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September 26, 2023

Tin Wis Resort: Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future on Orange Shirt Day

By Rachel Leghissa

Nestled amidst the pristine beauty of Tofino on Vancouver Island, Tin Wis Resort stands as a beacon of transformation and reconciliation in the world of tourism. This Indigenous-owned resort not only offers visitors a tranquil escape but also plays a pivotal role in rewriting the narrative of tourism in Tofino. Today, we explore the remarkable journey of Tin Wis Resort, the profound significance of Orange Shirt Day in Canada, and the importance of supporting Indigenous communities when visiting Tofino.

Tin Wis Resort: A Journey of Reclamation

Tin Wis Resort, though now a haven of relaxation and natural splendor, holds a poignant history deeply intertwined with the Indigenous communities of the region. The resort is situated within Tla-o-qui-aht Ḥaaḥuułi and the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks, marking the ancestral home of the Tla-o-qui-aht people. For tens of thousands of years, this land served as the site of their ancestral village.

However, the land’s history also bears the scars of a painful past. Tin Wis was once the site of an Indian Residential School (IRS), specifically known as Christie Residential School (Tofino). In the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report, this institution is identified as a place where Indigenous children endured the harsh realities of forced assimilation and cultural erasure. The Christie Residential School was relocated to this site after the closure of Kakawis on Meares Island, making it the last IRS to close in British Columbia, though not the last in Canada (Saskatchewan, 1996).

The process of reclaiming this sacred ancestral site began in 1981 when a hostel and campground, operated by Tla-o-qui-aht, were established. This marked the early steps in the transformation of Tin Wis into a symbol of resilience and cultural preservation. Over the years, the resort has evolved into a space that not only provides employment opportunities for Tla-o-qui-aht citizens but also welcomes Nuu-chah-nulth workers from surrounding territories.

Orange Shirt Day: A Day of Remembrance and Healing

Orange Shirt Day is an annual event in Canada that carries profound significance in the journey towards reconciliation with Indigenous communities. It originated from the experiences of Phyllis Webstad, who, as a young Indigenous girl, had her brand new orange shirt taken from her on her first day at a residential school. This traumatic event left a lasting impact on her life and inspired the orange shirt as a symbol of the harm inflicted on Indigenous children and the need for healing.

Orange Shirt Day, observed on September 30th each year, serves as a reminder of the dark chapters in Canada’s history, particularly the residential school system. It is a day to honor survivors and their families while acknowledging the painful legacy of colonization. By wearing orange shirts, Canadians express their commitment to reconciliation and a brighter future for Indigenous communities.

Supporting Indigenous Communities in Tofino

When visiting Tofino, especially the Tin Wis Resort, tourists have a unique opportunity to contribute to the ongoing process of healing and reconciliation. Here are some meaningful ways to support Indigenous communities in Tofino:

  1. Stay at Indigenous-Owned Accommodations: Opt for accommodations like Tin Wis Resort and Tsawaak RV Resort, which are owned and operated by Indigenous communities. Your stay directly benefits the local economy and provides employment opportunities.
  2. Respect Cultural Protocols: Learn about the cultural protocols of the Indigenous communities in the area and respect them. This includes seeking permission before entering certain areas and understanding the significance of sacred sites.
  3. Participate in Cultural Experiences: Engage in cultural tours with Ahous Adventures, support Indigenous owned businesses like TBird EBikes, and attend events offered by Indigenous organizations. This not only enriches your experience but also supports the preservation of traditions and knowledge.
  4. Buy Indigenous Art and Crafts: Purchase authentic Indigenous art and crafts from local artisans. It’s a wonderful way to take home a piece of Indigenous culture and support Indigenous artists.
  5. Educate Yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about the history, culture, and issues facing Indigenous communities in the region. Awareness is the first step towards understanding and empathy.
  6. Support our Allies: Meet our Allies here. Every Ally here has agreed to support the Tribal Parks by collecting a 1% Ecosystem Service Fee on behalf of the First Nation.
  7. Take the ʔiisaak Pledge: We invite you to take the ʔiisaak pledge, carrying these words in your heart as you travel.

Tin Wis Resort in Tofino, British Columbia, stands as a powerful testament to the resilience and determination of Indigenous communities to reclaim their ancestral lands and heritage. This Orange Shirt Day, as we remember the dark history of residential schools in Canada, let us also celebrate the progress made in the journey towards reconciliation.

Supporting Indigenous communities when visiting Tofino is not just about experiencing natural beauty; it’s about embracing a shared history and working together for a more inclusive and equitable future. By choosing to stay at Indigenous-owned accommodations, respecting cultural protocols, and engaging with Indigenous culture, we can contribute to the healing process and help rewrite the narrative of tourism in Tofino. Tin Wis Resort serves as a shining example of how tourism can be a force for positive change, honoring the past while embracing the future.

Tin Wis is the ancestral home of Tla-o-qui-aht and has been stewarded by the people since time immemorial. To learn more about its history, please read, “Rough seas calming: Tin Wis, past, present, and future: