BC has approximately 225 First Nations, one-third of which reside on or near the coast making it one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse regions of the entire continent. If you wish to contact a nation, turn on the First Nations’ layer on our map and a link to their website will be displayed, as long as one is available. Additional information is provided below for our members.
Our Marine Trail Code of Conduct addresses some principles important to First Nations, such as, “You are on sensitive First Nations traditional land. Treat this land with respect. Disturb nothing. Take nothing.” The code also addresses conservation and stewardship issues.
We have reached out to all 74 coastal First Nations to share our Code of Conduct and request Visitor Guidelines to share with paddlers entering their territory. As part of our Code, we direct paddlers to reference these guidelines where available and, in cases of disagreement between the Nations’ guidelines and our Code, to defer to the former. Our code helps guide both our association, our members, and the public.
Some Nations have specific requests of paddlers visiting their territory. This can include contacting a Nation’s office to let them know you are entering their territory, paying site use fees, and signing a pledge of respect. We at BCMT do our best to compile and communicate these expectations through our map, but if you find that some guidelines are missing please contact our First Nations Liaison so that we can ensure information is shared with future visitors. Some Nations operate Coastal Guardian Watchmen programs which allow for Indigenous-led stewardship, resource management, and visitor engagement. You might see a Guardian boat approach your paddling group and ask you about where you are staying and what your plans might be. In the past, Guardians have also assisted in Marine Search and Rescue, and are a vital resource on remote stretches of coastline in the event of an emergency. Guardian programs help:
- Expand protection of cultural and ecological values;
- Give input into resources management;
- Provide communities with opportunities to connect with the land, especially youth; and
- Apply Traditional Ecological Knowledge of land and waters.
Desolation Sound is a popular kayaking destination and home to several Nations including the Tla’amin, Klahoose, and Homalco. There are more Nations, which overlap or share traditional territory.
Tla’amin, is a modern, self-governing Coast Salish Nation. They have a final treaty agreement with the province of BC and Canada. Our association has shared site data with the Tla’amin and we plan to visit some areas with their Guardian Watchmen to conduct joint site assessments. Check their website for any updates around COVID-19 or other visitor information.
Klahoose Nation is roughly north of the Tla’amin. Their traditional territory spans an area from Cortes Island to Toba Inlet. Their primary village site is Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island. The BCMT has shared site data with the Klahoose.
Homalco Nation or Xwémalhkwu are the most northern Coast Salish peoples. The Klahoose and Tla’amin also belong to the Hul’qumi’num language group. We have met with their Chief and Council to discuss sites in their territory. This Nation is also known as “People of fast running waters,” named after the turbulent waters surrounding their original home in Bute Inlet, B.C., Canada.
The Discovery Islands region includes the territories of about 17 First Nations, and is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the province. Thanks to funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC in 2019, BCMT reached out to all 17 and was able to jointly review thousands of sites with them. There are several popular locations in the Discovery Islands that are largely accessible from either Quadra Island or Cortes Island. The BC Marine Trails helps maintain several recreation sites in this area including Penn Islands north.
Nanwakolas Council comprises five Nations, the Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala, Wei Wai Kum, and K’ómoks. Nanwakolas means ‘a place we go to find agreement’. These Nations are Kwak wala-speaking peoples. The Council, which is part of Marine Plan Partnership (the BCMT is a principal representative as well), created informative brochures about visiting traditional territories. We encourage people to read their documentation as well as follow the Marine Trail Code of Conduct.
Dzawa̱da̱’enux̱w Nation are a Kwak̓wala speaking people whose core territory centres on what is now referred to as Kingcome Inlet. BCMT has been in talks with the Nation since early 2019, but has been told that they are currently focused on negotiations with the Province, and that we will check back in with the Nation at a later date to discuss appropriate site use.
Kwiakah are a Lekwala speaking people and part of the Laich-Kwil-Tach group whose territory centers around the Phillips and Frederick Arm region. BCMT worked extensively with the Kwiakah in reviewing sites in their territory, which resulted in a joint effort between us, the Nation, RSTBC, and private land owners to remove culturally sensitive sites in the Yaculta Rapids area and replace them with appropriate safety stops and emergency pullouts.
