G̱wayasdums (Gilford Island)

Gwayasdums Village. Photo by C. F. Newcombe, ca. 1900. RBCM E5 X/5.

Gwayasdums village is a small community of up to 70 permanent residents located on Gilford Island, northeast of Vancouver Island between Knight and Kingcome Inlets. The village is the traditional home of the Kwikwasut’inuxw people, though throughout the historic era a number of groups have used the site as a winter village.

Other Kwakwaka’wakw groups that identify closely with Gilford Island are the Gwawa’enuxw, the Haxwa’mis and the Dzawada’enuxw. These three groups,  along with the Kwikwasut’inuxw, formed an informally related cluster of social groupings collectively known as Qui'kwasi ki la or “living inside the mountains”. The groups had their own potlatch ring, shared oolachan (a small oil producing fish) rights at the mouth of the Kingcome River and they all used Gwayasdums as a winter village.

A crucial event in the history of Gilford Island was the 1856 attack on Gwayasdums by the Nuxalk. Accounts from both Nuxalk and Kwakwaka’wakw sources indicate that the destruction of Gwayasdums was part of a series of conflicts that began some time before 1850. Explanations indicate the conflict was the result of a famine at Bella Coola. Possibly due to the Bella Coola being marginalized in trade as a result of the closing of Ft. McLoughlin and the opening of Ft. Rupert.

The Kwikwasut’inuxw who survived the raid abandoned Gwayasdums and many joined the Mamalilikulla at Village Island. Between 1865 and 1879, the Gwawa’enuxw, the Haxwa’mis, and the Dzawada’enuxw began to use Gwayasdums as a joint winter village. In the 1890s the Kwikwasut'inuxw began to return to Gwayasdums and the pattern of joint occupation persisted into the twentieth century.

Gwayasdums Village, G.M. Dawson 1885

Textual information for this page: Galois, 1994.