‘Namgis on the Nimpkish

Brenda McCorquodale writes about the history of the Nimpkish Valley

Whulk/Cheslakees and the Lower Nimpkish River

Kwa kwa wala-speaking First Nations referred to their terraced village on the banks of the Nimpkish River as Whulk. Whulk was a significant winter village for the Nimpkish or ‘Namgis peoples, whose territory included the large Nimpkish watershed, throughout which the Nimpkish traveled both on foot and by canoe. The ethnographer Franz Boas reported that Whulk, or Xulku as he spelled it phonetically, meant “interlocking foundation” after the construction method used to secure the houses to the steep slope.

Captain George Vancouver noted visiting this village on July 8, 1792. The Chief, Cheslakees, presented him with presents of copper.

The British noted that Cheslakees was familiar with the Nuu chul nulth chiefs Maquinna and Wicananish on the West side of Vancouver Island, and they attributed this in part to the trade route that ran by land over Vancouver Island through the Nimpkish Valley. The Nimpkish peoples told the explorers that there was a way to visit Nootka overland which involved four days of travel.

Vancouver was impressed with this chief and referred to the village on his maps as Cheslakees.

The village at the time of first contact with Europeans was recorded as having been very large. There were 34 big houses, each with many families. Estimates of the population around the time of first contact vary between 400 and 900.

By 1860 most of the houses at Whulk had disappeared, and the population had moved to Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, where a cannery had opened to take advantage of the plentiful Nimpkish salmon stocks.

The lower Nimpkish was also a favourite of Vancouver Island naturalist Roderick Haig-Brown, who wrote in his 1959 book, Fisherman’s Summer:

“The Nimpkish was the one first North American river that I felt I had in some measure made my own. I fished it a lot in the late twenties and early thirties, trapped and hunted and camped along its banks, traveled it by canoe and skiff and once even in a homemade scow. I had been upset in it, half-drowned in it and considerably scared by it more than once. I had watched its great salmon runs with ever-increasing wonder. In it I had caught cutthroats and steelheads and, by fair means and foul, all five species of Pacific salmon. Above all, I had first learned there to catch the big king salmon, sachems as the Indians called them, tyees to the sportsman.”

Today Cheslakees Elementary School in Port McNeill is named after the ‘Namgis chief.

There are reportedly some petroglyphs on the beach at the old Whulk village site.

 

Brenda McCorquodale lives in Port Hardy and is a North Island history enthusiast.  If you have any stories or North Island information that you would like to share, or if you want to correct anything in these articles, please e-mail her at storeysbeach@gmail.com or call her at 250-949-7650.

 

 

Just Posted

Distracted Driver crashes into ditch along Byng Road

Port Hardy public works department confirms the incident was caused by distracted driving.

Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign needs volunteers in Port Hardy

The Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Campaign is starting up on Nov. 29… Continue reading

Changes coming to BC Ferries reservations for Vancouver Island routes

Many customers are booking multiple reservations, inflating wait times

UPDATE: North Island highway crash resulting in serious injuries still under investigation

The two drivers were seriously injured and sent to a hospital in Victoria.

Port Hardy Mayor Dennis Dugas votes in favour of eliminating overtime pay for confidential secretary

“I think when staff makes a recommendation I have to support staff’s recommendation.”

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Trial: Witness describes encounter with accused murderer while tending to fatally injured Descoteau

Wright said he was working in his yard when he heard a woman screaming.

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Most Read