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

LETTER: Board defends tough decisions ahead for arts centre

Lack of income puts The ACT imperil – changes are mandatory to survive, says president

LETTER: MAID is a reassuring option for Maple Ridge man

Letter writer takes exception with a local woman’s views about revoked funding for Delta Hospice

Maple Ridge woman fights WorkSafe B.C. over police widow’s pension

Dalila Vroom says husband, Const. Robert Vroom, died as result of PTSD from time with Abbotsford PD

Heavy police presence at Maple Ridge traffic accident

Multiple police seen running into house

UPDATE: Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreak over at Maple Ridge seniors residence

All remaining residents and staff have been cleared of the virus at Chartwell’s Willow Retirement Residence

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping The News to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Racist incident shocks Vancouver Island First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP investigating after video shows truck wheeling through Tseshaht territory

Vancouver Island school principal mourns brother, cousin killed during U.S. protests

Jelks says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from the community in the wake of this tragedy

Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate target on hold at 0.25%

Central bank now expects GDP to decline between 10 and 20 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2019

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment in schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Most Read