Living next to the ocean is a huge part of Vancouver Island culture. It is easy to see a body of water as a boundary, but before the island became colonized, many indigenous peoples saw water as a part of their land and not as a border to their existence. This is evident in the spread of the Halkomelem language (one of the many indigenous languages native to here), as it spreads around the island's waterways and even up the Fraser River.
The Ladysmith harbour serves as the boundary between the town of Ladysmith and the reserve on the peninsula. The physical boundary of water always placed a huge mental distance between the town and the reserve. Although the reserve is technically still attached to the island, it is very easy to see the other side of the peninsula; it is very easy to pretend that the indigenous people who live on the stz'Uminus reserve (anglicized as Chemainus) are on their own island. This has led to a prevalent culture of racism and "otherism" in Ladysmith, and even though we share a harbour that they have the rightful ownership of, we still see them as the other.
This harbour is also used for industrial purposes and is probably most notable for the self-unloading log barges. A self-unloading log barge is a specially designed barge that dumps a load of logs into the water for sawmill storage. These barges are disruptive, as they dump hundreds of tons of lumber into a small harbour ecosystem. This interconnection of the lumber industry to the harbour can be easily visualized by a satellite image of the harbour, where you can see all the floating logs.
As someone who grew up in Ladysmith, it was not normal to question this setup. What stands out to me now is how visually disrespectful this practice is to the stz'Uminus people. Before Ladysmith was founded, the harbour was used for fishing salmon and finding bivalves to eat. Now that it has been heavily industrialized, that is impossible.
I want to advocate for more stringent regulation efforts into industrial harbour use in cases where the harbour rightfully belongs to an indigenous population. I think, locally, indigenous peoples need to be incorporated more into conversations about waterways. Nationally, I think we need to have a serious conversation about how reserves were created to isolate indigenous populations and not respect their philosophies of movement and governance.
I think a shift also needs to change in "island culture". I want to start a change to decolonize island life and incorporate more indigenous philosophy into our unique island culture. If you know anything about the island, a resounding majority of people living there are white. Engaging in indigenous culture is not integrated into this post-colonial "island" identity, and I think ideas about water from indigenous cultures could unilaterally increase the quality of life on the island for indigenous people.