuxalk leadership move to lockdown community

The Nuxalk Nation’s traditional territory is in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, in and around Bella Coola, a small town on the coastal mainland approximately 250 kilometers north of Port Hardy. It takes a 10-hour ferry ride through long forested inlets to get there from Vancouver Island.

“People in the community are starting to ask new faces, ‘Where are you from? Why aren’t you self-isolating? Why aren’t you social distancing?’ People who are out and about just laugh at them.”

The concern for small communities like the Nuxalk Nation is that they lack resources to deal with a disease outbreak. Currently there are no confirmed cases in Bella Coola, and they want to keep it that way.

Even as the province announces plans to gradually reopen, remote communities are feeling pressure to restrict travel.

“People seem to think it’s safer here,” Miller said. “I’ve seen other nations nearby announce recent lockdowns.”

READ MORE: Ulkatcho First Nation implementing road closures and restrictions

As people from more populated areas of the province feel they can start travelling again, they’ll resume summer travel plans to places like Bella Coola.

Already Miller is noticing an increased number of calls from sport fishing businesses and other tourism, many of whom get most of their clients from the States. It’s a major worry for Nuxalk leadership, she said. With summer coming, they worry it will just get worse.

“We’re really appreciative of everyone who calls, because that’s our main method of controlling who comes here. We’re trying to provide a fair process for essential travellers, and trying to tell people who aren’t essential travel, just, no.”

Ferry service, one of the three ways to get to Bella Coola, runs out of Port Hardy. The community has a small airport, serviced by Pacific Coastal Airlines. Overland travel arrives from Highway 20 out of Williams Lake.

The Nuxalk Nation has approximatley 1500 members, with nearly 900 living in and around Bella Coola. Bella Coola has approximatley 2000 residents according to the last census.


Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

@ZoeDucklow

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusFirst Nations

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Playgrounds to reopen across the Okanagan on June 1

After nearly two months closure, playgrounds are set to reopen

Driver damages Chase playground after alleged pellet gun shooting

RCMP report vehicle drove through Memorial Park before coming to a stop

Salmon Arm’s Alexander Street to be open to foot traffic only on Saturdays

Downtown Salmon Arm announces plan to provide more space for restaurants, other businesses

Salmon Arm RCMP seek to reunite Fender guitar with owner

Police ask for owners of items to call detachment

Salmon Arm tackles cracked sidewalks, potholes, despite lack of 1-800 number

Replacing sidewalks isn’t cheap but city staff, politicians still want to hear about problems

Kelowna couple pedalling past loss of sight

Pauline and Jim Marshall said it’s important to be patient with each other

Kelowna’s Rock the Lake officially postponed until 2021

The new dates have been scheduled for August 6-8, 2021

Summerland to reopen playgrounds and recreational facilities

Some outdoor spaces will reopen on June 1, but arena and aquatic centre remain closed

Owner of Kelowna country bar permanently closes Langley cabaret

Nightclub showcased local talent, connected friends, and even hosted a wedding during its 34 years

COVID-19: B.C. too dependent on foreign food production workers

New B.C. job site links unemployed with farm, seafood work

Only 35 per cent of students returning to Vernon schools

Only 30 per cent of secondary students going back June 1 and 50 per cent of elementary

Princeton officially becomes ’Bronze Statue Capital of Canada’

“We are going to come out of this fine.” That’s the opinion… Continue reading

Kelowna man charged with murder of Alberta man

A second man is also wanted in connection with the first degree murder of Cody Michaloski

LETTER: Summerland solar project should be reviewed

Questions raised about feasibility of proposed power project

Most Read