c̓išaaʔatḥ (sis sha ahtah or Tseshaht) a vibrant community with an active and progressive natural resources-based economy. We are one of the 14 Nations that make up the Nuu-chah-nulth [Nootka] people of western Vancouver Island. We are proud of our culture and work as a community to preserve our traditional values and teachings.
At the core of Tseshaht culture is our chronicle of creation; our spiritual origin. We were created at c̓išaa (sis-shaa), a place on what is known today as Benson Island, one of the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound. It is here n’aas or nahs (our creator) granted our first ancestors (Tseshaht man and woman) the highest spiritual responsibility and stewardship of the Broken Group Islands. Tseshaht translates as “people of a rancid smelly place” because the inhabitants were such great whalers and their village reeked of whale oil, signifying great wealth.
Eventually Tseshaht lands included the hahuułi of the assimilated groups in the Broken Group Islands, central Barkley Sound, much of Alberni Inlet, and the Alberni Valley.
The ownership and use of these lands and practically everything of value in Tseshaht society were governed by tutuupata (the plural of tupaati), a complex set of hereditary privileges or prerogatives. Tutuupata instructed the ways in which both economic resources like rivers, fish trap sites, and plant gathering sites, as well as intellectual property resources like names, ceremonial songs, dances, and regalia should be owned and utilized. Tutuupata determined rank in Tseshaht society and were inherited within a family.
In late winter and early spring the Tseshaht travelled to their “outside” tupaati to utilize the resources of these traditional sites such as sea mammals, halibut, rockfish and salmon and procurement areas in Barkley Sound. As the seasons changed, the resources changed, and the Tseshaht moved back to their “inside” tupaati, following the salmon up Alberni Inlet to the Somass River.