Wei Wai Kum History
Wei Wai Kum people are part of a larger group called the Laich-Kwil-Tach. We are one of several Laich-Kwil-Tach groups who share a common history, ancestor and language, Lik’wala. In Lik’wala, the word Laich-Kwil-Tach refers to a large sea worm that cannot be easily killed. If it is cut up, the separate pieces survive and swim away. The term therefore means “unkillable thing” (Curtis 1970 ) and likely refers to our history and reputation as a strong Nation.
The centre of Wei Wai Kum territory today is Campbell River and Loughborough Inlet. Many generations ago our ancestors began to expand out from Tikya, the origin place of Laich-Kwil-Tach people, and took over the Loughborough Inlet area. We still see this as part of our homeland. Also, as part of the larger Laich-Kwil-Tach expansion, our ancestors moved southward, displacing the K’omok people, and living at Matlaten (Greene Point meaning “calm point”), Tatapowis (Whiterock Passage on Maurelle Island meaning “place becomes dry”) and Tłəmatək (Campbell River meaning “place where there are houses” or “spit at mouth of river”). Today we have only small reserves at Loughborough Inlet, Matlaten and Tłəmatək and, although a reserve was proposed in 1879 by G.M. Sproat at Tatapowis, none was ever created in our name. Based on this history and the expansion of our ancestors, Wei Wai Kum territory extends today from Topaze Harbour and the headwaters of Loughborough Inlet in the north to the Tsable River in the south. It goes westward to the chain of mountains on central Vancouver Island and our border with the Nuu-Chah-Nulth, and eastward midway through the Strait of George and then north to the Loughborough Inlet headwaters.
The centre of Kwiakah territory is Phillips Arm. Our former village at the head of Phillips Arm is Nəts’inuxw. The word Kwiakah translates as ‘murderers’. Not all written sources agree on the history of the Kwiakah. Galois (1994:250) suggests we originated among the Kwakiutl tribe, who later became well known at Fort Rupert. He says that for “unknown reasons part of the Kweeha tribe [of the Kwakiutl] split off, left their original territory, and moved eastwards to the Port Neville area” (1994:250). Mauze also argues the same point in her 1989 article. However, she cites Boas. As it turns out, Boas (2005 (1897):332) actually says that it was the Matilpi who “branched off from the Kwakiutl” while the Kwiakah and Tlaaluis amalgamated. He was looking for examples of the creation of new groups. Thus, Boas clearly recognized both the Kwiakah and Tlaaluis as Laich-Kwil-Tach, and not as Kwakiutl. Thus, as our oral history suggests, we are Laich-Kwil-Tach and not a group formerly of the Kwakiutl.
According to Mungo Martin, three numayms lived together at Nəts’inuxw.
“Two young chiefs of the first and third clans were great friends. One morning, after gathering cockles together, they began to play, and by accident the young kwi’xa chief [Kwakyilanukwami] was hit in the face [by some cockle meat]. Angered, he threw his spear and killed the other [Ya’kyəGisagami]. The Kwixagiwa’i left the village and moved up the river to a small island at the foot of Phillips Lake. Later they invited the Kwi’xa chief and killed him. From that time on they were called Tlaaluis ‘angry ones’.” The island is named Hwihawi and this oral history is supported by archaeological evidence. On the small island in Phillips Lake a midden has been documented, along with a possible fortification. Fish trap remains have also been found here.
Eventually, likely in the early part of the 19th century, the Tlaaluis moved to Saaiyouck at Arran Rapids, opposite Stuart Island. This move effectively gave control of the passageway between Vancouver Island and the mainland to the Laich-Kwil-Tach, preventing all north to south movement without Laich-Kwil-Tach knowledge. In the mid-19th century the Tlaaluis were attacked while living at Saaiyouck, likely by people from the north. This attack decimated their numbers so greatly that they were forced to rejoin their Kwiakah relatives. The Kwiakah, once again including the Tlaaluis, returned to Saaiyouck, maintaining control of the passageways to the south and where, in 1885, George Dawson recorded three houses and 39 people (Dawson 1887:65). At the same time we had six houses at Nəts’inuxw. Between 1860 and 1914, Kwiakah people were recorded living at Tatapowis (White Rock Passage), Saaiyouck (Arran Rapids), Nəts’inuxw, Matłətən (Greene Point), Tłəmatək, (Campbell River), and Tsakwəlutən (Cape Mudge). By about 1930 those remaining at Nəts’inuxw moved to the Campbell River and Cape Mudge area to be closer to their Laich-Kwil-Tach relatives and the amenities the area offered.