Cowichan’s Indigenous communities
Cowichan Tribes is the largest single First Nation Band in British Columbia with approximately 4,900 members. Cowichan Tribes administration offices in Duncan include service areas such as health, housing, education, fisheries and recreation. The Khowutzun Development Corp., has interests in forestry and Cowichan Tribes works closely with the City of Duncan and the CVRD on a variety of initiatives including water stewardship.
Stz’uminus First Nations is the second largest nation in the Cowichan Region, with approximately 1,319 members. Shts’emines is the origin of the English name Chemainus. The Stz’uminus First Nation have developed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Town of Ladysmith and the tribe’s economic development agency, the Coast Salish Development Corporation is creating Oyster Bay, a new residential and commercial community.
The Penelakut Tribe villages were traditionally found on Penelakut Island, Galiano Island, and on Vancouver Island near the mouth of the Chemainus River. Today, the Penelakut have reserves on Penelakut Island, Tent Island, Galiano Island, and a small reserve on the lower reaches of the Chemainus River. At 876 members, the Penelakut Tribe accounts for approximately 13 per cent of the Hul’q’umi’num population.
Ditidaht First Nation has traditional territory that extends from Cowichan Lake through Nitinaht Lake to the west coast of Vancouver Island. The 350-member tribe has a number of significant projects underway, including hydro, forestry, tourism and aquaculture initiatives. Nitinaht Lake is an international destination for windsurfing and wilderness adventures and is central to the Ditidaht’s regional tourism initiatives.
Malahat First Nation is a member government of the Naut’samawt Tribal Council and their ancestral tongue is the Hul’q’umi’num language. The 302-member Malahat Nation has two reserves of approximately 224 hectares near Mill Bay, Goldstream and the highland districts. Malahat Economic Development Limited is the business and economic development arm of the tribe.
Pacheedaht First Nation territory includes the lands and waters along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island between Bonilla Point and Sheringham Point. The name “Pacheedaht” translates to English as “Children of the Sea Foam”. The Pacheedaht language is similar to that of its neighbours and relatives amongst the Ditidaht First Nation and also with the Makah people across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington State. The tribe has an estimated population of 268 members.
Halalt First Nation originated from the village of xeláltxw, which means ‘marked houses’ or ‘painted houses’, a reference to the fact that the house posts in this village were decorated. According to information collected in 1985, this village was once located in the Cowichan Valley at the spot where the Silver Bridge currently crosses the Cowichan River southeast of Duncan. According to Cowichan oral history, the forefathers of both the Cowichan and Chemainus people (Siyóletse and St’éts’en respectively) originated from this village.
Lyackson First Nation are a Central Coast Salish Hul’q’umi’num community of 204 members presently based in Chemainus, Vancouver Island. The Lyackson traditional territory is part of the Hul’q’umi’num Mustimuhw, which includes the Chemainus First Nation, Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Lake Cowichan First Nation, Lyackson First Nation and Penelakut Tribe.
Lake Cowichan First Nation owns 39 waterfront acres adjacent to the Town of Lake Cowichan. The 20-member tribe is currently implementing a comprehensive development plan that includes opportunities for cultural tourism, watersport recreation and new residential growth.