“We’re here to be in service to community,” Executive Director ‘Cúagilákv (Jess Housty) describes talking about Qqs’ open mandate. Formalized in the late 1990s but with roots much deeper than that, Qqs carries out a variety of programs and offers various services that, on the surface, might not seem connected. “The common thread is always that either a community member or a community partner organization has come to us and asked us for partnership.” As an organization that prides itself on saying an enthusiastic yes, Qqs takes on many new initiatives, helps them develop funding relationships, and in many cases, supports the community member or partner to take over leadership once established.
The origin story of Qqs is tragic and dates back to the late 1970s when the Heiltsuk Nation took back control of a day school that had been operating in their territory. This was a time where colonization was directly impacting family structures, Indigenous identities, and culture. Residential schools and day schools had violently disrupted Indigenous models of parenting and family, and Elders in the community wanted Heiltsuk-led solutions. They knew that they had the knowledge and strength within the community to heal, and where knowledge was lost, they knew they could relearn by bringing Heiltsuk children and families out on the lands and waters. After a few years, and with a positive response from Elders and community, the volunteer-run project became a charity that enabled fundraising for philanthropic dollars that otherwise wasn’t available in the community. Qqs has been supporting youth, families, culture, and sense of place ever since.
One of Qqs’ flagship projects is the Koeye River Youth Camp, a land-based culture camp for Heiltsuk youth. The camp has been so successful at connecting young Heiltusk to their Territories and ways of life, Qqs has committed to delivering this program annually in summer months, which they have now done for more than 20 years. Qqs has delivered this program through various challenges and with sometimes limited funding (with the exception of the COVID-19 pandemic and the program had to pause), and this continuity is one of their great achievements. Today, many of the staff started out as campers years ago, demonstrating a powerful cycle of continuity.
An integral part of community connection and accountability has been opening up the Qqs office for community members to stop in, have a coffee, and visit. Through informal dialogue, Qqs can develop programming that’s really responding to the needs of the community and gains honest feedback on priorities and focus.
Because Qqs responds to direction from the community, it can be difficult to see exactly where the organization will be in the future. Continued commitment to Heiltsuk people is what keeps Qqs growing, innovating, and iterating. “I think every community deserves to be loved unconditionally, and that is at the absolute heart of what we do,” ‘Cúagilákv affirms. “We believe that people protect and care for what they love. And so it’s important to us to create connectivity that helps community members love the land and love the culture, love the language, love each other and themselves. Because that’s what a healthy community deserves.”
Mission + Vision + Values
Qqs Projects Society is dedicated to supporting Heiltsuk community, culture, and environment in order to create a strong and vibrant future for our youth, our Nation, and our territory.
We are devoted to supporting important community initiatives that uplift Heiltsuk youth and families.
Our goal is to uplift an emerging generation of Heiltsuk leaders who are committed to the resurgence of our culture and to sustainable relationships with our lands and waters.
Qqs Projects Society is a values-based organization.
We, along with our partners and supporters, share a common commitment to realizing these values both in our actions as individuals and in our work together.
We are guided by and pursue our work based on the following principles:
- We value our youth. We believe that strong families and a healthy community are key to ensuring our generation of emerging leaders has the freedom to thrive.
- We value our culture. We believe in the strength of our Heiltsuk culture and traditions and are committed to cultural revitalization that transcends generations.
- We value our environment. We believe that the health of our land and waters is deeply tied to the health of our people.
- We value our Heiltsuk laws that govern who we are, how we act, and how we speak.
- We value education and learning as a tool to help our Nation to build itself into a healthy, strong, and vibrant people.
- We value respect for each other, our environment, and our partners and allies.