The story of Seabird Island began over 130 years ago in June of 1879 with Gilbert M. Sproat (19 April 1834 – 4 June 1913), a representative of the Indian Reserve Commission, would consult with First Nations people and later allocate the island known then as Skow-a-kull (correct spelling Sq'éwqel) as a reserve to be held in-common by the people from Popkum, Skw'átits, Ohamil, Ska-wah-look, Hope, Union Bar and Yale because the land they currently resided on could not sustain crops, and the land on Seabird Island would provide rich soil and provide a place for First Nations families to live their lives on.
Seabird Island's Halq'emeylem name, Sq'éwqel, is translated to "Turn in the River", the English name Seabird Island would be taken from the June 1858 groundings of a transport paddle-wheeler "Sea Bird" on an island bar in the Fraser River, across from Seabird Island.
One year after the reserve in-common was created; Chief Michel of Yale would be considered the first Chief of Seabird Island. Under his direction, Seabird Island would begin construction of the Seabird Island Community Church. It would be twelve years after the Community Church was completed when Father Edmund Petavin (OMI) would host the first baptisms of First Nations children on Seabird Island. In 1884, the Canada Pacific Railway, which began construction in 1881, would build a railway path through Seabird Island.
Elections in the year 1940 would bring about a new Chief; Harry Joseph would be elected and would serve in office for his entire life, passing away in 1953. During his stay in office, Chief Harry Joseph would see the first Seabird Island day school constructed in 1948. It would offer kindergarten to grade 6.
After Chief Harry Joseph passed away in 1953; he would be followed by Chief Vincent Harris who would serve as Chief until 1971.
It would be 79 years after the Seabird Island reserve was founded as a reserve to be held in-common the Order of Council created a Commission to discuss establishing the reserve as an independent band. One year after, in 1959, by Ministerial Order Seabird Island would become an independent band.
In 1963, 83 years after the first Community Church on Seabird Island was built under Chief Michel, it would be replaced by the new Immaculate Conception Church which is still offering services to this day. One year after the Immaculate Conception Church was opened; Seabird Island would also construct a Community Hall next to the church to offer Band Members a place to congregate. And in the following year Canada Pacific Railway would begin constructing a new trestle bridge at the southern end of Seabird Island, the original washed away in the great floods of 1894.
The Day School which opened under Chief Harry Joseph in 1948 would be closed 20 years after it was built. First Nations children would be transferred to the Agassiz Public School. Shortly after the closure of the Day School Seabird Island would begin running an on-reserve nursery school.
The last weekend of May 1969 would begin a tradition Seabird Island Band Members and the Seabird Island Band still embraces today. Archie Charles, a Band Member of Seabird Island, and his wife would envision and host the first ever Seabird Island First Nations Festival. Today, thousands of people from across North America attend the games and over 220 teams participate.
In 1970 the Lougheed Highway, also known today as Highway 7, would be completed, its path would take it directly through Seabird Island. Also that year Seabird Island would build 16 new homes to provide residences for its growing families.
Chief Archie Charles would be elected to serve as Chief in 1971, he would be Seabird Island's longest serving chief and would retire in 1997. During his stay in office Chief Archie Charles would lead Seabird Island to remarkable achievements, establish a vision for our people, and create the working relationships between our Management Team and Council – a relationship that would lead to the formation of the organization we are today.
Chief Archie Charles would begin operating the first Seabird Island Band Office out of Band Member Mary Lou Andrew's home. The office would only be staffed by three Band Members, Chief Archie Charles, Richard Louie, and Mary Lou Andrew. The Seabird Island Band Office of today employs over 220 staff members. Upon retiring in 1997 Chief Archie Charles would be given the honour of being named Grand Chief of Seabird Island and he would also receive the Order of Canada prior to his passing in 2011.
Seabird Island would begin operating its own cattle farm in 1972; it would offer employment to Seabird Island Band Members and provide economic growth for the community. The first paved road would also be constructed that year and would become the main road through Seabird Island to this day. It would be named Chowat Road. A ferocious ice storm that winter would bring down BC Hydro Towers on Seabird Island.
Seabird Island would enter into a partnership with the Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation, and from 1972 to 1975 Seabird Island would build the first housing authority homes - many of which still stand to this day. A year after a population report would state that Seabird Island had a total of 286 residents and 317 Band Members.
