The Toquaht are the people of Toquaht Bay, Mayne Bay and western Barkley Sound, and are one of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations who have lived along Vancouver Island’s west coast for over 10,000 years. As marine peoples, the Toquaht have always lived in respectful harmony with the sea and coastal environment. Our main summer village was Du Quah, situated at the mouth of Ucluelet Inlet, which was a strategic defence position.
Like other Nuu-chah-nulth communities the Toquaht Nation’s cultural focus was on whaling, but we were also hunters and gatherers. Salmon was foremost in fishing, along with sea mammals and shellfish.
“The whale hunters used to come from this area and they sited here in Macoah. There was a village here….and that was very important because of a big waterfall. This is where Chief Bert Mack and I lived. In the winter times, [you can get] winter springs. They were so plentiful because the small herring would come over here. All around, no matter where you are from, you can live year round on fish… there are fish all around us. If you want clams, it’s over here so there’s no shortage of anything at all. If you wanted some deer you could go up the river and there they were. That is why I always say water is very important whether you are an animal or you’re a human being. So I mentioned we have our cleansing areas. We have our waterfalls which are meaningful and have a great history to them.”
– Archie Thompson (1923-2009)
The Toquaht people relied heavily on red and yellow cedar. It was used to house and clothe the population. Large canoes were carved for whaling and fishing, as well as moving the community from one village site to another at different times of the year. Cedar was also used in basket weaving and box making to store everything from personal possessions to food and hunting gear. Planks were pulled off living cedars for house construction. Cedar bark was used in making clothing and mats for house floors. Berries, shoots and camus bulbs were gathered in the spring and summer.
Having been greatly impacted by disease and warfare throughout the 19th century, the Toquaht Nation is now one of the smallest of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations. Despite our small size, we have been a leader within the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and the Central Region First Nations through active political leadership, business initiatives, cultural events, and as a proponent of the Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement. Implemented on April 1, 2011, it is the second treaty to be implemented under the BC treaty process.
About 40 people live in the Toquaht Nation’s main community of Macoah, which is accessible off Highway 4 along Kennedy Lake. The rest of the citizens live in Ucluelet, Port Alberni and other cities along the coast. The Nation has about 175 citizens in total.