The scent of cedar hung in the air as leaders from the Pauquachin Nation and members of UVic’s executive gathered in the First Peoples House on Jan. 19 to sign an agreement giving the Pauquachan the exclusive right, over the next 18 months, to negotiate the purchase of Dunsmuir Lodge from the university.
“My heart is in a good place today,” said Pauquachin Nation Chief Bruce Underwood, speaking to members of his community, other Saanich Peninsula First Nations leaders and members of the UVic community. He thanked UVic for the opportunity to purchase the North Saanich property adjacent to Pauquachan reserve and spoke of the need to “ensure we end up with that piece of property in the Pauquachan name.”
UVic closed Dunsmuir Lodge at the end of March 2009 because the facility was not sustainable in the long term and required subsidies to operate. The Pauquachin Nation, the immediate neighbours to the property, expressed a very strong interest in the Dunsmuir lands and discussions over the summer and fall resulted in the exclusivity agreement.
“For many years our community has felt the strong need to acquire more land on the mountain. This agreement gives us the opportunity to take that first step,” said Underwood. “Our elders have felt very strongly about our territory and about the mountain in particular, and it is our time now to preserve something for our children and those to come.
“You have my commitment that over the next 18 months we do everything we can to make this a reality,” said UVic President David Turpin at the signing ceremony which, he said, “was the culmination of many months of hard work and discussion.”
“This agreement with the Pauquachin Nation reflects one of UVic’s strategic plan goals—to build on our commitment to and unique relationship with First Nations peoples,” said UVic’s Vice-President Finance and Operations Gayle Gorrill. “Also, the Pauquachin are Dunsmuir’s neighbours and a logical choice to take over the property.”
Gorrill added that throughout the process of determining Dunsmuir’s future the university was very mindful of its commitment to steward its resources in support of the university’s academic mission, remain consis-tent with the original intent of the donor and keep the sensitivities of Dunsmuir’s immediate neighbours in mind, particularly the Pauquachin Nation. “We think this next step addresses all of these concerns,” she said.
At the close of the ceremony Underwood presented Turpin with a carved cedar canoe which he said was “symbolic of working together and pulling together as a team.” He also said that it was representative of the next generation who he hoped would benefit from the purchase of the Dunsmuir property.
Turpin in turn presented Underwood with a UVic stadium jacket which he said symbolized the warm relations between the university and the people of the Pauquachin Nation.