Kyuquot Sound Native People (First Nations) Checleseht People
The Kyuquot/Checleseht People
The Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations were paddling these waters in cedar canoes long before us recreational kayakers arrived. This community is the northernmost of the 14 Nuu-chah-nulth, commonly called Nootka, First Nations and the people are the Kyuquot/Checleseht. The Kyuquot and Checleseht were originally of two different nations that came together in the 1960s and now are mainly are referred to as Kyuquot.
There is evidence that the Kyuquot/Checleseht people’s relationship to this land has lasted several millennia. For centuries, their population flourished here, the community thriving with the resources provided by the forests and ocean. The Kyuquot/Checleseht population has dramatically decreased over the past two hundred years and today, about 500 band members survive. Most of these people call the village of Kyuquot, only reachable by water, their home. In the village, there is a bed and breakfast, a restaurant, a medical clinic and school. It is out of Kyuquot that Leo Jack, born and raised in Kyuquot, runs his water taxi business. It is Leo’s business that many kayakers depend on to help them get to and from the pristine paddling spots of the Kyuquot Sound and the Checleseht Bay.
Like most First Nations People, the population here began to be threatened with the arrival of the first European settlers. European exploration brought diseases such as tuberculosis, smallpox and measles and it was at the time of the European’s arrival that the Kyuquot began losing their rights to the land and resources that had sustained their population for centuries. Over the past two hundred years, the Kyuquot population that once numbered in the thousands has dwindled to the few hundred people living throughout the region today.
The surviving Kyuquot population continues to face many challenges. Adapting to survive in the context of 21 st century Canada while struggling to keep their land and traditions has been a constant struggle. The arrival of residential schools made way for the loss of language among Kyuquot people and without their native language, the people are in danger of losing stories, dances and songs that have been traditionally passed from one generation to the next. A number of Kyuquot people today live in poverty. This issue stems from restrictions placed on their own territory and the mismanagement and closure of commercial industries in the region. The population is not often consulted about important fishing and logging operations that continue in their traditional territories and consequently, salmon runs and forests that the Kyuquot people have traditionally sustained themselves with are being depleted.
Learn more about seeing native people while kayaking the Kyuquot sound