Willy Island is the largest of the Shoal Islands located just off the mouth of the Chemainus River on the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, about 36 miles (58 km) southwest of Vancouver and 21 miles (34 km) northwest of Sidney, British Columbia. The island is part of the historical territory of the Halalt people of the lower Chemainus River Valley.
The Halalt First Nation are part of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group that was founded in 1993 to negotiate a treaty with the Province of British Columbia. Members of the group include the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Lake Cowichan First Nation, Lyackson First Nation, and the Penelakut Tribe. The Halalt originate from the village of “Xeláltxw” which was historically located in the Cowichan Valley. The name refers to the painted houses, which were probably ornate house posts in the village. According to Cowichan oral history, the forefathers of both the Cowichan and Chemainus people (Siyóletse and St’éts’en respectively) originated from this village.
The residents of this village later relocated to a village at the north end of Willy Island, perhaps in the early part of the 19th century. There were at least five or six houses in the village on Willy Island. Although the entire island was designated an Indian Reserve (Halalt Island No. 1), the village was abandoned in the 1920s and the residents moved to the Westholme reserve on the lower Chemainus River (Halalt No. 2). Read more here and here. Explore more of Willy Island here: