Statement of Aboriginal Rights and Title
The Hupacasath have inhabited their territory, which encompasses what is now known as the Alberni Valley and beyond, since time immemorial or ?iiqh-muut. Thus, Hupacasath have title within their territory. The Hupacasath have never extinguished title to their territory in any manner, and will not do so in a modern treaty.
In order to have given up title, Hupacasath would have had to do so in one of the following ways
- Ceded their territory: a treaty or other legal agreement has never been signed by Hupacasath which extinguished their title and rights;
- By conquest: neither the Canadian government nor any First Nation has ever conquered the Hupacasath in war;
- By discovery: since Hupacasath have been here since time immemorial, they have never been discovered by any government. The concept of terra nullius has been discredited by the International Court of Justice in the Western Sahara case. In this case the government tried to say they gained title because the indigenous inhabitants that were there were uncivilized and therefore could not be considered to inhabit the land.
Therefore, through law, Hupacasath have never ceded, surrendered or released any part of their territory to any government and retain all of their rights and title which is now protected by s. 35 of the Constitution Act.
The Hupacasath First Nation is an amalgamation of original tribes, including the Muuhulthaht, Klehkoot and Ahahswinis peoples. These people got together to defend their territory from the encroachment by other First Nations prior to the arrival of Europeans. They traveled extensively throughout the entire territory and had permanent village sites at strategic locations.
The term, “seasonal round” refers to the cycle of resource use of the Hupacasath people as they moved and lived throughout the territory during the seasons of the year. Seasonal food gathering camps were located on all important fishing sites and where foods, medicines, forest products, marine resources and other resources were plentiful and easily accessible. There are a number of petroglyphs on Great Central and Sproat Lakes that prove Hupacasath use and ownership. The main villages were at Stamp Falls and at the end of Great Central Lake and at yaaquis or Prairie Farm on the east side of Somass River as well as other locations.
Present Hupacasath People
The Hupacasath First Nation has 5 Reserves, three of which are unoccupied. Table 9 lists each of the Reserves.
Table 9: HFN Reserves
HFN Reserves Area (ha)
Ahahswinis IR 1 37 ha
Klehkoot IR 2 116 ha
Cous IR 3 53 ha
Chuchakacook IR 4 2 ha
Nettle Island IR 5 10 ha
Hupacasath First Nation’s two occupied Reserves include Ahahswinis IR 1 and Klehkoot IR 2. Ahahswinis is the First Nation’s main residential reserve and is located on River Rd. within the City of Port Alberni’s municipal boundaries. The Reserve’s boundaries include the Somass River to the south, Josephine Street to the west, Compton Road to the north, and Indian Avenue to the east.
Klehkoot IR 2 is located just north of the Sproat River Bridge on Highway 4 at the confluence of the Sproat and Stamp Rivers approximately 2.2 km west of Port Alberni. The occupied portion of this Reserve is accessed by Highway 4, about 6km west of IR 1.
Figure 4 on the following page shows the approximate locations of each Hupacasath Reserve. As shown, the three unoccupied Reserves are located south of Port Alberni, along the Alberni Inlet. Cous is located about 20 km and Chuchakacook is located about 30 km south of Hupacasath’s occupied Reserves at Ahahswinis and Klehkoot. Nettle Island is in the Broken Group portion of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
3.3 Present Hupacasath People: Population
Currently, there are about 230 Hupacasath First Nation members, approximately half living on-reserve. Membership growth over the past 20 years has been inconsistent. From 1980 to 1985 membership grew at a rate of 3.2% per year. From 1985 to 1990, membership grew rapidly at 9% per year, due to changes in the Indian Act. Growth in membership has since leveled off. Over the past 10 years, the average annual growth rate was 2.0%.
The Fall 2001 Community Profile shows that the Hupacasath First Nation has an on-Reserve population of 127 people (113 people at Ahahswinis and 14 at Klehkoot) comprised of Hupacasath members, members of other First Nations and non-status individuals by Indian Act definition.
Given the youthfulness of the Hupacasath on-Reserve population (36% is under the age of 20) and the anticipated levels of in-migration, the on-Reserve population is expected to grow rapidly over the next 20 years. It could grow at rates of 2.5% per year from 2001 to 2006 and 2.0% per year from 2006 to 2021. The growth in total membership is expected to occur at a rate of 2.0% per year.
The 20-year population projections are presented in Figure 5. As shown the on-Reserve population is expected to grow to 277 people, while the total membership could grow to 330.
hupacasath population graph
The 50-year population projections have been estimated based on the assumption that both the on-Reserve and total membership population will continue to increase at a rate of 2% per year from 2021 to 2051. It is estimated that, based on these assumptions, the total on-Reserve population could reach about 500 people and the total membership population could reach 600 by 2051.
3.3 Present Hupacasath People: Land Development Needs
The Hupacasath First Nation does not have enough Reserve land to meet its current and future community development needs. Past studies, including the Physical Development Plan and Residential Options Assessment, show that the First Nation will be unable to meet even its 10-year housing needs. Over the next 10 years there will be a deficit of 16 houses. This will compound to 41 over 20 years and 141 units over a 50-year period, if the First Nation is unable to expand its land base.
This lack of developable Reserve land also constrains the ability of the First Nation to meet its economic development goals. In 2001, Hupacasath completed its 5-year economic development strategy. The main opportunities for economic development identified in this plan include eco-tourism and value-added wood. The First Nation requires a sufficient land base to pursue activities in these areas and the current lack of available land will limit the First Nation’s economic development activities.