Lax Kw’alaams are the descendants of the Nine Tribes of the Tsmishian, who have lived in their territories for more than 10,000 years and their traditional language is Sm’algyax.
One of the most important pre-contact events in Lax Kw’alaams history was a series of wars with invaders from the north, the Tlingit, about 2,000 years ago. During the course of this war, the Nine Tribes consolidated their efforts and became one of the region’s most powerful political, economic and military powers, then proceeded to expand their influence.
By the 1790s, American, British and Russian trading ships had come to the north coast of British Columbia to trade for sea otter pelts. By the 1810s, American traders increased their presence along the coast and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) had established a series of forts in the interior to capitalize on the land-based fur trade. The HBC’s operations in this area were strongly influenced by Legex, a dynasty of chiefs from the Gispaxlo’ots tribe, who levied taxes in exchange for safe passage and the privilege to trade with American ships.
In 1871, B.C. joined Canada and matters related to Aboriginal people became federal jurisdiction. The same year, legislation such as a ban on commercial fishing by Aboriginal people changed the relationship of Aboriginal People and the government. By 1880, 650 single family homes had been built in Lax Kw’alaams, and by the 1890s, all the traditional houses were gone along with their totem markers.
One of the first industries Lax Kw’alaams developed was boat building. Lax Kw’alaams people built everything from small row boats to schooners, especially as fishing, sealing and whaling became important industries.