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Whaler's Shrine Site National Historic Site of Canada

Yuquot, Nootka Island, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1983/11/18

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Other Name(s)

Whaler's Shrine Site National Historic Site of Canada
Whaler's Shrine Site
Site du sanctuaire du baleinier
Whalers’ Washing House
Whalers’ Washing House

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/12/15

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Whaler’s Shrine Site National Historic Site of Canada is located on the southern end of an unnamed island in Jewitt Lake, Nootka Island, in British Columbia. Situated within Yuquot National Historic Site of Canada, the site is comprised of the footprint of the original Whaler's Shrine as it has been determined by archaeological survey. The shrine itself was dismantled and removed by an American cultural anthropologist in 1905 and presently resides at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. What remains is a heavily forested site in proximity to the shore of the island, and possibly some archaeological remains. Official recognition refers to the site on which the Whaler’s Shrine was originally located.

Heritage Value

Whaler's Shrine Site was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1983 because:
- it is the most significant monument associated with Nuu-chah-nulth whaling.

The heritage value of the Whaler’s Shrine Site resides in its historical associations with Nuu-chah-nulth whaling. According to Mowachaht oral tradition, whaling was invented in the villages of E'as and Tsaxis. The inhabitants of these villages were blessed with a special social status on account of their invention, and eventually the elite Yaluactakamlath family departed E'as and took control of the village of Yuquot, bringing the knowledge of whaling with them. The whalers of Yuquot would each have had a family shrine of some description, typically a simple clearing or occasionally a small structure. Such shrines were the sites of purification rituals. These shrines were buildings resembling houses and containing figures of animals and spirits, as well as corpses and skeletons. The locations of the shrines were known only to family members, and particularly, in the case of the shrine owned by the Chief, none were permitted to approach, much less enter them. The structure, now known as the Whaler's Shrine or Whalers' Washing House, was the shrine owned by the Chief and passed down through his family. It is not known exactly when it was built. It has been warehoused in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City since the early twentieth century.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Submission Report 1983; and Minutes, 1997.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location on the southern end of an unnamed island in Jewitt Lake, on Nootka Island, in British Columbia;
- the heavily forested surrounding area;
- the proximity of the site to the shore;
- any above ground or below-ground archaeological resources associated with the Whaler’s Shrine, or any other aspect of First Nations’ use of this site;
- the retention of the knowledge associated with Nuu-chah-nulth whaling artefacts and remains associated with the site.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1905/01/01 to 1905/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Philosophy and Spirituality
Peopling the Land
Canada's Earliest Inhabitants

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Mortuary Site, Cemetery or Enclosure

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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