Snaw-Naw-As community hall burned down in an early-morning fire Saturday. (Photo courtesy Natasha Bob)

Community hall was an important gathering place for Snaw-Naw-As

First Nation hasn’t been able to access fire site yet to determine extent of damage

The Snaw-Naw-As are thankful no one was hurt in fire that left their community hall in ruins.

A large portion of the 40-year-old building that served as the Snaw-Naw-As community hall was badly burned early Saturday morning. The cause of the fire remains under investigation by Nanaimo RCMP.

Chief Brent Edwards of the Snaw-Naw-As said he’s glad no one was hurt from the blaze, but is sad to see the community hall in the condition it is in.

“It’s hard to see,” he said. “We’ve gathered there as a family and as a community so many times over the years.”

Edwards praised Lantzville Fire Rescue, which responded to the fire and was able to save numerous artifacts including two totem poles.

“We are really grateful for the services [Lantzville Fire Rescue] provide and once again being there for our community,” he said.

The building was insured and will be torn down and replaced in the future, according to Edwards, who said the Snaw-Naw-As haven’t been able to access the building and have no idea if any other artifacts or precious belongings were damaged or destroyed.

“We haven’t gained access to it yet. We’re hoping to get into it in short order and better ascertain what is there and what is not,” he said.

The community hall was an important building for the Snaw-Naw-As. It served as a gathering place during holidays, was a place of mourning and acted as a meeting spot for the community.

“It’s definitely a loss for us,” Edwards said. “It’s right next to the graveyard so everybody from [Snaw-Naw-As] who has passed away in the last 40 years has been carried out that doorway by everybody. It’s a pretty big deal for us.”

nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com