Malahat Nation catches a star

Elder Gene Harry drums during the opening of the Malahat first nation
Elder Gene Harry drums during the opening of the Malahat first nation's Kwunew Kwasun Cultural Resource Centre May 28.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

Drumming and prayer songs by Malahat Nation elder Gene Harry blessed the band's cultural-resource centre Wednesday.

Soaring beams, and reams of cedar seating and shelving greeted visitors from the South-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce and Malahat business associates to the Kwunew Kwasun Centre, which will soon be filled with books and other items to help further Malahat's educational, economic and cultural resurgence.

Chief Michael Harry set the stage for his people's centrepiece of learning and living in their territory which is experiencing growth pains and opportunities.

"Not a day goes by that wee not thankful for our friendships and relationships," he said.

"This building is about what Malahat is, and wants to be," said Lawrence Lewis, band administrator, citing it's comprehensive official community plan. "This is a place for our language to thrive."

Their $800,000, 3,000-square-foot rustically modern longhouse was built by Malahat fundraising, plus in-kind labour and other skills. The centre is emblematic of Malahat's plans to realize its economic potential and educational opportunities, Lewis explained.

"It's a place to be big, bold and beautiful."

That beauty took about 18 months to construct on Jesken Road, south of the Mill Bay ferry terminal.

Furthering Malahat's goals for centre programs, literacy and early childhood development, tonnes of books are headed to the centre as part of an Aboriginal literacy drive, called Write To Read, led by B.C.'s former Lt.-Gov. Steven Point.

Malahat's plans to preserve its language (Kwunew Kwasun means catch a star in Hul'q'umi'num) through its endowment fund, will be partly paid by it second-annual fundraiser set for Nov. 1 at Brentwood College's Bunch Theatre.

Guest speaker will be Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk will help the Malahat rocket to its $250,000 goal.

"This is really just the beginning for the Malahat people. What you ask for you, receive; life is not a straight line," Lewis said.

For gala details, contact Sharon Marshall at, or call 250-743-3231 or 250-204-2089

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