First People of the Alberni Valley

Rich fishing, fertile forests, and a comfortable climate have made the Alberni Valley a preferred location for many communities, going back thousands of years for the regions First People.

The Hupacasath, Tseshaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Uchucklesaht First Nations

The Hupacasath people have owned, used, and occupied their traditional territory on Central Vancouver Island for millennia. Known as the most inland tribe on Vancouver Island, their territory includes the north end of the Alberni Inlet, Sproat Lake, Great Central Lake and the settled part of the Alberni Valley.

The Hupacasath People

Source: hupacasath.ca

The traditional territory of the Tseshaht people extends out to the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound, which they used as their traditional summer residence. The Tseshaht oral histories share that they were created on Benson Island, in the Broken Group.

Located in the Barkley Sound region, at the entrance to Alberni Inlet, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations is a self-governing, modern treaty Nation. Huu-ay-aht First Nations Council and Hereditary Chiefs (Ḥaw̓iiḥ) are actively seeking opportunities to engage in responsible and sustainable economic development to forward the Huu-ay-aht vision of working together to establish a healthy, prosperous, and self-sustaining community.

With two villages southwest of Port Alberni, about 38 km down the Barkley Sound, the Uchucklesaht First Nation have blessed islands, soaring mountains, lakes, and thriving rivers and streams. The Uchucklesaht Nation’s rich cultural traditions are inspired by and aligned with the natural beauty of the Uchucklesaht Lands.

The Hupacasath, Tseshaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Uchucklesaht First Nations are four of the 14 nations that make up the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, the not-for-profit society providing services and support to the approximately 10,000 members on Vancouver Island.

Uchucklesaht Village

Source: uchucklesaht.ca

To learn more about the region’s First people, visit the Ahtsik Native Art Gallery, to enjoy a variety of native art, or stop at Sproat Lake Provincial Park to view one of the most striking panels of prehistoric petroglyphs in B.C. make sure you stop at the Tseshaht administration building, winner of two prestigious architectural awards, on the bank of the Somass River by the Highway 4 bridge.

 

First Nations Artisans and Attractions in the Community

Ahtsik Gallery and Gordon Dick Studio

Source: ahtsik.com

Athsik Gallery & Gordon Dick Studio

Ahtsik Gallery specializes in handmade traditional art of the northwest coast. Ahtsik means “Creating to the best of your abilities,” the guiding philosopher of owner and artist Gordon Dick.

Location: 7133 Pacific Rim Hwy, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8Y4 (map)
Contact: Phone | Email | Website
Hours: Tues – Sat 10:30AM – 4:30PM

Source: Kevstan [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Nuu-chah-nulth Whaling Canoe Sculpture

Carved from yellow cedar, this Nuu-chah-nulth Whaling Canoe sculpture is a tribute to the seafaring culture of the local Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations. The sculpture was originally housed in the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria and is now on display at the Victoria Quay.

Location: Victoria Quay, Port Alberni, BC V9Y 6G3 (map)

Alberni Valley Museum

The museum features collections of local Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation arts and culture; exhibits exploring the area’s industrial roots in forestry and fishing, local folk art, and hands-on displays for youngsters. Send a message on the telegraph or explore the drawers in this visible-storage museum. Come discover the mixture of cultures and people that come together to make the Alberni Valley the heart of the West Coast.

Location: 4255 Wallace St, Port Alberni, BC V9Y 3Y6 (map)
Contact: Phone | Email | Website
Hours: Tues – Sat 11:00AM – 4:00PM

Discover Kixxin

Visit the only known traditional First Nations village remaining on the west coast of southern B.C. This National Historic site is unique with significant examples of standing house remains. Visitors can access the village by guided tour which takes approximately 4 hours. Along the way witness old-growth rainforest, awe-inspiring protected beaches and historical standing house remains. The culturally guided tour will impart much of the Huu-ay-aht’s knowledge and history, as well as Indigenous culture in the region.

The Kixxin National Historical site is located in the remote community of Bamfield. From Port Alberni, there are several ways to travel including car, boat and air.

  • By Car:
    • Take Ship Creek Rd to Franklin River Road for 2.4km (3 min)
    • Continue on Franklin River Rd/Bamfield Main for 87.4km (1 hr 55 min)
  • By Boat:
  • By Air
    • Pacific Seaplanes has a regular flight (15 min) from Port Alberni to Bamfield (May 1 – Sept 30)

To learn more about Kixxin and book a guided tour, visit kiixin.ca.

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