We Wai Kai Nation, formerly Cape Mudge Band, are staunch territorial stewards of the land whose people reside predominantly in Cape Mudge Village and on the Quinsam Reserve. Not to be confused with Wei Wai Kum, the We Wai Kai people take their name from Chief Way Key who is said to have saved his people from the great flood (the full story can be found at the Nation’s website). In 2020, we agreed on appropriate site use after a series of meetings and discussions, which included the removal of a number of culturally sensitive sites.
Broughton Archipelago/Telegraph Cove
This is a very popular paddling area due to its beauty and wildlife, particularly the large population of Northern Resident Orca which favour the region. This area is on north Vancouver Island and accessible from Telegraph Cove and other launch sites. Several Nations’ territories are in this general region.
Mamalilikulla is part of the Nanwakolas Council. They are a Kwak̓wala-speaking people. Their village ‘Mimkwa̱mlis means ‘village with rocks and island out front’, and is located on Village Island. This Nation is quite active building marine trails. We encourage people to read MaPP documentation as well as follow the Marine Trail Code of Conduct.
Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala First Nation is another member Nation of the Nanwakolas Council. “The Da’naxda’xw First Nation is an amalgamation of the Da’naxda’xw and Awaetlala tribes of Knight Inlet and also speak Kwak wala. We encourage people to read MaPP documentation as well as follow the Marine Trail Code of Conduct.
‘Namgis First Nation is centered around Alert Bay on northern Vancouver Island. It shares territory with Kwakiutl, Tlowitsis, Mamalilikulla, Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala and other neighbours. The BCMT has worked with ‘Namgis since 2014. We revisited and shared data again in 2020.
Kwakiutl Nation resides near Fort Rupert just south of Port Hardy. Their traditional territory stretches from north Vancouver Island to just north of Sayward and east to Kingcome Inlet. The BCMT has worked extensively with the Kwakiutl concerning Beaver Cove, and the initial part of the Cape Scott Marine Trail. The Kwakiutl chief and council have reviewed site data within their territory. Please follow our Marine Trail Code of Conduct when visiting their lands and waters.
Broken Group Islands (BGI)
These islands are in Barkley Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. There are several kayaking books written about these magical islands. You can access BGI by launching from Toquaht Nation’s Secret Beach or taking a water taxi from Port Alberni, Ucluelet or Bamfield.
Toquaht Nation – the Toquaht are the people of Toquaht Bay, Mayne Bay and western Barkley Sound, and are one of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations. There is a fee to launch from Secret Beach, which has 67 camping spots. It is a reasonable paddle from the launch into the first of the Broken Group Islands.
Tsesaht Nation – The c̓išaaʔatḥ is a vibrant community one of the 14 Nations that make up the Nuu-chah-nulth [Nootka] people of western Vancouver Island. This Nation works quite closely with Parks Canada. The BGI are inside Pacific Rim National Park.
Central Coast – Great Bear Rainforest
The Central Coast of BC is as remote as you can get. There are several Nations on the Central Coast including the Heiltsuk and Kitasoo.
The BC Marine Trails has a memorandum of understanding with a large Nation called the Heiltsuk. Heiltsuk is a dialect of the North Wakashan language Heiltsuk-Oowekyala that is spoken by the Xai’xais and Bella First Nations. Please visit their website for any protocols especially during Covid 19 times.
Kitasoo Nation/Xai’Xais – The vision of this Nation is based on their best definition of the word “sustainable”. It means keeping important resources like trees, fish and wildlife forever. Their office is located in the village of Klemtu. There is a strong effort to revitalize and preserve their language. This Nation established some campsites and were working on visitor guidelines. Ask next time you are there!
The southern Gulf Islands stretches from Nanaimo to Sidney. There is significant overlap of traditional territory so it difficult to describe everyone. These Nations are Coast Salish peoples. There is considerable archaeological evidence throughout the Gulf Islands. If you are unsure of visitor guidelines in traditional territories it’s worth reading about local indigenous history. Please follow our Marine Trail Code of Conduct.
The BC Marine Trails largely worked with the Squamish Nation Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw when the Sea to Sky Marine Trail was established. We are currently working on Apodaca Provincial Park and conducted an archaeological impact assessment (no evidence was found) with the assistance of the Squamish Nation. The Squamish are Coast Salish people.