The Klahoose First Nation
The toq qaymɩxʷ (Klahoose) peoples have lived here on the central west coast of British Columbia since time immemorial. Klahoose First Nation territories span from Cortes Island, opposite Quadra Island near Campbell River to Toba Inlet in proximity to our neighbours of the ʔop qaymɩxʷ (Homalco) ,kwɑːkjʊtəl (Kwakiutl), and ɬəʔamɛn qaymɩxʷ (Tla’amin) Nations. Klahoose Wilderness Resort, Klahoose Coastal Adventures and our siters property of Gorge Harbour Marina Resort are 100% owned by the Klahoose First Nation. Many of our cultural interpreters, guides and staff are Klahoose and have received comprehensive training to ensure your safety and comfort during your time in our territories. We invite you to see the beauty of the BC coast through our eyes, and experience the shared traditions and stories history handed down through generations. Klahoose Wilderness Resort awaits your visit.
Listen to the Klahoose community welcome song:
ʔi:mot tətᶿ kʷənome...
it’s good to see you!
Welcome to the traditional Klahoose Nation territory, which extends from Toba Inlet in Desolation Sound and Northern islands of the Strait of Georgia on Coastal British Columbia. Our Nation ‘s permanent community resides in Squirrel Cove, on Cortes Island, BC.
The Klahoose Nation has lived since time before memory on lands, waters and air that make up their abundant territories. A place where our ancestors’ spirit soars and can be heard in the wind as it rustles the treetops and guides our people.
The Klahoose Elders remember vividly a time when their Big Houses stood on the shores of Toba Inlet. Today, most of our population lives in the main village in Squirrel Cove on the East shores of Cortes Island. Members of our nation also reside in the coastal communities of Powell River, Campbell River, Vancouver’s Lower Mainland and Washington state.
Years of restrictive legislation forbid practicing most Klahoose cultural traditions which has significantly impacted our Nation. To combat this cultural loss, the Klahoose has embarked on a journey to rejuvenate its traditions, language, and identity. We are hopeful and delighted to see our youth’s eagerness to reconnect the threads of their past to the framework of modern life.
The Klahoose Wilderness Resort’s visitors to our territory strengthen our opportunities while supporting our efforts.
On behalf of the Klahoose Council and membership, we extend a warm welcome and much gratitude. We wish you safe travels and hope you enjoy your time with us.
Klahoose First Nation
(Chief of the Klahoose First Nation - 2017-2022)
I am from Squirrel Cove
hɛɬ toq tʊwa - I am from Squirrel Cove
Klahoose First Nation is among the most northern Coast Salish communities belonging to the language grouping of speakers Salishan (Coast Salish). Historically Klahoose has been grouped with neighbouring nations, Tla'amin (Sliammon and Homalco (Homathko), creating a sub-classification referred to as the Malaspina Group or Mainland Comox people.
The related by separate Nations of Tla'amin, Klahoose and Homalco share overlapping traditional territory and a common ancestry. Together they maintain collaborative partnerships. in cultural activities as well as in economic initiatives.
Tla'amin Nation has negotiated a treaty with the Canada government. This treaty provides certainty of Tla'amin Indigenous Rights in their traditional territory and also provides designated treaty settlement land as opposed to be federally mandated Indian Reserves. The treaty also outlines how Tla'amin Nation, the provincial government of British Columbia, and the federal government of Canada will corporate together to ensure the management and appropriate law-making for the lands, waters, flora and fauna, and local services for the people of the Tla'amin territory.
Homalco First Nation and Klahoose First Nation are both in Stage 4, an agreement in principle, of their respective treaty agreement with the governments of British Columbia and Canada. The treaty process is long and complicated with each settlement being unique to the Nation it will service.
ƛohos (Klahoose) means a sculpin fish
Spelling Our Name
Klahoose is the official and correct spelling of the Nation's name, although historically there have been variations used by researchers, explorers and others. The following are alternative spellings which may appear in records:
Klahuse Cle-House Tl'uhus Clahouse Qaymux Tlo'hos
Klahose Tlohoose Cle-House Clahoose Klauhuse
ʔɛmotɛ : Thank you
Surrounded by ocean waters and towering forests, the Klahoose people remain connected the the territories which have sustained us since the first fires were lit. Living in harmony with the spirit world and ancestors that walked these lands before us. This relationship both inspires us and remind us, of our inherent and unwavering responsibility.
Despite years of restrictive legislation, government and church interference, our cultural traditions have survived. They are fragile and need careful nurturing if they are to care for the next generations.
We know our children are watching, as are yours. There are many lessons to be learned from this moment in our shared history. Our actions today will influence the kind of relationship these future leaders will pursue. It is an enormous challenge to ensure everything is done respectfully and in the spirit of true reconciliation.
ʔi:mot tətᶿ kʷənome...it’s good to see you!
Pictured right are Bill Mitchell and Jeannie Dominick
The Reserve Allotments
Klahoose Nation has a traditional territory that extends 430,000 hectares. During the early settlement period, the Canadian government launched the reserve system to help support the assimilation and acculturation of the indigenous population. By the late 1800’s, Klahoose citizens were ushered onto 10 reserves with a combined size of 1357 hectares – less than 1% of the original land base. The following list includes the names of each reserve as well as notes articulating usage. During this same period, the government divided the province into regions with appointed representatives called Indian Agents assigned to monitor and report on activities of the indigenous populations. Klahoose First Nation changed agencies several times as differing government departments were mandated to oversee Indian Affairs. In the 1880s and 90s, Klahoose was part of the Lower Fraser Agency, then the Fraser River Agency, and from 1912 to 1933 the New Westminster Agency. From 1934 to the end of the agency structure, it was likely the Vancouver Agency who oversaw the affairs of Klahoose peoples.
Indian Reservation #1: Klahoose
Location: Head of Yekwamen (Toba Inlet)
Historically this was a good location for hunting deer, catching salmon and eulachon, and foraging for berries. There is a bend in the river that was important to Klahoose for hunting deer, where they would send a hunter to scare the deer to the shoreline on the opposite side of the large U-shaped bend and at the same time another paddle down the river in a canoe to kill them. This location was the traditional area of living for Klahoose during the winter seasons, prior to the movement of the village site to Squirrel Cove. It is speculated that the areas farther into Toba Inlet provided distance between Klahoose and the waring Kwakiutl tribes. As British Columbia was settled by colonizers, the warfare was reduced and the Klahoose community was able to move farther out of the Inlet. There are community members who lived in Toba around the 1950s, but currently there is no residential occupation (Black, Urbanczyk, and Weinstein 1997).
Indian Reservation #2: Quaniwsom
Location: Head of Toba Inlet, were the Tahumming River joins the estuary. This area contains a cemetery, which was mainly active when residents still lived in Toba Inlet.
Indian Reservation #3: Kwikwtichenam
Location: Salmon Bay, where the Brem River empties into Toba Inlet.
This was a summer village site in the same time period that IR#1 was still maintained as a winter site. There was historically good salmon and herring fishing here. The name means ‘getting humpback salmon’, referring to the reliability of catching pink salmon in this river area (Black, Urbanczyk, and Weinstein 1997).
Indian Reservation #4: Siakin
Location: On Redonda Island, near Dean Point at the mouth of two streams.
Fishing Station, specifically dog fish. The name means ‘your mouth’, as it is the place at the mouth of the streams (Black, Urbanczyk, and Weinstein 1997).
Indian Reservation #5:Palhxen
Location: East Shore of Ramsay Arm, where the Quatam River meets the ocean.
This was a fishing and temporary camp location (White 1916).
Indian Reservation #6: Quequa
Location: West Shore of West Redonda Island
Fishing area with rocky beach (White 1916).
Indian Reservation #7: Toq (Tork)
Location: Squirrel Cove, Cortes Island.
Main Village site for the community as it is today. Church constructed in 1896 (Black, Urbanczyk, and Weinstein 1997).
