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TRADITIONAL
WORKSHOPS 2013

Our Native Culture is expressed through our Art.

“Comox” is an anglicization of kw’umuxws, which is derived from the Kwakw’ala term, kw’umalha, meaning “plentiful; rich, wealthy”. The Comox people are classified culturally as Northern Coast Salish. They spoke the Island Comox dialect of the Comox Coast Salish language; the last speaker of the dialect died in 1995. At the time of first contact with the Europeans in 1792, the Comox speaking groups occupied settlements extending along Vancouver Island from the vicinity of Salmon River in the northwest to the area around Cape Lazo in the southeast, including Quadra Island and other islands adjacent to Vancouver Island (Comox Land Use and Reserve History, 1999).

By the 1880’s the Comox had been driven south, and the Salmon River area was occupied by the Kahkahmatsis First Nation. In the 1930’s, the Kahkahmatsis Nation were in a comparatively poor situation; they were an 11-member Nation, and all were members of one family. They were related to the Comox First Nation by marriage, and several of the members were already living on Comox Indian Reserve #1 for part of the year to seek out better employment opportunities. In 1940, both the Salmon River and Comox First Nation voted independently to amalgamate. The amalgamation was approved by the Indian Commissioner in 1941 (Island Comox Land Use and Reserve History, 1999).

The Comox First Nation has three reserves in Comox.

The main community (I-Hos Gallery is located here) is at Comox Indian Reserve #1, adjacent to the Town of Comox. The Comox Indian Reserve #1 was allocated in 1867. There are 160 people living on Comox First Nation Reserve, including 106 members and 54 non-member residents. Comox population to date is 273 members.

The Pentledge Indian Reserve #2, which is partially developed and has good development potential, is located at the confluence of the Puntledge and Tsolum rivers adjacent to the City of Courtenay. The Pentledge Indian Reserve #2 was also allocated in 1867. 

Goose Spit, the smallest reserve, is located on a narrow marine sand spit at the Comox Harbour entrance. The reserve formerly known as Graveyard Indian Reserve #3 was also allocated in 1867. Access to the reserve is greatly limited by an existing military base.

“I-Hos” Symbol of Comox First Nation Band Pride

I-Hos is the name given to a 40 foot traditional Kwakwak’wakw style red cedar canoe carved from a 400 year old cedar log donated by MacMillan Bloedell. The canoe log was first blessed by Mary Clifton, a respected elder in the community. Calvin Hunt and Mervyn Child (from Fort Rupert) were commissioned to carve the canoe. I-Hos is modeled after their previous canoe, Makwalaogwa, carved in 1993 to travel from Bella Bella for the Quatuwas Festival. This was the first canoe to be carved at Comox in over 80 years.

The 1994 carving of the canoe heralded a rediscovery of the band’s heritage. Canoes were once an integral part of life on the coast. Often it provided the only way to travel between communities. More than merely transportation, it was also a catylyst for the culture. Natives up and down the coast rediscovered that culture. 

Paddling in the canoe gives an immediate feeling of being part of a team as everyone works in unison. It also gives everyone an appreciation for how much more difficult it was to get around the area when canoes were the only form of transportation.

The finished canoe, complete with I-Hos, the two headed serpent painted on her sides, was launched July 21, 1994. The launching was followed by a traditional dance performance. The canoe joined the Commonwealth First Nations Tribal Journeys, leaving Fort Rupert, on the northern end of Vancouver Island, on August 4, 1994 to arrive in the Victoria Inner Harbour on August 18th for the opening of the Commonwealth Games.