History of Sechelt

The Shishalh peoples were the original residents of the Sunshine Coast. Their tenure is measured in thousands of years. Their history and current day culture is displayed in the their museum shíshálh Nation tems swiya Museum in Sechelt and is visible in (protected) petroglyphs and middens along the shorelines.

The Sechelt or Shíshálh people, (in their language spelled Shishá7lh) are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. At the time of the first European contact the Sechelt had a population of close to 26,000. Sechelt women were famous for their beautiful cedar woven baskets, which were made using materials such as cedar tree roots, cannery grass and birch bark.

The Sechelt First Nations settlement included four villages in the area now called British Columbia, on the Sunshine Coast, two in Jervis Inlet, and one each on Pender Harbour and on Sechelt Inlet.

The language of the Sechelt is called sháshíshálh. “Shashishalhem” is considered the most practical English spelling of this word. Sháshíshálh is part of the Coast Salish language group.

The Sechelt Nation, a division of the Coast Salish family of First Nations, originally occupied the southern portion of what is now known as the Sunshine Coast of BC. At the time of contact with Europeans, the shishalh (Sechelt people) were a populous and peaceful people occupying some 80 scattered village sites. Estimates of original population range from 5,000 to 20,000, but by the time of the first official census in 1881, the Sechelt population had plunged to 167, mainly due to introduced diseases. In this century, the band staged a remarkable comeback. Today the Sechelt are one of Canada’s most progressive First Nations groups, running a number of successful businesses. In 1986 the passage of Bill C-93 made the Sechelt Indian Band the first in Canada to achieve self-government. The band now numbers more than 1,000 members, about half of whom live on band lands.

For more information on the history of Sechelt visit the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives

Basket weaver Ellen Paul
Basket weaver Ellen Paul, 1962.
Photo by Denis Gray