After five decades without a permanent home, things are about to change for the Tlowitsis First Nation.
The nation paid $3.5 million earlier this year for a 257-hectare rural, forested property near Campbell River.
Plans are now underway to establish a community of up to 100 homes, says Thomas Smith.
Smith remembers vividly when the estimated 450 members of the Tlowitsis First Nation left the Indigenous village of Kalagwees, about 45 kilometres east of Port McNeil.
The community began to empty when the government closed the school and cancelled hospital boat visits to the remote community.
"I was pretty young at the time. I was one year at the primary school there and then the family moved,” explained a now 60-year-old Smith.
“The village went quiet. There were a few adults living there but the majority of the families moved. Some went to Alert Bay, others moved to Campbell River and some even further to Vancouver, Victoria, wherever they found a place comfortable."
Smith says the new community will be called Nenagwas, which means “a place to come home to.”
It was approved as Tlowitsis reserve 12 by the federal government nearly a year ago and now the process of planning and building a community is getting underway.
"This place in 30 years could be a very large place," Smith said. "Indigenous people have lots of babies. It’s going to be an exciting place for our young people to grow up."
Engineering and planning studies are now underway and the nation expects to break ground in 2020.
With files from the Canadian Press.