Peace Between Nations

Nuxalk and Kwicksutaineuk–ah–kwa–mish Nations
"Declaration of Peace" Potlatch – 3 September 2011

Fighting between the Nuxalk and Kwicksutaineuk–ah–kwa–mish nations was legendary. According to accounts from both nations, the conflicts and raids began before 1850. One memorable act of war occurred in 1856 when the Nuxalk attacked Gwa'yasdums, the winter village of the Kwicksutaineuk. They massacred the inhabitants and destroyed the village. The aggression by the Nuxalk may have been due to a famine at Bella Coola, which may have been the result of the closing of Fort McLoughlin and the opening of Fort Rupert, thereby cutting off trade with the Nuxalk. The Kwicksutaineuk who survived the Nuxalk raid moved to Village Island, not returning to their village until the 1890s.

Above: Gwa'yasdams, c. 1885. Between 1865 and 1879, after the raid on Gwa'yaskams, the Gwawa'enuxw, the Haxwa'mis, and the Dzawada'enuxw shared the village. Other Kwakwaka'wakw groups that identify with the village are the Gwawa'enuxw, the Haxwa'mis and the Dzawada'enuxw. These nations, along with the Kwicksutaineuk–ah–kwa–mish, had their own potlatch ring and used Gwayasdums as a winter village.

Right: Chief Skow's Sea Monster House at Gwa'yasdams, 1900.

Kwicksutaineuk–ah–kwa–mish First Nation are part of the Kwakwaka'wakw Peoples, numbering about 5,500, who live on northern Vancouver Island and the adjoining mainland and islands.They belong to the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Tribal Council, along with 'Namgis First Nation and Tsawataineuk First Nation.

Kwicksutaineuk–ah–kwa–mish Territory spans the southern Broughton Archipelago, Tribune Channel and the Gilford Island area just north of the mouth of Knight Inlet. Head Kwicksutaineuk village is Gwa'yasdams, located at Health Bay on Gilford Island.

The "Declaration of Peace" Potlatch was held in Bella Coola at the Acwsalcta School with a large crowd attending to witness the historic ceremony.

Head Hereditary Chief Nuximlayc Lawrence Pootlass told the crowd that he had initiated the agreement because "I couldn’t get out of my mind the deep sorrow held against my people for generations."

Mabel Hall of Bella Coola: "To all Kwicksutaineuk descendants we extend our hand in friendship tonight. I thank you Chief Sewid for lightening my heart tonight this ceremony is for the younger generations."

Nuxalk Hereditary Chiefs Sixilaaxayc and Nuximlayc with Elders Jennilee Pootlass and Karen Anderson.

Gwawa'enuxw Hereditary Chief Robert Joseph: "The Nuxalk made peace with us, that is the reason for the Potlatch. In this day it is more important in Indian bands to be united than to be divided by some historical event!"

At the Pat Alfred Memorial at Alert Bay in 2011, Paul Willie stated about the Nuxalk invitation to the Declaration of Peace Potlatch: "Pat Alfred was a peace maker and truly believed in peace of all nations."

Right: Nuxalk Hereditary Chiefs Snuxyaltwa and Sixilaaxayc


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