After 10 years of having their children integrated into the Agassiz Public School System, parents from Seabird Island would petition the Band to open its own Band-operated community school. From that petition, the vision of Lalme'Iwesawtexw would be born, and in 1980 that vision would come to life. In 1978, Seabird Island would open the Seabird Island Café. It would become the stepping stone for many of our First Nations people to gain the skills they needed to seek further employment – many of which sought and gained employment at the Band Office.
From 1979 to 2001 Seabird Island Band Members would witness a construction boom in their community. Twelve phases of social housing construction would begin and dozens of homes would be completed – many of the homes would be built by Seabird Island Band Members. Also during this time the Seabird Island Café kitchen would be expanded, a maintenance shop would be constructed, two sub-divisions would be completed, and a Convenience Store would be opened.
In 1980, Chief Archie Charles would appoint Daryl McNeil as Band Manager. Daryl McNeil would continue to serve as Band Manager to this day, working hand-in-hand with the Chiefs and Councils in the following years to achieve the goals and vision set forth by Grand Chief Archie Charles.
Ten years after the initial population report, Seabird Island would bring the total residents to 371 and the total Band Members to 385. Because of the population growth, Seabird Island would begin construction of 8 new homes for the near one hundred new residents.
Three key visions of Grand Chief Archie Charles would come to life in the following years. In 1989 Lalme' Iwesawtexw construction would begin. Lalme' Iwesawtexw would be envisioned as a First Nations on-reserve school designed to promote and foster our First Nations culture and language. Two years later it would be completed and would open its doors to children attending kindergarten to grade 6. That year would also lead to the construction of 16 new homes and in the following two years 10 more homes would be built. One year after, in 1995. Seabird Island would need to build more homes to meet the growing housing needs on Seabird Island.
In 1996 Grand Chief Archie Charles would see the current Seabird Island Band Office constructed and opened. The building would be expanded over three times in the coming ten years. At the time, Seabird Island would have 535 residents and 641 Band Members, because of this Seabird Island would begin constructing 19 new homes and an additional 6 one year later.
Upon retiring in 1997, Grand Chief Archie Charles would be followed by Chief Wayne Bobb Sr. He would remain in office four terms and leave office in 2007.
The Convenience Store built in 1985 would receive a paved parking lot in 1998, and it would also be renovated to install gas pumps and to offer four rentable rooms. The renovations would attract tractor-trailer drivers and travelers passing by. Later that year, the Seabird Island Band would host its first ever Open House and construct a Daycare Centre.
One year after, in 1999, Seabird Island became aware of its large population of endangered Oregon Spotted Frogs and throughout the coming years Seabird Island would work towards protecting the endangered population.
The new millennium would bring about the harvesting of 128,000 lbs of hazelnuts from the Seabird Island Hazelnut Orchard which had been planted in 1989. The Orchard is still operational to this day.
In 2001 Seabird Island would own and operate the largest sheep farming operation in British Columbia, and one of the largest in North America with 1,282 ewes, 183 yearlings, 3 lambs, and 35 rams. It would stay in operation until 2003. A population survey would reveal that in 2001 Seabird Island had a total of 623 residents and 673 Band Members.
From 2002 to present day, Seabird Island would become a Health Services Mecca. Under the management of current Health Manager Carolyne Neufeld, Seabird Island would complete its own Community Health Plan and Health Transfer with Health Canada. This would allow Seabird Island to design and operate its own Health Services. Upon completion Seabird Island would expand the Band Office to include a Health Wing as well as a Dental Office. Within its first year of operation, the Seabird Island Health Services would have 2,500 clients and 36 employees. One year later Seabird Island would announce that 100% of all Seabird Island children were immunized.
The year after Seabird Island completed its Health Transfer, Seabird Island would link with both the Fraser Health Authority and Xyolhemeylh, a Mental Health team would be created, and a Speech Therapist would be contracted. The Health Department would also run its first Early Childhood Education Certificate program in partnership with the University of the Fraser Valley. It would see a record 22 graduates, an astonishing number that would not have been achieved if the program had not of been offered within the community. Many of the graduates would be hired by Seabird Island.
In 2003 Seabird Island would begin planning the sustainable housing project which would create homes on Seabird Island that would reduce our overall carbon footprint. That year, Seabird Island had a total of 178 houses.
The Seabird Island Band Office would operate 45 computers, 3 servers, 18 printers, 4 laptops and 1 scanner. The technology boom would begin in the coming years.
