First Nations Native People of the Clayoquot Sound
The People and 5 Communities of the Clayoquot Sound
People of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations have survived of the rich land and waters of the Clayoquot Sound for several millennia. Nuu-chah-nulth can be translated to mean “all along the mountains” and there are fourteen Nuu-chah-nulth nations living alongside the mountains of Vancouver Island. Three of these nations live today within the Clayoquot Sound. They are the Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht and Hesquiaht people.
Like many places throughout Vancouver Island, the Clayoquot Sound boasts a rich native history. The name Clayoquot itself come from the Tla-o-qui-aht people and the translation is said to mean “people who are different from who they used to be.” The majority of these people live within five distinguishable communities spread throughout the Clayoquot Sound.
The first of these communities is Hupits’ath or Opitsaht. Opitsaht is said to mean, “the sun rises on it” or “the sun rises and sets there”; a possible tribute to picturesque Clayoquot Sound sunrises. For thousands of years, Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht people have lived in this beach community on Clayoquot’s Meares Island. Nearly 150 people live today in this village that is only accessible by the water. Children in this community attend school’s available in Tofino and Ucluelet by school boat every morning. This is not the only place in the sound that the Tla-o-qui-aht people call home. They also live in another community of Vancouver Island’s popular Long Beach.
Hisaawist’a or Esowista, located within Pacific Rim National Park, has long been an important place for the Nuu-chah-nulth people during the whaling season. Wa7ichulhh, commonly called Box Island, shelters Esowista from storms and open ocean which provided a calm landing for hunters coming in on their canoes. The name, Wa7ichulhh, is a direct reflection of this, translating to “resting place.” Nearly 150 people still live in Esowista today, although the days of whaling are long gone, the site still has great access to the water, rain forest and the sound’s inlets.
The Ahousaht people are also not limited to living in Opitsaht on Meares Island. Maaktuslis, also called Ahousaht, is another village with a larger population, over 550, which is located on Flores Island. This village has its own elementary school and high school and like Opitsaht, is only accessible by boat or float plane. The Ahousaht people also once lived on Vargas Island in a village at Ahous Point called “7aahuus.” Their native name was “7aahuss7ath” meaning “people of “7aahuus” and their current name, Ahousaht, is an anglicized translation of the native 7aahuss7ath.
Learn more about taking a Kayak trip to Clqyoqout Sound B.C.