Human remains found near Tofino have been identified as missing Tla-o-qui-aht fisherman Marcel Martin.
Martin was one of five men onboard a vessel that capsized near Tofino on June 15. Two men made it safely ashore, but Tla-o-qui-aht fishermen Carl Michael and Terrance Brown Jr. both remain unaccounted for.
Martin’s remains were discovered by a kayaker near Echachist Island on July 18.
“It’s a big impact on our community. His loss is definitely heartbreaking for all of Tla-o-qui-aht and the municipality of Tofino and our neighbouring nations. Everyone knew Marcel as a great fisherman and a great resource provider,” Tla-o-qui-aht member Elmer Frank told the Westerly News Sunday morning.
“The impacts of losing somebody like Marcel is heartbreaking for the immediate family and for the community as a whole. He didn’t provide for just his family. He shared a lot of his resources with community members. Whenever anyone had a party, he would always be the first one to step up with halibut, salmon, clams, crabs, and to provide for potlatches.”
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s administration office will be closed on Monday out of respect for the Martin family and a celebration of Martin’s life will be held at the Tin Wis Best Western Resort at noon on Monday. A potluck has also been scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m. at Esowista.
“He lived who we were as Tla-o-qui-aht people. He raised his family off the land. He made his living of of our land, water and resources,” Frank said adding that Martin was a valuable educator and role-model for Tla-o-qui-aht youth.
“He was a great man in the manner of making sure that he passed all of that knowledge onto his children and also all of those who wanted to learn. He taught a lot of our young men…He was a pretty incredible man. We were able to see him provide for his family, living off of what we were taught as we were growing up, on our natural resources in our traditional territory.”
Frank said the search for Carl Michael and Terrance Brown Jr. continues and that a dive team was out on Friday.
“There’s a lot of stages to grief and the biggest stage, and the healthiest stage, is to start finding the answers to help healing,” Frank said. “Right now, it’s important for us to try to help find those answers and continue to have these searches because it’s important for a family to have some answers to their loss.”
He added he tries to help mentally prepare the searchers each morning before going out.
“I always tell them, ‘We’re out here to do one job,’ and I give them an update on what we should be expecting,” he said. “If there are remains found, they need to be mentally and physically prepared to see those kinds of things and, respectfully, some step back because they aren’t ready to face that and we respect that…We prepare them mentally and we have good debriefing sessions as a search team and that really helps us.”