One year later, the Seabird Island Early Childhood Programs, under the management of the Health Department, would receive funding to offer an Aboriginal Supported Child Development Program. It would offer services to children betweenChehalis to Boothroyd that have varying levels of special needs. One year later, after Seabird Island success with the program, Seabird Island would be funded to offer Supported Child Development services to non-First Nations people. Seabird Island would be the only First Nations agency to do so.
Through partnerships with the University of the Fraser Valley, Seabird Island would also offer both the Early Childhood Education Certificate and the Family Childcare Certificate. 33 students would enroll in the programs and would once again prove that offering college-level training within First Nations community would be successful. Because of this, Seabird Island entered into a partnership with the British Columbia Institute of Technology to offer a one year apprenticeship in carpentry program. 15 First Nations students from 18 – 60 years of age would complete the program and earn a certificate.
The Seabird Island on-reserve population would continue to grow, and Seabird Island would begin constructing 8 more homes in 2005. But the population wasn't the only thing to grow. The Seabird Island Dental Clinic which reported having over 1,300 active clients would be renovated and expanded to open up two more seats, bringing the total to four. As well, the Seabird Island Daycare Centre would be expanded to offer 12 more infant seats.
Later that year, the Seabird Island Band and its Council decided to take a very unique approach to Child and Family Services. For many years, Seabird Island saw its children apprehended, families torn apart, children placed separately in non-First Nations homes off reserve - far from their brothers and sisters, culture, heritage and language. Seabird Island decided that our children deserved more – they envisioned that Seabird Island children would be kept within the community, as a complete family. With that vision in mind, Seabird Island opened its first Family Home. The Family Home would be staffed 24 hours a day, creating a safe, healthy environment so that families could remain together in their own community. This approach was ground-breaking, and many First Nations communities have begun duplicating the program.
In 2006 Seabird Island began pursuing its own Land Code which would be ratified three years later. Also that year, Seabird Island would receive funding to operate the Kwiyo:s Maternal Child Health Program which would provide culturally sensitive services to help new parents and parents to be. An office in the Health Wing would also be designated for the visiting Optometrist.
Seabird Island Early Childhood Programs would enter into a partnership with Cheam and Skwah to offer Head Start programs within their communities. The Health Department would also sign Health Transfer Agreements with four new bands and begin offering Health Services within their communities.
The following year Lalme' Iwesawtexw High School would begin construction and Chief Wayne Bobb Sr. would leave office – he would be followed by Chief Clement Seymour and the technology boom would begin. The number of computers and servers in the Band Office would double.
One very large issue Seabird Island families had been the lack of access to internet. And Seabird Island Band and its Council began fostering the dream of providing its Band Members with high-speed internet access and in 2007 Seabird Island began making this dream in reality. Seabird Island became the first British Columbian community to deploy a wireless broadband network using Siemens technology and was the first community in Canada to launch a high-performance wireless mesh network. The following year the service was operational and began offering subscriptions.
The Seabird Island Health Department would sign five more Health Transfer Agreements as well as assist Skwah and Cheam build Health Centers within their communities. A Nutrition Walk/Run would be organized to promote community health, 240 community members both young and old would take part.
In 2008 the Seabird Island Fire Department would be added to the British Columbia 911 operating system and would begin receiving callouts to our neighbouring communities.
The Seabird Island Band and Council would work towards bringing another of Grand Chief Archie Charles' dreams to life, and Seabird Island began working towards and became an Education Jurisdiction Community. This would create the stepping stone Seabird Island needed to controlling their children's education.
The population of Seabird Island would continue to grow and 30 new homes would be built in 2008. With the growing population, the Seabird Island Health Department would notice that our First Nations children had a number of Speech and Language delays and challenges but were unable to receive services because of the long waiting list, many children would be on the list two years and by then they would be too old to receive services. So in 2008 Seabird Island Early Childhood Programs sought and received funding to operate the Ey Qwal "Good Talk" Speech and Language Program.
The construction of the Lalme' Iwesawtexw High School would be completed in 2009 and it would open its doors that September. But it also offered a very unique program. Many First Nations High School students had children, or were pregnant and because of that many felt that they could not be a parent and attend school so they dropped out. The Early Childhood Programs and Lalme' Iwesawtexw partnered and opened the Young Parents Program within the high school itself. The program offered students the freedom to complete their education while their children were safe and could be visited while the parents were on break or at lunch. The program also taught parents parenting skills, and in many cases gave new moms the opportunity to continue breastfeeding their child.
