First Nations

Sliammon First Nations

The Coast Salish people have occupied this area for thousands of years. Located near Powell River are six native groups: The Sliammon (in Powell River), The Sechlet (South of Powell River), The Klahuse (North of Powell River on Cortes Island), The Homalco (near Bute Inlet) and across the Strait of Georgia there is the Comox and the Kwakiutl. These Salish people traditionally thrived on an abundance of salmon, wild plants and berries, wildlife and various seafoods. The massive coniferous trees provided the means for crafting such things as dug-out canoes and bailers. These same trees were also used for carving tools, masks, clothing and provided homes in the form of traditional long houses. Early white settlers got along quite well with the Coast Salish people and the nineteenth century passed without any wars between them. Unfortunately for the First Nations people, the 1858 gold rush brought tens of thousands of American gold seekers into B.C. and along with them the introduction of diseases such as small pox, tuberculosis and alcohol. It was these diseases that almost annihilated the First Nations population. Those that survived this onslaught were robbed of much of what was left of their cultural heritage by museum "expeditions" and by government policies which banned the potlach and consolidated villages.

In recent years, native populations have reached pre-1858 levels and there is an increased awareness of traditional values, native pride and an effort to reoccupy ancestral homelands. Today, hiking and paddling the area one can find many remnants of the past. Cruising up to a rocky beach, one might find the remains of an ancient herring dam or canoe skid. Hiking through the lush forest, erosion has revealed old shell midens and many cedar trees reveal the signs of what became traditional bailers and baskets.