For thousands of years the Hupacasath people have owned, used, and occupied their traditional territory on Central Vancouver Island (See Hupacasath Traditional Territory Map 1). The Hupacasath are comprised of three distinct tribes, the Muh-uulth-aht, Kleh-koot-aht and Cuu-ma-as-aht (Ahahswinis).
The Muh-uulth-aht people (means people from where there is mountain with the face burnt off) lived in the Great Central Lake area with villages located at the head of Great Central Lake and around the Beaver Creek area of Stamp Falls. Their chief was named Kanaawis (Kanowish) who was a great warrior in his time. This area was and still is a great place for hunting deer, elk fowl, etc. as well for fishing and food gathering activities.
The Cuu-ma-as-ath people lived at Ahahswinis (means cleared in the middle), which was in the general vicinity of where the Port Alberni City is located now, to the Coleman Creek area down the Alberni Canal. Their village was where the current settlement is now located, on the Somass River. This area was mainly used for fishing salmon. Other activities done in this area by these people were hunting, gathering and potlatching.
The Kleh-koot-aht people resided around Kleh-koot (Sproat Lake) (means long stretch of level land). Kleh-koot-aht’s area was between Yaaqis (Prairie Farm) and Sproat Falls and there was a seasonal village located on the Sproat River. This village was a great place for fishing and smoking salmon, picking blackberries, hunting deer and picnicking. Also at this place was a longhouse where they performed several potlatches in the winter season.
The Cuu-ma-as, Klehkoot and Muhuulaht people decided to amalgamate prior to the European’s (or any other groups) arrival to the territory. This decision was made because each of the tribes were at war with the Coast Salish people and they thought that joining the three tribes would make them stronger in their war against the Salish.
After the amalgamation, all three tribes decided that they were now to be called the Hupacasath. They also decided that Kanaawis was to be the head chief of the tribe because he was the strongest Hupacasath warrior.
The Hupacasath people use the whole territory to exercise their aboriginal rights (e.g. hunting, fishing, etc.) Use of the territory is governed by the seasons. Hupacasath follow the migratory patterns of the deer and by the seasonal runs of the salmon.