In 2009 Seabird Island would achieve one of Daryl McNeil, Band Manager, and Council's greatest goals. After Seabird Islands many partnerships with Universities and Colleges to run programs within the community, Seabird Island decided it was now time to take their biggest step in First Nations education. Seabird Island would apply for and receive registration with PCTIA to operate Seabird College. It would begin offering courses that year.
The housing construction boom had not ended yet, because the population of Seabird Island was now 814 residents and 834 Band Members, Seabird Island began construction of 12 new homes in 2010.
That year would also see Seabird Island as the proud host of the 2010 Olympic Torch Run; three community members would be given the honour of carrying the torch.
In June of 2010, Seabird Island Health Department would be awarded the Excellence in Health Promotion Award from the BC Medical Association. This award recognizes individuals and organizations working to improve health and safety and celebrates those who demonstrate leadership through specific initiatives in ingenuity and creativity of health promotion, with the goal of positive, long-term improvement. The award marks the first time in history that a First Nations community has won a BCMA Award.
Seabird Island would also partner with the Vancouver Community College to run an Aboriginal Practical Nursing program. The Health Department would open two new services, the Mobile Diabetes Program which travels to secluded Bands throughout Northern British Columbia, as well, Seabird Island would host the Community Engagement Hub which brings together multiple Bands to discuss and work together to achieve their goals and health needs.
In our current year, Seabird College and Adult Education Programs run through Lalme' Iwesawtexw would see an astonishing success in First Nations education. Two years after its inception, Seabird College would lead 49 First Nations students to graduation.
The Seabird Island Housing Department would receive recognition from the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of British Columbia, receiving the Best Practices award.
The Seabird Island Health Department would begin their journey to accreditation and would also begin offering the Home Care Assistant Program in partnership with the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. As well, the Health Department would leave its 8 year partnership with Xyolhemeylh and join the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Over the past 130 years, the Seabird Island Band grown tremendously to create a strengthened community for our First Nations people. Our Management Team, with the support of our leadership, implemented several initiatives that brought about social change that has helped the Seabird Island Band in its metamorphosis from a small First Nations Band into a successful, prominent non-profit First Nations organization.
The Seabird Island Band has always had a simple but profound purpose, to walk hand-in-hand with our First Nations people, and our partner Bands to confront the social and economic challenges that First Nations people are faced with. We work to create opportunities for economic growth by encouraging First Nations entrepreneurs, supporting our Band Members as they complete their education goals both on and off-reserve. As well as increase the health and well-being of First Nations people, starting at birth and lasting throughout life.
The Seabird Island Band's journey is still on-going. In our coming years, the Seabird Island Management Team and Council will work towards getting our health care services accredited. Once accredited, the Seabird Island Health Department will meet provincial, national and international standards for health care practices for First Nations and non-First Nations alike.
We are also pursuing economic growth campaigns and projects: a Comprehensive Community Plan project, Waste, Energy and Technology Management Plans, expanding Seabird College and Adult Education programs, reviving our Halq'emeylem language through the use of technology and education, increasing our health services, further construction of housing to meet the needs of our people, and we foresee much more in the coming years.
Our Goals Are To:
Improve the health of First Nations people of all ages by offering:
- Individualized programming and services that meet the specific needs of each client and their situation,
- Services within First Nations communities to make services easily accessible.
- Programming that meets the ever changing needs of First Nations people and their families.
Advance the educational opportunities available to First Nations of all ages by:
- Offering in-demand post-secondary programs through Seabird College.
- Operating a First Nations Elementary and High School that takes into account the culture and social challenges First Nations children are faced with, and develop programming combat these challenges.
- Providing each student with all the supports (both emotional and through tutoring) needed to help them succeed.
Increase the economic opportunities available to First Nations people by:
- Helping First Nations start businesses on-reserve, through advocacy, as well as helping draft business plans.
- Starting businesses that create job opportunities for First Nations people from all backgrounds and educational levels.
- Encouraging First Nations people to upgrade their skills and education so that they can obtain the jobs or businesses they desire.
If you are a Band Member and have any dates or information you think should be added to Our Story, please contact:
P: 1-604-796-2177 | F: 1-604-796-3729
Phaine McNeil, Web Developer