Margarita James, president of the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society, and Hakuum Gloria Maquinna, sing with the children at Yuquot Spirit Summerfest Aug. 6.
Photos by Denise Titian
A refreshing summer drizzle did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people who gathered at Yuquot (Friendly Cove), the historic homeland of the Mowachaht for the annual summer camp called Yuquot Spirit Summerfest.
A large field by the church was packed with dozens of colorful tents as campfires struggled to stay lit in the wet weather. Children and young parents wandered from tents to the church, visiting one another and taking turns holding babies.
The annual Yuquot Summerfest began in 1992 when late chief Ambrose Maquinna brought his people together for a week of bonding and cultural teachings. His vision was to develop Yuquot, with its rich history, into a world-class visitor destination.
The 2016 Yuquot Summerfest marked the 50th anniversary of the release of the famous Yuquot Report written by archeologists John Dewhirst and Bill Folan. Both men attended a luncheon at the church in Yuquot on Aug. 6.
The archeological dig, sponsored by Parks Canada, was carried out in 1966. According to Margarita James, workers dug 18 feet down on sites selected by the elders of the time. Noting that it was the first study of local first nations’ prehistory of this magnitude, it opened the doors to Indigenous archeology and showed 4,300 years of continuous habitation at Yuquot.
Dewhirst and Folan were special guests at the event and were seen reminiscing with Yuquot’s only permanent residents, Ray and Terry Williams.
With guests seated in the church, Tyee Ha’wilth Yathlua (Mike Maquinna) welcomed everyone to his home, saying they’ve been doing this annual gathering for 24 years. “We do it so that the kids will know where they come from,” he said.
Yathlua went on to say that his people continue to work on plans that will hopefully get more people living at home (Yuquot) and they hope the T’aaq-wiihaak fishery will provide that opportunity.
Margarita James, president of the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society, introduced special guests Dewhirst and Folan. She said science was interested in Yuquot because of its European history; the Spaniards established a settlement there in 1789, and English explorer Captain James Cook’s 1778 visit to Yuquot is the first known European sighting of the village.
The 1966 study of Yuquot opened up more studies of the ethno history of coastal first nations and delivered very important information to human history, said James.
Dewhirst continues his studies of aboriginal history and made important contributions on behalf of Mowachaht/Muchalaht on the fisheries commercial rights cases. “He helped us win those cases,” said James.
Willie Folan, she said, landed on the shores of Yuquot in 1966 to get the permission of Chief Ambrose Maquinna to carry out an archeological dig. Information gleaned from the dig went into written reports. Folan presented the information contained on cd’s to Yathlua, saying, “He now has as much information about Yuquot as I have.”
Folan thanked James for the invitation. “Being back is a wonderful experience, especially seeing the people from way back then,” said Folan.
James said Folan and Dewhirst’s work inspired the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people to repatriate and conserve their artifacts. Gesturing toward the towering carved poles gracing each end of the church, she said, all of this is a result of this man, Willie, and his vision and persistence.
Through the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society, the Mowachaht/Muchalaht has had the elaborate carvings returned home from museum collections. James said she hopes to see the return of the sacred Whaler’s Shrine someday, or, at the very least, take all the Mowachaht/Muchalaht children to New York to see it.
James thanked Dewhirst and Folan for their contributions to her people.
“You have enriched my life and made me more aware that Yuquot really is the center of the earth,” she told them.
James said the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society has entered into cost-sharing agreements with Parks Canada. Engineers from Duncan will arrive at Yuquot in the coming days to assess the structural integrity of the church building.
Parks Canada – Pacific Rim Superintendent Karen Haugen thanked James for inviting her to the event. “I am very honoured in seeing your passion and the engagement of young people in preserving your history,” she said.
The mission of the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society is to preserve, protect and interpret the cultural history of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people. They hope to establish an interpretive center at Yuquot that will be named Nis’Maas.