Indian Reservation #8: Papenamn (also referred to as Tork A or also Squirrel Cove)
Location: Wooded area in the north end of the bay that makes up Squirrel Cove.
Used for fishing and for reliable plant procurement, with the name meaning ‘to plant a garden’ or ‘planted area’ (Black, Urbanczyk, and Weinstein 1997).
Indian Reservation #9: Ahpokum (otherwise spelled Aap’ukw’um)
Location: East shore of Homfray Channel, at Forbes Bay, with a large stream fed by alpine lakes.
The name A7p’ukw’um means maggot, given this name for the stories elders would tell of huge numbers of chum salmon going up the shallow river and dying, producing maggots (Black, Urbanczyk, and Weinstein 1997).
Indian Reservation #10: Tatpo-oose (or spelled T’at’pu7us)
Location: Southeast shoreline of Maurelle Island, looking out over Read Island and Hoskyn Channel/Surge Narrows. This site was used for fishing.
Church & Religious Impact
The Residential School system in Canada was established to assimilate and acculturate First Nations into mainstream Canadian society. Designed to separated children from their families and from their cultural traditions and language, the schools focused on activities thought to foster more European sensibilities: for boys, farming and animal husbandry and for girls, housekeeping and sewing. Lessons in English ensured a break in traditional knowledge and proficiency in native language.
The government first began to implement the school system in 1842, but turned over administration and operation of the schools to various denominational churches. Attendance in the schools became mandatory as the church wielded their influence, and as Christianity and civility went hand in hand, the church was seen as an effective mechanism in the adoption of western belief systems. Missionaries from coast to coast introduced First Nations populations to western religion and encouraged a separation of the ‘pagan’ rituals which were seen in stark contrast to European formalized religious practices.
Throughout the 177 years of residential schools, children were neglected and abused physically, sexually and mentally. Nutrition was lacking, children were forced to perform labor duties as chores, and were harshly punished for any act that violated church rules and norms.
Many of the schools the Klahoose children attended were run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Roman Catholic congregation of Priests and Brothers who arrived in Canada in 1841. By 1916 there was a Roman Catholic Church established in Squirrel Cove. Church influence impacted every aspect of life for indigenous peoples across Canada, including the Klahoose Nation: it forever altered our lives and those of our ancestors and separated us from the language and heritage that had defined our peoples since time before memory.
The residential school period is an era of cultural genocide which Canada and its citizen are only now beginning to acknowledge. The United Church, the Anglican Church, and the Presbyterian Church independently issued apologies in the 1990s for their roles in the residential school history. The government of Canada issued an official apology in 2008 and established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to build on this historic moment. The TRC interviewed survivors and their decedents about the impact and legacy this period in Canadian history has had on indigenous peoples coast to coast. The final report included 94 Calls to Action to help eradicate and address the systemic barriers to education, justice, culture and heritage, that continue to plague many First Nations communities. The TRC aligns with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.
Schools attended by Klahoose members:
Sechelt Indian Residential School
Operation: July 28, 1904-June 30, 1975
Location: Sechelt, British Columbia.
Destroyed by fire in 1917 and rebuilt. Students were removed by parents in 1923 in protest of some of the policies, and as a result the principal was replaced and funding increased that year.
St. Mary’s Indian Residential School
Operation: July 1, 1867 - June 30, 1984
Location: Mission, British Columbia.
This school started as a boys school, with girls being accepted in 1868.
Meterial Culture of the Klahoose Peoples
Klahoose elders and knowledge holders recall vividly a time when our ancestors walked freely throughout the territory. Village sites dotted the landscape and our big houses hosted frequent potlatches that both honoured and reflected our sacred traditions. Our people welcomed European explorers to our shores and extended the hand of hospitality when early settlers followed.
