The Indigenous history of Vancouver Island’s west coast goes back thousands of years. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations, whose traditional territory surrounds Bamfield, boasts of a traditional First Nations Village, with significant longhouse remains. It is considered the only known remaining village on the southern B.C. coast.
Kiix̣ in Village and Fortress National Historic Site of Canada was inhabited by Huu-ay-aht ancestors for more than 5,000 years, and the village was designated a national historic site in 1999. The Huu-ay-aht are now offering free guided tours of the ancient village until the end of September.
“People will see an amazing site with the remains of our old village site. The house posts are there from the number of families that lived there,” said Trevor Cootes, Huu-ay-aht executive council member with the economic development portfolio. “It’s a beautiful place.”
This is the first time the Huu-ay-aht have opened up Kiix̣ in (pronounced “kee-hin”) tours to the public and hope they will add to their growing tourism sector.
“In our economic development plan, we’ve laid out three key areas: forestry has always been a big one, fisheries has always been a big one and now we want to push tourism up to that level as well,” Cootes said. “There’s a lot of focus, a lot of development and a lot of opportunity.”
Cootes said the tours are a pilot project and that they’ve been in the works for a couple decades.
“We now have a number of pieces in place that have really aligned this opportunity to actually take fold,” he said. “It was fun to be a part of something that’s been thought of and worked on for a number of years now.”
The site has four distinct archaeological sites, according to a written history found on the Huu-ay-aht website: the main village of Kiix̣in, including the standing remains of eight houses; the fortress site; a small midden; and a midden with remains of three houses. The Huu-ay-aht moved from Kiix̣in in the 1880s, and the village has been untouched ever since.
Each tour to Kiix̣ in will last approximately three hours and are guided by Huu-ay-aht Knowledge Holders. Folks will get the opportunity to hike through an old-growth rainforest trail with some boardwalk sections and stairs, leading to a protected beach with rocky ledges and tide pools.
Tours leave daily at 10 a.m. from Bamfield.