Tsartlip First Nation will explore what it calls a “wide range of land options” including cattle grazing on the former Woodwynn Farms property.
“Given the recent pandemic, the community is very concerned about food security,” said Andrew Leach, chief executive officer of Tsartlip First Nation. The First Nation assumed possession of the former farm in late December 2020.
Leach made that comment in a press release in which the First Nation expressed its support for Central Saanich’s decision to issue demolition permits for a total of seven buildings on the site including two buildings listed on the municipality’s historic buildings inventory. The public had heard earlier that the so-called White Barn (built by William Thomson in 1887) was structurally unsound and the so-called Hay Barn was nearing collapse.
Chief Don Tom said last month that Tsartlip First Nation would have liked to keep the buildings if they were not unsafe. But the First Nation explored all options and determined the best course is to remove the barns, as per an independent engineering assessment commissioned by BC Housing prior to the property transfer.
Central Saanich had issued the demolition permits after staff had recommended against temporary protection measures, citing the state of the building.
The First Nation has also promised to preserve as much of the wood from the White Barn and create a historical memory of the buildings.
The release from the First Nations though also expands on its plans for land, once part of its traditional territory.
“Tsartlip had this land for thousands of years before settlers created the farm,” said Leach. “Now that the land has been returned, Tsartlip members are working to remediate the property, exploring a wide range of land use options, including cattle ranching and farming.”
Leach said the fenced area for cattle was unused and overgrown, adding that Tsartlip will stock this area with cattle.
The First Nation has also hired 10 community members to do a summer cleanup of the property. The release notes that many of the crew are young but have already started to re-connect to the land.
“The land at Mawuec, Woodwynn Farms, used to be Tsartlip hunting territory and cedar tree forest, where our elders and ancestors would harvest medicines,” said Tsartlip Councillor Joe Seward.
Councillor and Elder Paul Sam (Telaxten) said the First Nation has a long, deep history. “I was raised a farmer, hunter and fisherman on this land,” he said. “At one time, our people hunted and fished up and down this coast. My grandfather grew fruit and vegetables here.”
Seward added that some elders still talk about fishing in Hagen Creek. “Salmon used to spawn in the creek before it was polluted by fertilizers,” he said. “Our hope is to restock the creek with trout as quickly as possible.”
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