Travel to Learn in the Traditional Territories of Coast Salish Peoples

Published On: June 21, 2021

Southern Gulf Island Tourism acknowledges that we work and live in the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples whenever we invite you to visit this special place. These islands were home to indigenous peoples from several Indigenous nations for thousands of years before settlers began making establishing their own homes starting in the mid-nineteenth century. The rest of us increasingly enjoy visiting the beautiful Salish Sea islands of Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Salt Spring, and Saturna. When we genuinely acknowledge the history of a place before we visit, we open ourselves to a much richer travel experience.

We acknowledge the SENĆOŦEN – speaking Nations that are part of the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Group and the HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ – speaking Nations who comprise their own HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ Treaty Group. We are reminded on National Indigenous Peoples Day that we have much to learn from those with different world views and whose wisdom about the land and water has been passed down for generations.


Mayne Island Heritage group recently worked with the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Group to produce storyboards for their museum’s Indigenous Heritage Partnership Project. When you visit, you can read the panels that tell of their creation story:

It goes back to the creation time when XÁLS walked among the W̱SÁNEĆ people, showing them the proper way to live. He took some of the people and threw them out into the ocean where they became islands. XÁLS turned to them and said: “Look after your relatives, the W̱SÁNEĆ people.” XÁLS then turned to the people and said: “You will also look after ṮEṮÁĆES, your Relatives of the Deep.” This is what XÁLS asked of us in return for the care that our Relatives of the Deep provide us.

In SENĆOŦEN, Mayne Island (and Galiano Island) are called S,KŦAK, a word meaning canoe or boat pass in reference to Active Pass that lies between the two islands. The elders ask that the people living on these lands remain connected to the land and water. The lesson in the creation story calls us to respect all life on the lands, in the seas, along the shores, and in the mountains as though it has human spirit – plants, animals, fish, and whales to name a few. Here are some more SENĆOŦEN words to continue our learning journey about the places we love to visit.

SENĆOŦEN (sun-CHAH-thun) – Language of Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum, and Pauquachin First Nations

W̱SÁNEĆ (who-Say-nuch) – Emerging land / people

S,KŦAK (sk-THACK) – Canoe / boat pass

Á,LELEṈ (AY-lu-lung) – Houses, homes, village place

ṮEṮÁĆES (tlu-TLAY-chus) –  Island, a relative of the deep

XÁLS (hy-AYLS) –  Creator, God, Transformer

HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ on Salt Spring

On Salt Spring Island, Quw’utsun peoples and others, part of the HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ Treaty Group, created the Stqeeye’ Learning Society to foster relationships to land and water at Xwaaqw’um Village (known by settlers as Burgoyne Bay). Xwaaqw’um Village is across Sansum Narrows from Hwtl’upnets (Maple Bay).

Xwaaqw’um has always been an important place for local First Nations to source their shellfish, plants, medicines, and animals. It has also always been a place of cultural importance used for ceremonial purposes. In fact, the area is part of their creation story involving Hwmet’atsum (Mount Maxwell). This information is from the Stqeeye’ Learning Society and interested readers can find more on their website.

The Stqeeye’ Learning Society invites requests for group wellness days and land-based workshops and gatherings with Quw’utsun elders and knowledge keepers at Xwaaqw’um. This invitation presents an opportunity to continue our own education about visiting or living in Coast Salish territories. To get started right now, check out this beautiful video of the Place Names provided by Jared Qwustenuxun Williams. A few new words for your next visit:

Quw’utsun (quw-utsun) – Cowichan (warmland)

Xwaaqw’um (HWAAH-KWUM) – Burgoyne Bay (female red-breasted merganser duck)

Stqeeye’ (STAH-KAY-AH)  – Quw’utsun stewards of Xwaaqw’um

Hwmet’atsum – Mount Maxwell (Bent Over Place)

Hwtl’upnets (hw-tl’pu-nets) – Maple Bay