CAN - Diving program that teaches Indigenous youth to harvest seafood taps into ancestral traditions

Sheltered within a large tide pool along the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet, Kenneth Lucas took a deep breath before diving five metres to the ocean floor.

Armed with a weight belt and snorkel fins the length of his arms, the 15-year-old held himself in place by clinging to a rock.

Behind him, Chris Adair pointed a flashlight into a dark hole under a boulder. White tentacles came into view before Lucas kicked back to the surface for air.

Above water, Lucas smiled widely before diving back down to get another look at the Pacific octopus tucked inside its den.

Lucas was participating in a three-day snorkel-harvester training course as part of the Tseshaht First Nation’s youth Warrior Program in late August. The goal of the course led by Adair, owner and operator of Bottom Dwellers Freediving, was to expose the youth to underwater environments and aquatic species along the coast.

“That liquid curtain — that barrier of the surface — keeps people at bay,” said Adair. “[This training] gives the youth another space to be excited about and feel ­connected to.”

The Tseshaht youth Warrior Program kicked off last September, following the success of similar programs held in Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ, Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

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