HISTORY and VILLAGES
Pacheedaht territory includes the lands and waters along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island between Bonilla Point and Sheringham Point (see Map). The name "Pacheedaht" translates to English as "Children of the Sea Foam" and refers to an origin history story related below.
View Pacheedaht Territory in a larger map
The Pacheedaht language is similar to that of our 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 Pacheedaht language is also similar to the language spoken by the various Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations further to the north and west along Vancouver Island's coast. Pacheedaht people are related by kinship, language and culture to several other First Nations on Vancouver Island and to the Makah. The Pacheedaht have many relatives and friends amongst neighbouring communities.
Example of a Traditional Village
In fact, according to traditional history, long ago Pacheedaht and Ditidaht ancestors lived together as one tribe at an origin village located on the river whose native name is Diitiida. If you look for the name Diitiida on a map today, you won't find it, since most of the Pacheedaht names for places have been replaced by English place names. The river the Pacheedaht call Diitiida is marked as "Jordan River" on modern maps.
The Ditidaht First Nation get their name from the village shared at Jordan River. Ditidaht means "People of Diitiida," or people of Jordan River. During the great flood, some of the people living at Diitiida managed to survive by fleeing in a canoe that they anchored to the top of a high mountain in order to escape the rising waters. Afterwards some of the survivors settled at Whyac village at the outlet of Nitinat Lake into the Pacific Ocean, and became the ancestors of the people who today form the Ditidaht First Nation.
Others amongst the flood survivors returned to the village at Diitiida (Jordan River) and settled once again in their home territory. Eventually this branch of the people from Diitiida became centred on a village at the head of Port San Juan at the mouth of the San Juan River, called p'a:chi:da. This is also the native name for the San Juan River. The origin of the name p'a:chi:da for the river, for the village - and for the Pacheedaht First Nation - was recounted by Chief Queesto Charlie Jones and described as follows:
"Our band name was changed to the name of the river because, after the Ditidaht people had been living here for a long time they discovered something new and strange. Some distance upstream, about 2 ¼ miles from the river's mouth, there some kind of strange-looking foam forming in the water. There was so much of it that it covered the river banks to about eight feet above the level of the river itself. Everyone was very excited about the discovery of this foam, and everyone wanted to find out what it was. So they decided to get someone to taste it. They chose an old lady slave for the task – this was in the days when our people when our people still kept slaves – as it was thought she was expendable, I suppose. Some of the men took her up the river and told her to taste the foam and tell them what it was. She picked up some of the foam with her fingers and put it in her mouth, and finally she said that it didn't taste like anything at all. It was salty though, like sea-foam. So they decided it was sea-foam, and everyone went back down the river to the village. They all talked it over and decided that the proper name for it was Pacheeda, which means "sea foam." Ever since that time, we have called ourselves the Pacheedaht, the Children of the Sea Foam."1
Before the diseases came to our territory, brought by white explorers, traders and settlers, some estimates say that the Pacheedaht numbered 1,500 people or more. Pacheedaht ancestors followed a seasonal round that included moving residence to several places throughout an average year in order to take advantage of seasonally abundant resources. Pacheedaht villages and camps were spread throughout the territory, especially along the coastline and on the banks and mouths of larger rivers. A typical Pacheedaht house would be occupied by four to six families with each having its own fireplace inside the house.
P’a:chi:da? – this was the main Pacheedaht village and it was spread out along the beach that extends between the mouths of the north and south branches of the San Juan River. Pacheedaht Indian Reserves #1 and #2 are located at this site.
K’witibi?t - a large permanent village that included twenty houses, and it was spread out along the shore of Port San Juan from the cove at the mouth of the San Juan River towards Snuggery Cove.
Tł’i:xsit – a large village located 2.5 km up the San Juan River.
Kwi:sidok’wa? – a fishing camp located at the mouth of Harris Creek on the San Juan River.
?a?aqwaxtas – a village on the north site of Fairy Lake.
Tłołasiʔ - the “flat” at Fairy Lake was a summer fish camp where salmon were dried.
Tł’oqwxwat’ – a summer fishing village on the Gordon River where there were salmon traps.
K’oʔobaʔ- a village of twelve to fifteen houses at Robertson Cove.
Bo:ʔapiʔis – a winter village located at the current site of Port Renfrew.
ʔo:yats’ – a year round village with eight houses at Thrasher’s Cove on the northwest side of Port San Juan.
K’adataʔs – a small trapping camp, with three house,s a half mile from Owen Point on the northwest side of Port San Juan.
There was a small village at Camper Bay but its Pacheedaht has not been recorded.
ʔapsawaʔ - a winter village of eight houses behind Cerantes Rock at the south side of the entrance to Port San Juan.
łi:xwa:p – a winter village of six houses on top of a bluff at Botanical Beach - this was also a defensive site.
Tł’ehib – a village between Magdalena and Simon Points at Boulder Beach with room for six to eight bighouses.
Qwa:qtłis – a fishing and seafood gathering village located at the mouth of Sombrio River.
Diitiida – a large village at the mouth of the Jordan River where there may have been as many as twelve bighouses. Qala:yit – a large permanent village east of Bonilla Point that was occupied year round. This village provided excellent access to numerous fishing grounds and seafood gathering sites, and is located what is no Cullite IR #3.
1 This account is published in the book "Queesto, Pacheenaht Chief by Birthright" by Chief Charles Jones with Stephen Bosustow, Theytus Books, Nanaimo, 1981.