The community of Sechelt took its name from its early inhabitants, natives of the shíshálh tribe, part of the Coast Salish nation. The shíshálh could be found throughout the Sunshine Coast, occupying approximately 80 village sites, with a high concentration in the protected inland of Sechelt Inlet. They grew to be a thriving community, living off of the land and building on their rich culture and traditions. Ancient petroglyphs can be seen today along the shoreline of Sechelt Inlet where the shíshálh lived. The glyphs, as well as many secluded bays and mountain summits in the area, are now considered sacred and protected sites.
When Europeans reached their shores, the shíshálh were introduced to the residential school system, which shattered their way of life. They were also overcome by the spread of smallpox, which depleted their once vibrant population of thousands to a mere 167. Triumph came to the shíshálh, however, in 1986 with the passing of Bill C-93, which granted the Sechelt Indian Band with self-government – the first aboriginal band to achieve such status in Canada.
Once again, the shíshálh population is in the thousands and continues to progress through active partnerships, plans for the future and the continual sharing of their culture and traditions. The shíshálh’s long standing tradition of wood carving – with designs often dominated by the Coast’s natural environment – is clearly evident in the detail of the magnificent totem poles that stand on the shoreline and the grandeur of the traditional shíshálh tl’e enak-awxa (Feast House) or longhouse and House of hewhiwus (House
of Chiefs) located in Sechelt. The House of Chiefs is home to the tems swiya (Our World) museum and gift shop as well as the Raven’s Cry Theatre, an ideal venue for local plays, recitals and performances as it is named after the Raven, gatherer and collector of stories. The Tsain-Ko Village Shopping Centre in Sechelt is a bustling addition to the shíshálh Nation’s economic and commercial developments. There you will find a variety of shops and services including Shoppers Drug Mart and Starbucks Coffee as well as impressive artwork throughout the complex.