Anacla is a community of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation on the Pachena River near the head of Pachena Bay, about 37 miles (60 km) northwest of Port Renfrew and 2.4 miles (4 km) south-southwest of Bamfield, British Columbia. The Huu-ay-aht are part of the larger culture of Nuuchah-nulth speaking peoples of western Vancouver Island. For thousands of years, the Huu-ay-aht lived on the land and sea according to age-old traditions and practices. Several sea caves that were used historically for habitation, and include ancient rock art, have been found near Pachena Bay. The ocean supplied fish, whales, seals, otters, and shellfish. The forests provided wood for houses, for carving canoes, and for weaving baskets and rope. The lands and waters making up their traditional territories are called ḥahuułi (pronounced “ha-houlthee”), and include the southeastern shores of Barkley Sound from Coleman Creek in the east, around Cape Beale and then southward along the Pacific coastline to include all of Pachena Bay. The Pachena River, which flows into the bay, supports a major salmon fishery. A historical village used during the spring and summer months was called Clutus, and was at the western entrance to the bay, which was well situated for whaling and halibut fishing. The Huu-ay-aht territory extended east to at least Pachena Point, which is the boundary accepted by the neighboring Ditidaht First Nation, however, some elders placed the boundary further east at the Darling River or even farther east at the Tsusiat River, but these differing boundaries may simply reflect relatively minor territorial shifts over time. Inland, the traditional lands encompass the length of the Sugsaw, Sarita, and Pachena River watersheds and their lakes. The relatively precise information on individual territories demonstrates that historically there were several autonomous local groups that later amalgamated to form the present-day Huu-ay-aht First Nations. The process of peaceful mergers or at times forcible absorption of neighboring local groups is well documented throughout Nuu-chah-nulth territory. In the Huu-ay-aht case, oral traditions indicate that population loss occurred through both internecine warfare and natural disasters dating long before the arrival of Europeans, however, diseases introduced by Europeans had a devasting effect on the population.
The first significant contact between Europeans and Nuu-chah-nulth peoples began with the Captain James Cook expedition of 1778. Within a few years of Cook’s favorable report upon the trading opportunities existing along the west coast of what later became known as Vancouver Island, a thriving maritime fur trade was established with the annual arrival of trading vessels of mainly English and American origin. In 1787, Captain William Barkley sailed into the sound, followed a year later by Captain John Meares. In 1789, American traders aboard the Columbia Rediviva briefly entered the sound to trade but few furs were available. In 1791, Spanish expeditions also reached Barkley Sound and found that the area was well populated by indigenous tribes. In 1817, the first specific European account of Huu-ay-aht territory comes from Captain Camille de Roquefeuil on the Le Bordelais, which entered a sheltered inlet (Bamfield Inlet) where the local people told him that his ship was the first to enter these protected waters. By this time, over-hunting in the maritime trade had almost eliminated the sea otters from Barkley Sound. Finding that there were few or no furs available, Roquefeuil set sail, continuing his round-the-world voyage. Throughout Nuu-chah-nulth territory, sea otter populations were so seriously depleted by the second decade of the 19th century that the annual arrival of trading ships ceased and for several decades there was little, if any, contact with outsiders. In 1843, Fort Victoria was established on the southern tip of Vancouver Island as a trading post. The fort gave local First Nations, as well as those more distant on the coast, an opportunity to access manufactured goods. In the following decades trading schooners and eventually, small stores began to appear along the western coast of Vancouver Island. In 1858, William E. Banfield, a partner in a trading company that had three stores along the length of Nuu-chahnulth territory, arrived on Huu-ay-aht lands and made Bamfield Inlet the center of his company’s operations. The name ‘Bamfield’ was likely a mistake made by the postal office. In 1874, George Blenkinsop was sent by Israel W. Powell, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to contact the Barkley Sound First Nations, to ascertain their populations, territories, and culture for the purpose of establishing reserves, which would have a dramatic impact on the relationship of the Nuu-chah-nulth people with their traditional territories. At the time of Blenkinsop’s assessment, the Huu-ay-aht were moving seasonally between their two major villages and a number of smaller seasonal fish camps. In 1882, Peter O’Reilly, the federal Indian Reserve Commissioner, established 13 reserves for the Huu-ay-aht. In all, 2,250 acres (910 ha) were set aside for their use, comprising a very small portion of their widespread traditional territory. It was not until the 1960s that the Huu-ay-aht coalesced at Anacla on Pachena Bay, which is today their primary residential and administrative community.
Earthquakes and the destructive tsunamis they generate occasionally impacted populations along the coast, resulting in great losses of life that
forced political changes for the Huu-ay-aht. Such catastrophic events are reflected in oral narratives of the ground shaking or rapid rushes of water. This is a story similar to those from First Nations along the West Coast of North America from Vancouver Island to northern California. Legends and artwork depict a life-and-death struggle between a thunderbird and a whale that caused the earth to shake violently and the seas to wash away people and homes. A massive earthquake is known to have occurred in 1700 AD along the Cascadia subduction zone with an estimated magnitude of 8.7–9.2. The megathrust earthquake involved the Juan de Fuca Plate from mid-Vancouver Island and south along the Pacific Northwest coast as far as northern California. The length of the fault rupture was about 620 miles (1,000 km), with an average slip of 66 feet (20 m). This event is known to have generated a tsunami that destroyed the villages at Cape Beale and Pachena Bay. The geological record indicates that mega-earthquakes occur in the Cascadia subduction zone about every 500 years on average, often accompanied by tsunamis. There is evidence of at least 13 events at intervals from about 300 to 900 years with an average of 570–590 years. Previous earthquakes are estimated to have been in 1310 AD, 810 AD, 400 AD, 170 BC, and 600 BC. The scientific confirmation of oral traditions about a great earthquake has led many aboriginal groups in the area to initiate projects to relocate their coastal communities to higher and safer ground in preparation for the predicted next earthquake. The Huu-ay-aht people have rebuilt their administration building in Anacla on a high point of land in their territory, and coastal residents are immediately evacuated to this building whenever a tsunami warning is issued. Read more here and here. Explore more of Pachena Bay here: