YEAR IN REVIEW: Some of the stories from January, February and March 2022

The Black Sheep Brothers Max (right) and Chase stocking up their roadside kindling business one weekend in 2022, using waste wood and salvaged slash. (Ali Krimmer photo)The Black Sheep Brothers Max (right) and Chase stocking up their roadside kindling business one weekend in 2022, using waste wood and salvaged slash. (Ali Krimmer photo)
Carol and Harvey Thommasen said they gifted their river property along the Bella Coola River to help conserve the habitat for the many species of animals that call the area home. (Photo submitted)Carol and Harvey Thommasen said they gifted their river property along the Bella Coola River to help conserve the habitat for the many species of animals that call the area home. (Photo submitted)

The Coast Mountain News looks back on some of the stories from 2022 that ran between January through to the end of September.

Jan. 6, 2022

122-hectare property along Bella Coola River gifted to Nature Conservancy of Canada

A 122-hectare parcel of rainforest in the Bella Coola Valley is the newest conservancy area in B.C thanks to a significant donation from a local couple who had originally purchased the land in 2018 to make it a bird sanctuary.

The area, which is in unceded Nuxalk Nation territory, was donated by local residents Harvey and Carol Thommasen and is now under the care of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC).

“Carol and I donated this land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada mostly to help forest birds, whose populations have declined by 30 per cent since the 1970s. This land will also help the salmon and trout, whose populations have also suffered terribly over the past 50 years, and will provide a secure travel corridor for animals like deer, grizzly bear and other large mammals moving through the Bella Coola Valley,” noted Harvey Thommasen.

Bella Coola students ride into 2022 with new skills learned from bike mechanic course

Some Bella Coola high school students recently gained bicycle mechanic skills through a course offered at their school.

The 16 Sir Alexander Mackenzie Secondary School (SAMS) students who completed the program learned first-hand from instructor Jeff Bryson, owner and operator of Bikeroom, a bicycle mechanic school located in Kaslo, B.C.

Teacher Alex Boileau said the course complements trades, tourism and outdoor education courses and gave the students 12 hours studying with a certified bike mechanic.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave out any hands-on learners – a lot of these students learn very well with their hands. Both Jeff, the instructor, and I were blown away with the students’ confidence to try things and their professionalism. They were amazing.”

Jan. 20, 2022

Black Sheep Brothers on fire with kindling business

Two young entrepreneurs on the Central Coast have learned a few things since the onset of the pandemic, and made some money in the process.

Brothers Max and Chase Matuga were trying to think of ways to make some spending money to fund their hobbies during spring break of 2020.

“We didn’t want to necessarily give allowances just outright,” explained their mom, Ali Krimmer.

Then they found out that due to the pandemic, schools would remain closed for the time being and they would have even more time to start up a business project.

The idea of a kindling business came about because it took advantage of the waste wood from their parents’ timber framing company, Black Sheep Timbers, which includes a small sawmill and the cedar off-cuts from the mill could be split and sold.

So Max and Chase created Black Sheep Brothers, selling 40 cm bundles of hand-chopped cedar kindling for $2 per bundle.

Nuxalk Nation declares state of local emergency due to skyrocketing COVID-19 cases

The Nuxalk Nation in the Bella Coola Valley declared a state of local emergency due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 in the community.

“The COVID cases are skyrocketing,” said Iris Siwallace, the community’s emergency operations centre director Friday, Jan. 13. “We went from four to 30 cases in a few days.”

An order issued by Chief Samuel Schooner on Jan. 12, states the community will remain closed to visitors, including Nuxalk members living outside the valley who are not fully vaccinated.

Self-isolation is also ‘strongly recommended’ for seven days for anyone travelling out of Nuxalk territory who has not received two vaccines and is 12 years and up.

February 3, 2022

Survivors react to preliminary findings

During the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School site investigation meeting for chiefs held Tuesday, Jan. 25, Nuxalk Nation Chief Councillor Sam Schooner felt sick to his stomach.

