Homalco History

Read about the history of the Homalco People

Welcome. We are the Xwémalhkwu, or Homalco.

We have been living on our territories, across the Bute Inlet on the west coast of what is now known as British Columbia, since time immemorial. We have always stewarded these lands and waters and kept friendly relationships with our neighbours. 

We have always been known as a generous and kind nation. Our Elders tell stories of welcoming visitors with open arms, and a hot meal at the ready. We have endured great hardships and we have suffered collective pain, but we are a strong and resilient nation and we face these challenges with courage. We are emerging with the same resilience and generous spirit that our ancestors have always shown.

Contact and colonization

Contact marked the beginning of major change for the Homalco people. The first missionaries to visit the Xwémalhkwu territory were the Oblate fathers in the late 1860’s. They forced our ancestors to burn all of their regalia, masks and carvings. They banned our ancestors from holding ceremonies and practicing traditional songs and dances. They forced our ancestors to adopt Christian rituals. Our ancestors spoke their language in secret to avoid consequences from the colonizers. 

Later, the Oblate priests moved our People to a site known as “Muushkin” or Old Church House. Unfortunately, it was a poor location due to fierce outflow winds in the winter that directly hit the village, and most of the buildings blew down one winter in the early 1900’s. Our People were moved again, to the mouth of Bute Inlet to “Aupe” or New Church House. Here, there was shelter from strong winds with bountiful fishing and clam beds. The last people left Aupe in the early 1980’s.  

By the early 1900’s, our People were forced into residential schools by the Federal Government. Although our families resisted this, for generations, our children were taken and forced to attend these schools. There, Xwémalhkwu people were subject to physical, mental, spiritual and sexual abuse. The loss of family units, culture and language has had a lasting impact. 

Recent history

In the early 1990’s, the Homalco People established a new reserve in Campbell River. This was achieved through a land exchange with the Province of British Columbia. Today, the Homalco community is made up of 85 households, the Homalco Administration Office, Cultural Centre and Health Centre. 

Although our village is in Campbell River, our territory extends much further. It stretches from south of Hornby Island, west through Johnstone Strait, north to Tatla Lake and east to Bishop River. We are proud to show visitors our territory and host them on Homalco Tours.