A Jewel in Nanaimo’s Harbour
Words and photos by Tricia Thomas
Protection Island Ferries will temporarily pick up Newcastle Island passengers for $10 round-trip. Called Saysushun , in the Hul’q’umi’num language, the island is part of the traditional Snuneymuxw First Nation territory.
Interpreter Celestine Aleck leads tours of ancient middens and historical sites around the island, a place once extensively used for fishing, hunting, and gathering shellfish, berries and medicinal plants. In 1849, Europeans arrived and a succession of coal mines, a fish-salting plant, a shipyard and a sandstone quarry left vestiges of their presence. The story of Newcastle Island is told in the gallery of old photos in the pavilion and the signs posted on walking trails that lead to various historic points around the island.
Now a BC Marine Park co-managed by Snuneymuxw, the City of Nanaimo and the province, Newcastle Island offers seasonal camping and moorage, along with a concession and store and the Q’uluc’tun Bistro featuring First Nations’ foods. This summer, a new artisan workshop and craft booth will feature Snuneymuxw carvers and artists. Plans are underway for a cultural centre to be built on the island.