The arrival of the church ushered in a new era which infiltrated all areas of our traditional life, including the ceremonies and practices related to death. Our people had a long-established practice of tree and cave burials and of placing sacred items with our dead to ensure they had all the necessary tools to help them transition safely to their next life. Copper, silver, and cedar bark pieces along with treasure boxes filled to the brim, were placed alongside the body and were afforded the same sacredness as the person themselves.
At a time when the Doctrine of Discovery formed the ideological belief system of the non-indigenous colonizing population, the removal of human remains from their intended resting place was justified: if in life the person was not Christian, then in death, they were not human. We believe that under this guise, our sacred burial sites were pillaged and our ancestors removed without consent, and in most instances, without community knowledge. Our most recent calculations suggest more than three-hundred (300) ancestors and their related burial items were removed. And so, in the fall of 2017, a systematic approach to locate and repatriate our ancestors and their sacred burial items began.
Like all indigenous communities, we face the difficulty of deciphering early documentation and accession records related to our community, along with the demoralizing impact of no record keeping at all. The Klahoose First Nation is further hindered by the tendency of early explorers and anthologists to amalgamate us with our sister tribes, the Tla’amin (Sliammon) and Homalco peoples resulting in a sub classification referred to as Malaspina or Mainland Comox. This occasionally results in confusing and frustrating ownership questions further hindered if ancestors or artifacts are attributed to lands located within our shared territory boundaries. Such challenges necessitate a flexible approach and open mindedness when investigating collections.
The search for our cultural patrimony is embedded in our efforts to locate and repatriate ancestral remains. Our land and waters provided ample, year-round access to food and housing which enabled elaborate cultural customs to emerge. Highly formalized, distinctive and stylized artistic expression reflected the stories, songs and dances of the potlatch resulting in the primary design elements on which Northwest Coast art depends: form lines are continuous with flowing, curvilinear lines that turn, swell and diminish in a prescribed manner. They are used for figure outlines, internal design elements and in abstract compositions. Throughout the region, special objects were and are still made for the purpose of displaying the inherited privileges and rights of their owners. Although ways of reckoning kinship vary between groups, people claiming common descent also claim rights to ancestrally derived territories, spirit powers, names, songs, dances, crests and other "properties" that both contain and display their family's wealth and identity.
Crests, or heraldic art, are objects associated with the potlatch. A crest itself is a concept, usually but not always referring to animals (both natural and supernatural like the thunderbird), which is given a conventionalized representation. Details of the crest images vary widely, according to personal and stylistic preferences. Northwest Coast societies were unique in that they sustained a group of professional male artists who were largely freed from the general quest for food by the support of wealthy patrons who commissioned works for potlatches and winter dances.
Weavers produced twill-plaited blankets in geometric designs out of goat wool, cattail fluff and the hair of a small dog, extinct since early contact times. Painting and relief carving is geometric — circles, chevrons, crescents, rows of dots, triangles and T-shapes. Scholars have noticed these elements revealed a negative (recessed) form line-type design that is considered by some to be an ancestor of the northern form line tradition more common among the Haida which may reflect interactions between the two nations. Strong, simplified human and animal sculptures — house post, coffins, grave posts and a single-mask type— were also made alongside elaborate basketry of many shapes, sizes and uses.
The creation of beautiful and practical objects served as a means of transmitting stories, history, wisdom and property from generation to generation. Our art tied us to the land reflecting our histories on totem poles and within our big houses – the symbols depicted were a constant reminder of our birth places, lineages, rights and privileges although generally the style was minimalist and straight forward. The abundance of natural resources and the affluence of our Nation afforded the opportunity for the creation of art pieces which served practical purposes such as tools, weapons of war and hunting, transportation, cooking, and shelter, while others were purely aesthetic. At times and for special occasions and potlatch giveaways, there was a distinctive crossover which melded form and function resulting in ornately carved canoes, bentwood boxes, rattles, feast bowls and the like. Even our very clothes were steeped in a rich tradition that produced woven hats, cloaks and blankets of bark and spruce root, robes, body armor and masks. Although common, beautifully carved spindle whorls and specially designed combs for wool paid homage to the women who mastered this unique skill.
An abundance of year-round resources, including access to fresh food and permanent shelters, enable a complex social and artistic tradition to emerge along the coastal corridor that spans Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. The Potlatch, a chinook word for giving, was a multi-day event which allowed for the transfer of knowledge, the reinforcing of hierarchal privileges and status, and the commemorating of events such as birth, deaths, or marriage, or to right a perceived wrong. The potlatch also provided detailed recorded keeping through the public acknowledgement and sharing of stories, rights and titles of individuals and/or families, including the right to fishing, hunting and gathering sites, and the use of specific crests, songs and dances.
A Chief on behalf of his family or village would call a potlatch after many months or even years of careful preparations. Invitations were extended to family, friends and even those with whom relationships were strained. Elaborate celebrations accompanied dramatic songs and dances, linking the supernatural to those in the audience. Vibrantly painted and carved masks with complimentary regalia crafted from cedar, animal hides, feathers and wool, enhanced the dancer’s performance.
During the potlatch, pubic declarations were made and all those in attendance acted as witness. In non-literate societies such verbal recounting provided excellent record keeping. In exchange for their role, the audience would be gifted an item, correlating to their own status in the community: someone of great stature may receive a significant offering like a canoe, while someone deemed less important, may receive a silver bracelet or feast bowl. Regardless of social position, each person in attendance receive an offering, which in accepting, they acknowledge the role they played as witness and confirmed what they heard and understood to be the truth.
Early Europeans misunderstood the potlatch and believed it threatened the acquisition of European beliefs and religion. Pressing a newly formed Canadian government, who was eager to assimilate and acculturate the First Nations population, lead to the introduction of a 67-year restriction in which the practicing of our sacred traditions was banned by law. Rescinded in 1951, the period saw thousands of pieces of potlatch material confiscated or removed under duress. No single source of information exists indicating which items were taken, to where and by whom.
A wide range of creatures are depicted in our art, some of which are easy to recognize and some of which are known only to the makers. The Klahoose Nation shared several crests among its citizens including the following symbols:
SEAL - a symbol for curiosity, creativity and imagination, which teaches us to embrace our natural sense of explorations and playfulness. They can dive to incredible depths so are known to be fearless and agile creatures, very trusting and playful.
SEA LION: a symbol for wealth, often represented on potlatch regalia. Sea Lions are considered a source of hunting and fishing power. The Sea Lion was hunted for food and its skin was used for clothing and fishing floats. Headgear, worn by hunters, were decorated with the whiskers of the sea lion.
MOUNTAIN GOAT: a symbol of wealth and status. Prized for food, wool for weaving, hoofs for regalia, hide for clothing and shelter and horns for elaborate carvings, rattles, spoons and other utensils.
I-HOSS / SEA SERPENT: a symbol for healing power and magic. Closely associated with war and strength, the I-Hoss is known to be invulnerable and to provide protection from harm. It is one of the most powerful crests and mythological creatures in the mythology, and figures prominently in our art, dances and songs. I-Hoss is the god of warrior invincibility and is frequently depicted as a two-headed sea serpent or snake with a human-like head in the middle of the body.
Other important, but less significant crests include eagle, beaver, orca and grizzly bear. Items were created from copper, bone, silver, cedar, various roots and bark, hide, wool, and other secondary materials.
The above information is courtesy the Klahoose First Nations and "The Journey Home".
Reconciliation Through Travel
qʷaga kʷanačɩm -
Come sit down…
For millennia, Klahoose Peoples have called these lands home. We invite you to see the beauty of nature through our eyes, experience the best of our legendary hospitality, and feel a deep connection through our shared traditions and storied history. Join our Klahoose, Tla'amin and Homalco guides on a transformative journey on the Klahoose Traditional Territory, and enjoy the wit and wisdom of storytelling handed down through generations.
#ExploreKlahoose with us. Welcome! ʔi:mot tətᶿ kʷənome...it's good to see you!
č̓ɛč̓ɛhaθɛč - I thank you