Nuu-chah-nulth


NUU-CHAH-NULTH ( ) First Nation, formerly called the Nootka, live on the west coast of VANCOUVER ISLAND. Their traditional territory extends from the BROOKS PENINSULA in the north to the JORDAN R 300 km to the south. Their name means, approximately, "all along the mountainous escarpment" and refers to the location of their territory. It was adopted in 1979 to replace Nootka, which was the name mistakenly used by early explorers. When sustained contact with outsiders began in the late 18th century there were about 28,000 Nuu-chah-nulth. Disease and increased warfare depleted their numbers until the population was below 2,000 by the 1930s. By early in the 21st century it had grown to about 6,000. The subsistence pattern of the Nuu-chah-nulth was oriented toward the resources of the sea, including shellfish, HALIBUT and, in particular, SALMON. They were the only aboriginal group on the BC coast to hunt whales (see WHALING), an activity surrounded by religious ritual. The Nuu-chah-nulth consist of separate tribes, or family groups, speaking dialects of the same language (see FIRST NATIONS LANGUAGES) and sharing similar cultural characteristics. Each group originally inhabited particular parts of the territory. At one time there were dozens of groups but since contact with Europeans the number has decreased to 16: the Ka:'yu:'K't'h (Kyuquot) First Nation of KYUQUOT SOUND, the Ehattesaht of ESPERANZA INLET and ZEBALLOS, the Nuchatlaht of Nuchatlitz Inlet and Espinosa Inlet, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht (Nootka) near GOLD R, the Hesquiaht at Hesquiat Harbour and HOT SPRINGS COVE, the Ahousaht on FLORES ISLAND, the Tla-o-qui-aht (Clayoquot) in CLAYOQUOT SOUND, the Ucluelet from Ucluelet Inlet, the Toquaht in BARKLEY SOUND, the Uchucklesaht of Uchucklesit Inlet, the Tse-Shaht and Hupacasath from PORT ALBERNI, and the Huu-ay-ah (Ohiaht) near BAMFIELD. The Diitiidaht (Ditidaht) of NITINAT LK and the Pacheedaht (Pacheenaht) ("people of the sea foam") at Jordan R consider themselves Nuu-chah-nulth (in their cases, formerly known as the Nitinat people) but speak a closely related language. The Makah, who are relatives within the Nootkan subgroup of WAKASHAN, live across JUAN DE FUCA STRAIT on Cape Flattery. Some Nuu-chah-nulth tell stories of contact with non-Natives going back perhaps to Sir Francis DRAKE in the 1570s. Recorded contact began in 1774 with Spanish explorers and in 1778 with the British explorer James COOK. As a result of Cook's visit, a trade in SEA OTTER pelts began and continued until about 1825 (see FUR TRADE, MARITIME). From the 1850s permanent trading posts were established on the coast and later the people left home seasonally to hunt SEALS, work in salmon canneries (see SALMON CANNING) in the FRASER R and pick hops in Puget Sound. During the 1880s the government allocated RESERVES and missionaries arrived to convert the people. Following WWI canneries and fish plants opened at several locations and commercial FISHING remains an important employer, along with the FOREST INDUSTRY (see LOGGING). In several cases traditional villages have moved closer to these jobs and to schools and health facilities so that the people no longer occupy the outer coast as extensively as they did. The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council is located in Port Alberni. See also FIRST NATIONS OF BC.
Reading: E.Y. Arima, The West Coast (Nootka) People, 1983; Alan L. Hoover, ed., Nuu-chah-nulth Voices, Histories, Objects and Journeys, 2000.