The Nations

Homalco First Nation History

We are the Xwémalhkwu, or Homalco. We have been living on our territories, across the Bute Inlet on the west coast of what is now known as British Columbia, since time immemorial. We have always stewarded these lands and waters and kept friendly relationships with our neighbours.

We have always been known as a generous and kind nation. Our Elders tell stories of welcoming visitors with open arms, and a hot meal at the ready. We have endured great hardships and we have suffered collective pain, but we are a strong and resilient nation, and we face these challenges with courage. We are emerging with the same resilience and generous spirit that our ancestors have always shown.

Contact marked the beginning of major change for the Homalco people. The first missionaries to visit the Xwémalhkwu territory were the Oblate fathers in the late 1860’s. They forced our ancestors to burn all of their regalia, masks and carvings. They banned our ancestors from holding ceremonies and practicing traditional songs and dances. They forced our ancestors to adopt Christian rituals. Our ancestors spoke their language in secret to avoid consequences from the colonizers.

Later, the Oblate priests moved our People to a site known as “Muushkin” or Old Church House. Unfortunately, it was a poor location due to fierce outflow winds in the winter that directly hit the village, and most of the buildings blew down one winter in the early 1900’s. Our People were moved again to the mouth of Bute Inlet to “Aupe” or New Church House. Here, there was shelter from strong winds with bountiful fishing and clam beds. The last people left Aupe in the early 1980’s.

By the early 1900’s, our People were forced into residential schools by the Federal Government. Although our families resisted this, for generations, our children were taken and forced to attend these schools. There, Xwémalhkwu people were subject to physical, mental, spiritual and sexual abuse. The loss of family units, culture and language has had a lasting impact.

The Homalco Peoples have been fishing in our bountiful waters since time immemorial. Traditionally, we travelled with the seasons according to the resources in our territories and we shared these resources with our neighbours. We know of the importance of healthy salmon runs and that healthy salmon means a healthy coastal ecosystem. We are committed to the ongoing stewardship of fisheries. We have a number of current and planned projects to continue this work.

The Homolco Nation has operated a Salmon Hatchery in Orford Bay for more than 30 years. We have plans to expand salmon enhancement activities to the Homathko and Southgate systems. We are working with DFO to conduct salmon stock assessments on these rivers. We want to see the healthy and abundant return of salmon throughout our traditional territory.

The Xwémalhkwu or Homalco territory includes all of Bute Inlet and Homathco Ice Fields, extends west to Campbell River on Vancouver Island, south to Comox and north to Sayward, including the Discovery Islands and the Discovery Passage. It extends from Dent Island, slightly west of the mouth of Bute Inlet, to the vicinity of Raza Passage and Toba Inlet. Historically, there were many temporary camps for hunting, fishing and gathering. Our permanent winter villages were at Look-out point (Aaron rapids/Sonora Island), Mushkin Village on Sonora Island and Aupe at the mouth of Bute Inlet, which later became known as Church House. As described above the areas of fishing and harvesting is within all of our traditional territories and known by Department of Fisheries and Oceans as primarily areas 11,12,13,15 and as far south as area 29.