XWE’MALHKWU ( Homalco ) Peoples.
The people of the fast running waters traditionally lived along side of the Klahoose, Island Comox, Lakwiltok and Sliammon nations. Homalco’s traditional territories run from Dent island to the vicinity of Raza Passage including all of Bute Inlet. The main village sites were on the Homathko River, Southgate river, Orford Bay and the areas at the mouth of Bute Inlet including Muushkin ( Old Church-house) located on the South eastern shore of Sonora Island and Aupe ( Church-house ). The Homalco people speak a dialect of the mainland Comox language. The mainland Comox belong to the Coast Salish branch of the Salishan language family.
The first missionaries to visit XWE’MALHKWU territory were the Oblate fathers in the late 1860’s . A sad history would begin for the Xwe’malhkwu people. It was at this time that they were forced to destroy ( burn) all regalia, masks and all carvings in their possession. Even more damaging to the Xwe’malhkwu peopled was that they were banned from holding ceremonies and practicing traditional songs and dances. Our ancestors spoke their language in secret to avoid consequences from the oblate fathers. It was at this point that Xwe’malhkwu peoples learned and were forced to adopt Christian rituals.
By the early 1900’s Indian residential schools were formed and implemented by the Federal Government . This proves to be another sad piece of Xwe’malhkwu history as for generations our children were taken and forced to attend Indian residential schools. At these schools Xwe’malhkwu people were physically, mentally and sexually abused. The loss of family units , culture and language are still on going issues our community struggles with today.
Like other Coastal First Nation peoples the Homalco were well provided with fish, seafood , housing, hunting and other necessities for everyday survival. Travelling with the seasons for gathering, hunting and fishing the Homalco people utilized all the resources throughout the territory and above all were taught to respect the ever so sacred cedar tree. The Cedar tree was an important part of every day life. The Cedar tree would provide life to Homalco with clothing , shelter, baskets, canoes and hand tools as well as burial boxes.
Today the Homalco people are still stewards of the land and still rely on the resources throughout the territory and take great measures to ensure these resources are there for future generations to come.