About First Nations
The Ucluelet First Nation, also known as the Yuu-tluth-aht First Nation is the First Nations band government of the Yuu-tluth-aht people in the Canadian province of British Columbia, located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island on the northwest side of Barkley Sound. It is a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. The Ucluelet First Nation is part of the Nuu-chah-nulth cultural and language family.
The Yuu-tluth-aht First Nation’s main village is located at Ittatsoo, across the bay from the town of Ucluelet. The Nation’s territory is located at the northern gateway to Barkley Sound with open access to the Pacific Ocean. Being a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Maa-nulth Treaty Nations, the Yuu-tluth-aht is currently organizing around a post-treaty environment, and actively pursuing social and economic development. The following introduction to the community is posted on the Nation’s website (www.ufn.ca), one of the most comprehensive and well-maintained community websites in the region.
Today, the community lives reasonably within their means. With a downturn of the major forestry industry, shortage of work in the fishing industry and closure of on-shore local processing plants, many members of the community are now employed in the rapidly growing tourism industry, while others are upgrading their education or gaining employment with smaller forestry companies.
The children/youths (Kindergarten through Grade 12) commute to school by bus to the town of Ucluelet where they attend either Ucluelet Elementary School or Ucluelet Secondary School. On reserve educational programs are offered through the Ittatsoo Learning Centre, where students have the opportunity to upgrade through long distance education; or the Ittatsoo Preschool Daycare where a Head Start Program is delivered. During the summer, children/youth join a summer day camp where they participate in many different activities that offer them experience and encourages exercise. The summer season is a time for community members to harvest, prepare and stock food for the winter season. During this time many items such as halibut, salmon, herring and berries are prepared traditionally by smoking,drying or by jarring. Throughout the year other traditional foods are stocked such as deer, ducks, herring eggs, crab, sea urchin, clams, oysters and mussels. The Ucluelet First Nation is proud to have the talent that thrives in and outside our community. There are many men and woman, who express themselves traditionally and artistically through carving, beading and weaving. Marking our time in history, the first ever totem pole was raised in March 2005. Artist, James Cootes designed the totem with a thunderbird, killer whale, bear and a salmon. The pole is located at Quiisitis, IR 9 (Wickanninnish Beach) and sits as a welcoming figure noting a historical place where the UFN ancestors gathered during the fishing season.
The hereditary system of the Yuu-tluth-aht First Nation originates from a congregation of 17 Ucluelet tribes, which each had a Ha’wiilth (Chief) and associated Ha’houlthee. Most Ha’wiilth retained a Tsaksi (speaker on behalf of the chief) who represented the Ha’wiilth in tribal affairs. The Ha’wiilth had a number of Tupatsi, or advisors, who played an important role in influencing the direction of tribal affairs. When Europeans arrived in the 18th century, these tribes were still vibrant as autonomous entities, operating in a manner similar to a federation. However, with the development of, dare we to say, atrocious Canadian assimilation policies for aboriginal groups, the Ucluelet tribes eventually merged to form the current Yuu-tluth-aht First Nation.
So while many of the 17 tribes are defunct today as governance structures, families are aware of which house and tribe they belong to historically. The current Tyee (head Ha’wiilth) for the Yuu-tluth-aht First Nation is Lawrence Jack.
Most importantly, as proposed in the Maa-nulth Treaty, the Yuu-tluth-aht Constitution sets up an integrated hereditary/elected governance system which permanently reserves a seat for one Ha’wiih on Council. Yuu-tluth-aht and the Province of British Columbia have ratified their treaty and await federal approval to move to implementation.
For people interested in a more-in-depth understanding of traditional Yuu-tluth-aht governance system, Michelle Corfield, Vice President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, published an excellent M.A. thesis on the topic in 2002.