“It was a difficult day, listening to the testimony,” he told Coast Mountain News. “Both of my parents went to residential school. Being raised by my dad the way I was raised I didn’t understand where his anger came from.”

When Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) hosted the chiefs meeting about 57 chiefs tuned in virtually. In the afternoon WLFN held a press conference which was livestreamed, with some local residents viewing it at the Nuxalk administration building. Later there was a sacred fire lit at the totem pole near the Co-op downtown where a food offering ceremony was conducted.

“They feed the spirits that have passed on,” Schooner explained of the ceremony. “It was at the pole that was resurrected for residential school survivors.”

February 17, 2022

A changing of the guard occurring at Bella Coola Valley Tourism

Outgoing Bella Coola Valley Tourism (BCVT) president Tom Hermance believes the region will see a rebound with visitors in 2022.

“It looks like tourism is on track to be the most promising season in recent memory,” said Hermance in a phone interview with Coast Mountain News. “We’re getting increasingly more emails from people who’ve been planning a visit for years.”

There is no place like the Central Coast, with its versatile wildlife, hiking trails and views, and people fly from all over the world to visit, he added.

He and Carsten Ginsburg, his partner of 33 years, joined the BCVT in 2014 when the direct route for BC Ferries stopped.

Sustainable food supply one of the goals of early Seedy Saturday event, Feb. 19

Seedy Saturday in Bella Coola Valley will be helping food sustainability in the valley on Saturday, Feb. 19, at Walker Island BBQ pit with an updated event to support local growers.

“Growing food is becoming more and more important,” said Elizabeth Howard, food sustainability coordinator for the Bella Coola Valley Sustainable Agricultural Society (BCVSAS).

In order to provide growers time to plan their gardens based on the seeds available through the event, the BCVSAS will be doing the February event in addition to their usual plant swap in April.

March 3, 2022

New CFO, CAO sworn in at Central Coast Regional District

A new chief financial officer and chief administrative officer were recently sworn in at the Central Coast Regional District.

During the Feb. 10 regular board meeting, the CCRD board promoted Yene Byun as the new CFO.

Curtis Slingerland, the new CAO, began his job on Monday, Jan. 17.

He replaced former CAO Courtney Kirk.

March 17, 2022

Remains found in estuary connected to fatal guided fishing boat incident in August 2021

RCMP confirm the remains found at the estuary in Bella Coola Feb. 27 are connected to a guided fishing boat that capsized on the Bella Coola River last summer with two tourists and a guide on board.

“On Thursday, March 3, 2022, BC Coroners Service positively identified the deceased as Keith Epp. Mr. Epp was one of three people reported missing following a boating mishap in August 2021,” noted the RCMP in a news release issued March 10.

The remains were discovered by residents walking in the estuary on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Human remains were also recovered Oct. 9, 2021 in the estuary relating to the boating incident.

SAMS junior girls basketball team wins 12th at provs, puts Bella Coola on the map

A girls junior basketball team from the remote community of Bella Coola has a lot to be proud of after placing 12 out of 24 at the junior provincial championships.

“I’m so proud,” said coach Ryan Parr, whose twin daughters Annika and Ayanna are part of the Sir Alexander Mackenzie School team. “It’s been quite the year.”

There are approximately 90 students enrolled at SAMS, and some of the schools the team was up against have hundreds of students.

Historically SAMS has not had a junior girls basketball team because there were not enough players.

March 31, 2022

Paramedic retires but still plans to serve community

After 36 years Jeffrey Snow retired from being a paramedic, work he came into by by accident.

While living in Vancouver, Snow was working with refugees from El Salvador, helping them access services and integrate.

Snow was then offered a job with a private ambulance service, Western Ambulance Company, because he had his Class 4 driver’s license.

After he moved back to Bella Coola Valley, Snow was recruited to work for the BC Ambulance Service there and spent the next 30 years as a paramedic in the valley.

For his retirement, he was provided a sacred ceremony recently in the Nuxalk songhouse as part of the hereditary chiefs’ feast.

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