Kiix̣in Village and Fortress National Historic Site

Natural rocks and water
Between rocks at Kiix̣in Village and Fortress National Historic Site
© Huu-ay-aht First Nations

Kiix̣in Village and Fortress were designated as a national historic site in 1999.

Commemorative plaque: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, Bamfield, British ColumbiaFootnote 1

Kiix̣in was the traditional capital of the Huu-ay-aht, one of the Nuu-chah- nulth peoples. The village features standing First Nations architectural remains, rare in southern coastal British Columbia. Though the site was occupied for some 3,000 years, the remains of the village and fortress date to the 19th century. The fortress dominates Barkley Sound and well represents Nuu- chah-nulth defensive sites, and military and diplomatic strategy. Located at the centre of coastal transportation and trade routes, Kiix̣in is closely associated with the traditions and deeds of the Huu-ay-aht people.

Description of historic place

Kiix̣in Village and Fortress National Historic Site of Canada is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, at a strategic siting between the exposed, rugged outer coast, and the more protected inner waters of Barkley Sound, in British Columbia. It is the site of a nineteenth century village and fortress that exhibits evidence of occupation dating to 1000 B.C.E. It also remains a sacred site to the present-day Huu-ay-aht First Nations. Official recognition refers to four distinct archaeological sites, which include the main village and fortress sites, and two other related archaeological sites.

Heritage value

Kiix̣in Village and Fortress was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1999 because :

  • as the traditional capital village of the Huu-ay-aht, a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, it is the only known First Nations village of the more than 100 villages on the southern British Columbia coast that still features significant, standing traditional architecture and which has a wealth of associated historic information from oral histories, archaeology, and archival records;
  • it demonstrates continuous occupation of the area for almost 3, 000 years;
  • it is characteristic of Nuu-chah-nulth defensive sites and warfare patterns, resource extraction and commercial practices, and illustrates changing Nuu-chah-nulth political and economic patterns in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Wood posts in nature setting
Remains of Kiix̣in Village and Fortress National Historic Site
© Huu-ay-aht First Nations

The scientific and historic value of the site lies in its rarity as the only known First Nations village on the south coast of British Columbia that has retained its integrity, as well as in its contribution to the understanding of over 3000 years of continuous occupation. The main village (DeSh 1) contains evidence of ten houses, eight of which have traditional big house frames with timber posts, several having been carved, and beams that either remain standing or have fallen to the ground. The fortress site (DeSh-2) exhibits the outlines of five houses located on three platforms at different elevations. A small midden (DeSh 24) and a larger one (DeSh 25) with the remains of three more houses demonstrate continuous occupation of the area for almost 3,000 years, with the most recent occupation being the post contact establishment of Kiix̣in Village and Fortress.

The natural features of the site made it an ideal location for occupation and defence. The two sandy beaches were used as landing sites for canoes, while the high rocky headlands provided a defensive stronghold and commanding views of the surroundings. Natural resources were abundant with intertidal and sub-tidal areas rich in invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals and seaweed. As a strategically located village, Kiix̣in was central to coastal transportation, trade routes and shifting alliances of the Huu-ay-aht from approximately 500 B.C.E. to the late 19th century. By the 1880s, the Nuu-chah-nulth had moved from the village, but the site has remained important in the lives of its members for food gathering as well as ceremonial and spiritual purposes.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes December 1998; December 2002.

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