At 4 am on July 12 a fire swept through one of the most important buildings in Bella Bella, housing the band store (the village’s only grocery store), the post office, liquor store, and Qqs Projects Society. A tumblr page has been established to help the band rebuild the building.
This fire is inconceivably tragic for Qqs, a Heiltsuk First Nation-run organization that supports youth, culture, and the environment through a variety of projects within the Heiltsuk Nation (see http://www.qqsprojects.org/ for more details). This organization is still reeling from a similar fire in 2011 that destroyed the main lodge at Koeye camp, a popular Heiltsuk youth science and cultural camp that takes place every summer in the magical Koeye River Valley. The fire last week destroyed their office space and the Koeye Café, a café that acted both as a community meeting place and a store that sold indigenous-made articles to raise funds for Qqs programming. It also destroyed the Thistalalh Memorial Library. This library was built through 6 years of hard work by Jess Housty and the Koeye family, and through the loving donations of people from around the community, the province, and the world. Unfortunately the entire collection and library was lost. This loss won’t be covered by insurance. A website, bellabellalibrary.com, has been established to coordinate efforts to help recover from this devastating loss.
The Koeye family is made up of some of our dearest friends, both organizationally and personally. Working closely with them through the years has taught us a great deal about the Heiltsuk territory and ecosystems and has informed our own science on projects ranging from our early coastal wolf research to more recent work on coastal black and grizzly bears. Our privilege of working with them each year at Koeye camp has provided not only a fantastic outreach opportunity for our organization but also stands as a personal highlight of the year for those of us lucky enough to attend.
We respectfully call upon our extended Raincoast family to offer any support possible, be it books or financial donations (Qqs can provide charitable tax receipts for financial donations), to help Qqs, Thistalalh, and the Heiltsuk community recover from this tragic event.
Please visit the website bellabellalibrary.com for more information on how to help.