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

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

Creston’s Fields Forward collecting data for potential food processing plant

An Oct. 1 survey will collect input from regional farmers and food processors

West Kootenay mother searching for son missing since Sept. 1

Police are investigating the disappearance of Cory Westcott

MP Morrison faults federal Throne Speech as new Parliament session begins

Kootenay-Columbia representative criticizes a lack of focus on jobs, support for resource sector

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Most Read