Tofino and Clayoquot Sound are part of the ancestral territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. Before European contact in the late 18th century, the Nuu-chah-nulth people numbered over 100,000 (approx.) and ranged in territory on Vancouver Island from Brooks Peninsula in the north to Point-no-Point in the south. Locally, five tribes are part of the Nuu-chah-nulth tribal council: Ahousaht, Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Toquaht, and Ucluelet. The village of Opitsaht (Tla-o-qui-aht), across from Tofino on Meares Island, is thought to be over 5,000 years old, and one of the oldest continually inhabited villages in North America.
Known for flourishing on the riches of the ocean, the Nuu-chah-nulth seemed to be as comfortable on water as on land. They fished salmon, cod, halibut and shellfish. Remnants of clam gardens still in existence today show evidence of some of the oldest aquaculture known. Perhaps more significantly, the Nuu-chah-nulth were one of the only tribes globally that hunted grey whales. Out of necessity, some of the world’s foremost canoe carvers learned their trade in Clayoquot Sound.
After European contact in the 1800’s, an estimated 80% of the Nuu-chah-nuulth population was wiped out, but the artistry, stories, songs and culture live on. Today, the main industries for the Nuu-chah-nulth people are fishing and tourism, as more visitors want to experience the history of the area and to learn from its first residents what it means to thrive in the natural elements.
For guided excursions or more information on the history of the Nuu-chah-nulth, please visit the links below: