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The Hesquiaht First Nation (pronounced Hesh-kwit or Hes-kwee-at) is a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations band government based on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The Hesquiaht First Nation are members of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Its members are Hesquiaht people.
Hesquiaht is the most northern and isolated of the five Central Region Nuu-chah-nulth Nations. Two of eight Hesquiaht Reserves are occupied by Hesquiaht members— one at Hot Springs Cove and the other at Hesquiaht Harbour. Hot Springs Cove is named after the natural hot springs located at the south end of a narrow peninsula on the east side of the cove. The Reserve Community of Hot Springs (Refuge Cove) village is located on the cove’s west side, home to approximately 80 individuals and 25 families (39 dwellings).
Prior to the 19th century, the Hesquiaht were a congregation of five nations living around Hesquiaht Harbour, with a total population of about 6,000 to 10,000 individuals. Each nation was governed by their respective Ha’wiih (herary) system. After the smallpox epidemic, the communities moved to one site at Hesquiaht Village, before being moved by Indian Affairs to the current site at Hot Springs Cove.
The community had to rebuild after a tsunami in 1964. the tsunami heavily damaged the village and forced many people to move away.
The Hesquiaht were affected by the 1990s economic collapse of their traditional fishery and forestry activities.
The Ha’wiih system functions in Hesquiaht. Four herary chiefs guide the community and inform the work of council. The chiefs sit hierarchically, matching the four fingers of the hand. The Ha'wiih are:
Klukwana (the traditional governance system) includes the continued existence of Tikawiilth, those who manage the nation’s affairs on behalf of the herary chiefs. The Tikawiilth traditionally manage the affairs of the herary chiefs, which in modern times often coincides with the role of Chief and Council. The current Tikawiilth are Pat Charleson (Head Wolf Chief) - (thumb), Larry Paul, Remi Charleson, Eugene August and Chancellor Amos.
Hesquiaht Council is elected every four years. Chief and Council meet monthly, and a joint Chief and Council, membership, and the Herary Chiefs meeting is held yearly. The Chief and Council are responsible for management of band affairs. The Chief and Council and their portfolios include:
The Hesquiaht Chief and Council rely on administrators to conduct the day-to-day management of tribal affairs, program delivery, and coordination with government agencies.
Fisheries are an important source of employment. The Nation operated a boat building yard.
The Hesquiaht are an isolated community in the Clayoquot region. Sustainable transportation, community infrastructure, sustainable energy production and keeping or re-attracting members to the community are issues affecting their future.
Hesquiaht are working on developing community resources. This includes eco-tourism, infrastructure and housing, treaty negotiations, and the marketing of the community and territory.