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The Big House in a K'omoks community.

K’ómoks First Nation

Comox, BC


The Land of Plenty, according to the local First Nations, was the coastal band of land stretching from where Campbell River lies in the north, to Denman Island in the south. This area was warm, had mild winters, was rich in natural resources, and as such, made for perfect inhabitation. The K’ómoks First Nation is one of the groups that made this strip of land home, taking advantage of the area’s natural riches. Once much more widespread, the K’ómoks First Nation is now mostly concentrated on reserves in between the towns of Courtenay and Comox BC.

 

History

 

The K’ómoks First Nation, along with many others, has been present in the eastern central island area for thousands of years. Along with many other groups, the K’ómoks formed a loose association of peoples known as the “Sathloot,” all of whom lived in the Land of Plenty. Pre-colonization, the K’ómoks and surrounding groups were well established and used a wide variety of local resources for food, building materials, and ceremonial artifacts. There were several technological advances as well that the K’ómoks used including bird nets to capture game birds, weaving techniques for the manufacturing of clothing, and extensive networks of fishing weirs, built with small pilings driven into the muddy bottoms, particularly into the Puntledge River estuary, where the remains of them can still be seen.

 

Though the groups did not always get along, with the introduction of the European settlers, the northerly groups moved southward, and amalgamation and concentration resulted in fewer groups living in more limited territories. The reserve system implemented by the Canadian Government further restricted the K’ómoks First Nation’s land, and despite historical use of all of the lands from Comox around the bay to Fanny Bay, the majority of the K’ómoks peoples are now living on two reserves.

 

Present Day

 

The two reserves that the K’ómoks Nation continues to occupy are in the
Comox area, one encompassing the lands adjacent to and on Goose Spit, and the other at a fork in the Puntledge River where the First Nation runs a large campground. Despite the restricted territory compared to traditional utilized lands, the K’ómoks First Nation continues to be a strong and vibrant community, and have a number of unique business opportunities both on reserve, and extending out into the community. The I-Hos Gallery of First Nations art is located on reserve and offers a wide range of arts and crafts, both for viewing and for purchase; the vast majority of the art is done by local K’ómoks First Nation members. The Nation also owns a shellfish aquaculture company, Pentlatch Seafoods, a forestry company, a log house construction company and the campground on the Puntledge River. They also offer a number of business opportunities for investment on their website, taking advantage of the rich resources and land available to them.

 

There are currently about 280 members of the K’ómoks First Nation, the majority of whom reside on the reservation near Goose Spit.

 

Treaty Progress

 

The K’ómoks First Nation first began pursuing a treaty under the six-stage treaty program in 1997. They were initially members of the Hamatla Treaty society, along with four other member Nations, but withdrew in 2005 to pursue a settlement more customized to their specific needs. In 2007, the BC Treaty Commission accepted the updated Statement of Intent provided by the K’ómoks First Nation.


The K’ómoks First Nation is now in stage four of the six stage treaty process and is engaged in negotiating an agreement in principle. Negotiations have been ongoing since the updated statement of intent in 2007, and current issues are resource management and land claims. The K’ómoks Nation entered into an agreement with the Sliammon First Nation in 2008, resolving territory boundary issues, and easing the pressure on negotiators attempting to define traditional boundaries.

 

Web site ©: The Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research (ICOR) at the University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada.