Dr. Alan McMillan: Toquaht Archaeological Project

Fax: 778.782.5666 • Email: mcmillan@sfu.ca

Toqhuat Archaeological Project

The Toquaht are a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation whose traditional territories encompass western Barkley Sound, near Ucluelet, B.C. Interest in recovering and managing heritage resources led to collaborative research, the Toquaht Archaeological Project, with fieldwork between 1991 and 1996. All work was co-directed by Alan McMillan (Douglas College and Simon Fraser University) and Denis St. Claire (Coast Heritage Consultants). Fieldwork included detailed inventory of all heritage sites in traditional Toquaht territory, excavation at five former village sites, and work with Toquaht elders to record surviving traditions of site use. Over 50 sites have been recorded in Toquaht territory, including village sites, defensive locations, stone fish traps, and a red ochre pictograph.

The largest and most important of the excavated sites is the village of T'ukw'aa, the site from which the Toquaht derive their name (they are literally "the people of T'ukw'aa"). As well as the extensive village area, the site continues over a steep-sided rocky bluff, which served as the defensive location in times of hostilities. Over 1500 artifacts and a huge quantity of faunal remains were recovered, providing information on Toquaht culture history from about 1200 years ago to the site's abandonment in the early 20th century.

The other major excavation was at the large village site of Ch'uumat'a. Units near the front of the site documented a late stage of Nuu-chah-nulth history, extending into the early contact period. At the back of the site, however, deposits over 4 m in depth revealed older materials. A 10 m trench excavated through this area provided a series of radiocarbon dates extending from about 700 years near the surface to about 4000 years at the base of cultural deposits. Lower levels contain considerable quantities of chipped stone materials and other items suggesting ties to the Strait of Georgia region at this time. Analysis of all recovered materials is on-going.

Published reference: McMillan, Alan D. Since the Time of the Transformers: The Ancient Heritage of the Nuu-chah-nulth, Ditidaht, and Makah. UBC Press 1999.

Pictograph in Toquaht Bay, Barkley Sound.
The village site of T'ukw'aa.
Midden deposits at Ch'uumat'a.