G̱usgimukw (Quatsino)

The Quatsino First Nation represents five tribes from the Quatsino Sound area who speak or once spoke the same dialect of the Kwakwala language. The five tribes are the Klaskino (T’latsinuxw), Hoyalas (Huyalas), Koskimo (Gusgimukw), Giopino (Gob’inuxw) and Quatsino (Qwat’sinuxw). Collectively these tribes used and occupied the lands and waters of northwestern Vancouver Island north from the Brooks Peninsula.

Approximate territories of the T’latsinuxw (Klaskino), Huyalas (Hoyalas), Gusgimukw (Koskimo), Gob’inuxw (Giopino) and Qwat’sinuxw (Quatsino) tribes, ca. 1750. Map by Nikater, Public Domain

Since the mid-1700s the Koskimo have been the dominant group in the Quatsino Sound area and the Hoyalas, Klaskino and Giopino have since ceased to exist. This territorial dominance began sometime between 1750 and 1800 when the Hoyalas were wiped out by the Koskimo and disappeared as a distinct group altogether. According to Galois (1994), the ca. 1750 territory of the Hoyalas included Holberg, Rupert and Neroutsos Inlets and the creeks and rivers draining into them, as well as Alice and Victoria Lakes and the streams emptying into these.

By the end of the century, the Koskimo had effectively taken over the territory of the Hoyalas and occupied the main Hoyalas village, of X̱wa̱tis (later known as Quattishe Indian Reserve No. 1 on the west side of Quatsino Narrows) (Bouchard and Kennedy, 2002).

At the base of this totem pole is a large a'batla (the Quatsino word for Dzunukwa), a human figure or ancestor, thunderbird, and an eagle on top. According to Wilson Duff (1955), "the pole was carved by he'nak'alasu, 50 years ago or so." X̱wa̱tis village, Quatsino Sound. Photo by Edward Curtis, ca. 1914.
This house, which appears to have the figure head of a sailing ship attached to it, is the house of Tceliqius (moon crest). The photo was taken ca. 1912 by an unknown photographer.

Furthermore, in the 1920s the Quatsino and Koskimo merged into one tribe, now known as the Quatsino First Nation (Goodfellow, 2005). X̱wa̱tis remained the principle village of the Quatsino First Nation until 1972 when they relocated to Quattishe IR#18 near Coal Harbour to be closer to education, employment and health care (Sasaman Society, 2014).

Pre-contact and early contact Quatsino Sound society was characterized by the use of dugout canoes and large, rectangular plank houses; intricate woodworking of boxes, totem poles and house fronts; the manufacture of plant fiber garments; a complex social organization and highly-elaborate winter ceremonials; and also by their sophisticated technology and strategic exploitation of a fishing and water-oriented economy (Drucker, 1955).

Throughout most of the early contact period, The First Nations at Quatsino Sound lived a relatively isolated existence. This is not to say that they were untouched by white civilization, but that they did not experience the same level of social disruption that many Southern Kwakwaka’wakw groups did after Fort Rupert was established in 1849.

Some of the earliest images of Coastal First Nations come from the Quatsino Sound area as a number of early photographers made stops there. A handful of these photographs are given further attention in the Contents section of this page.

Textual informaiton for this page from: Bouchard and Kennedy, 2002, and 2004; Drucker, 1955; Galois 1994, Goodfellow, 2005, and the Sasamans Society website.

Additional image info from http://www.emilycarr.org/totems/exhibit/kwak/xwatis/pn_htm/00114.htm

See Our Sources page for a full bibliography of works referenced on this website.