Description of Historic Place
Yuquot National Historic Site of Canada is an extensive site located at Friendly Cove on the remote northwestern coast of Vancouver Island. The rugged natural setting consists of a dramatic arc of beach along the water and nearby islands, and a bench of land and forested areas further back. The site’s elements are diverse and include the landscape, structures, and extensive archaeological remains. The resources are intimately related to the oral traditions, language, history and place names of the Mowachaht / Muchalaht First Nations. Official recognition refers Yuquot village, Yuquot defensive site, the Whalers’ Washing House, the Spanish fort and settlement, the English fur trading establishment, and the harbour of Friendly Cove; all located within the boundaries of Indian Reserve #1 of the Mowachaht / Muchalaht First Nations.
Yuquot was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1923 because:
- it is the ancestral home of the Mowachaht and the centre of their social, political and economic world;
- continuously occupied for over 4,300 years, the village became the capital for all 17 tribes of the Nootka Sound region;
- it is the area where Nuu-chah-nulth whaling originated and developed and the site of the Whaler’s Washing House, the most significant monument associated with Nuu-chah-nulth whaling;
- with the coming of the European explorers and fur traders in the late 18th century, Yuquot became the focal point of diplomatic and trading activity on Canada’s west coast;
- it was the location of Spain’s northernmost garrison in the Pacific and the only one established in Canada;
- Friendly Cove, the harbour in front of Yuquot, was the centre of diplomacy between the Mowachaht, Great Britain and Spain during the Nootka Sound controversy of 1789-1792;
- the harbour was the central port of call during the sea otter trade off Vancouver Island from 1785-1795;
- north of the village was the first fur trading establishment on the west coast.
The heritage value of Yuquot lies in its association with the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nations and their social, political and economic world. Continuously occupied for over 4,300 years, Yuquot village became the capital for all 17 tribes of the Nootka Sound region. Whaling was a vital part of the life of the Mowachaht-Muchalaht, and of all the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples. In the late 18th century, Yuquot also became an important site of early contact between First Peoples and European explorers and traders. Explorers were attracted to the security of the harbour, which they named Friendly Cove. As a result, Yuquot, also known as Nootka, developed into an important centre of trade and diplomacy, and it was briefly the site of Spain’s only military establishment in present-day Canada. Yuquot additionally became the focal point of the Nootka Sound Controversy of 1789-1794, when the rival interests of Great Britain and Spain brought those countries to the brink of war.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1997; Plaque Text, 2001; Commemorative Integrity Statement, 1998.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of this site include:
- its location at Friendly Cove on the north-western coast of Vancouver Island;
- the remote setting of Yuquot and its relationship with the sea and with the surrounding forested areas;
- landscape features reflective of First Nations occupation, such as paths, areas of bark-stripped cedar trees and house platforms;
- the integrity of any surviving above ground, subsurface and sub-tidal archaeological remains and remains of First Nations occupation of this site in their placement and extent, including remains at the Yuquot Village, the Yuquot defensive site, the harbour of Friendly Cove, the site of the Whalers’ Washing House, and depressions marking the location of houses;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains of Contact Period activities in their placement and extent, specifically: the presence and current location of the evidence of the cemetery, churches, school, trading store, site of the Spanish settlement and fort and site of the English Fur Trading Establishment;
- viewscapes from the shore to the ocean, and from various vantage points along the shore to the other parts of the site.