Wolf Ritual Beach
Portrayal of the Tseshaht village at Tluk-wat-kwuu-is [Wolf Ritual Beach] in 1860. This Tseshaht village was where the Tlookwaana [Wolf Ritual] ceremony was held. Painting: Sterling Watts, 2010.
You are at ƛuukʷatquuʔis [Tlukwatkwuu7is] (Wolf Ritual Beach), where the Tlookwaana was held.
The Tlookwaana or “Wolf Ritual” was the principal c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) nuučaan̓ał (Nuu-chah-nulth) ceremony, held mainly in winter at “inside” settlements such as ƛuukʷatquuʔis [Tlukwatkwuu7is] (Wolf Ritual Beach).
The Tlookwaana prepared c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) men and women for their roles and responsibilities in a spiritual way on how to look after everyone in the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) community, and provided the traditional way we communicated ceremonial rights, or tutuupata.
The Tlookwaana was never discussed, and was organized by certain people who had that right, and had spiritual knowledge. Many individual Tlookwana celebrations lasted for sometimes more than a week, and required much advance planning by a sponsor of wealth and high rank, usually ḥaw̓iiḥ (Head Chiefs). These high-rank c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) people selected the main apprentices, to the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) wolf society, and would determine how the novices’ fathers would contribute to the cost. Historically every c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) member was formally initiated starting from as young as seven, this ensured a strong sense of community, belonging and harmony.
The Tlookwaana dramatically presented the capture of those to be initiated by the Wolves, and their eventual rescue, after acquiring certain ancestral powers or prerogatives. The Wolves were played by masčim (commoners) as inherited privileges that linked them within the spiritual harmony of the ḥaḥuułi (territory). While in captivity those initiated were taken to their ancestral lineage house to learn his or her ceremonial rights that if practiced properly ensured a successful and harmonious life. The guests who witnessed the initiation were traditionally feasted and received gifts in distribution by the ḥaw̓iiḥ (Head Chiefs).

Rotary Mural Description


The mural has an underlying element of “transformation” throughout the design; The orca transforming into a wolf on the beach, the day into night; the past to present, the humans to wolves.


hišukʔiš c̓awaak (Everything Is One)
There are several elements which symbolize c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) link between the past and the present AND morning and night. The left side of the mural represents the day and the past. The right side of the mural represents the night and the present. The round
painted drums with the ḥaw̓iiḥ (Chiefs), represent the spiritual transformational heartbeat of the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) songs owned by them for every occasion.
The wavy lines represent the connection to the spirit world; the link between c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) ancestors of the past, to the people of present day.
The c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) boy (Bryan Watts) holding the nač’a (eagle tail feathers) symbolizes how our Tseshaht teachings and culture, past down by our ancestors, is still alive and thriving today.


The 2 eagle feathers on the right are included to show their importance and sharing significance in c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) culture.


Canoe (c ̓apac)
The canoe on the beach, a design unique to c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) people, symbolizes the Tseshaht connection we have between all life; Everything is one. (hišukʔiš ca̓ waak)


Torchlight Fishing (hišaak)
The canoe on the right with the two c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) fishermen and a glowing light on the bow, shows one of many historic Tseshaht fishing methods called hišaak, torchlight fishing that was done in this very harbour. The tools and techniques may be different
nowadays but c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) way of life still exists.


Sun and Moon (hupał for both)
The people standing on the hill, facing the morning Sun, are asking and thanking nas (the creator) for protection throughout the day. In the evening, the creator is given thanks for the day. The Moon, which represents valuable harvest times, changes of seasons and spiritual activities, is shown in the night sky.

Significance of 5
You will notice that the number 5 is seen throughout the drawing; the 5 people standing on the hill, the 5 wolves on the beach, and the 5 drums in the centre. The number 5 signifies the amalgamated tribes which make up c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) as described in detail below.

ƛukʷatkʷuu?is, (wolf ritual beach site)
The overall scene shows the harbour and c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) lifeblood, the c̓uumaʕas (Somass) River mouth, which is drawn from the deep history of where Tseshaht sacred winter village site, ƛukʷatkʷuu?is, (wolf ritual beach) once stood.


We are the c̓išaaʔatḥ

"Animal Kingdom" performance, celebrating the Re-awakening of ƛuukʷatquuʔis on June 21, 2022.
Tseshaht wolves leading our guests, celebrating the Re-awakening of ƛuukʷatquuʔis on June 21, 2022.

We are the c̓išaaʔatḥ (sis sha ahtah or Tseshaht), a First Nation Tribe of the nuučaan̓ał (Nuu-chah-nulth) People. c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) are the largest First Nation with the largest ḥaḥuułi  (territory) in the Port Alberni area extending down to Alberni Inlet and Central Barkley Sound out to the hiłc̓aatu (ocean).

Our ownership of land is based on the nuučaan̓ał (Nuu-chah-nulth) laws of ḥaḥuułi [ha-houlthee], which means the territory of a nation under the stewardship of a tyee ḥaw̓ił (King).

c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) have lived here on the west coast of Vancouver Island for over suč̓a (five) thousand years. We lived in eco-spirit harmony with nature and both thrived with nism̓a (land) and sea resources plentiful as our system was in balance. This was mainly a result of harmony laws passed onto the first c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) man and woman after they were created at c̓išaa [Tsishaa], our home village on Benson Island.

This core c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) belief of the principle of balance is called hišukʔiš c̓awaak [hishok-ish-sawalk] in our language, it means “everything is one” and it’s the understanding that ‘everything is connected’. Our hišukʔiš c̓awaak [hishok-ish-sawalk] core teachings ensured that all łim̓aqsti (spirits) thrived in our homelands.

Tseshaht First Nation Administration Building in 2018.

Our name is inseparable from these teachings. c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) means ‘people from a rancid, smelly place’ because of the plentiful bodies of ʔiiḥtuup (whales) c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) harvested that made the village rancid and smelly. This is a sign of honourable wealth gained from upholding this core teaching.


c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) hahuułi has greatly expanded over the past centuries through marriage and alliances, warfare, and the incorporation of affiliated groups or Tribes estimated to be between the years 1780 and 1815.

Eventually c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) nism̓a (lands) included the ḥaḥiiłi (territories) of the assimilated groups, in the Broken Group Islands, central Barkley Sound, much of the Alberni Inlet, and the Alberni Valley.


The c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) absorbed the maktlɁiiɁatḥ (maktl-ee-ahtah), našɁasɁatḥ (Nash-as-ahtah), hach`aaɁatḥ (Haa-chaa-ahtah), and hikwuulhɁatḥ (Hee-qulth-ahtah) who brought their nism̓a (lands) and  č̓aʔak (waters) with them, as well as the once independent ḥaḥiiłi (territories) of of the original c̓išaaʔatḥ.

This is why the mural has ʔiiḥ (large),  nuutximł (round) traditional t̓icky̓ak (drum) like images of members of those nations above such as; Captain Bill (lower left image) from maktlɁiiɁatḥ (maktl-ee-ahtah), Tom Sayachapis (top left image) from našɁasɁatḥ (Nash-as-ahtah), kishkish (top right image) from hach`aaɁatḥ (Haa-chaa-ahtah), Jimmy Santu (lower right image) from hikwuulhɁatḥ (Hee-qulth-ahtah) and tyee ḥaw̓ił (King) Adam Shewish (center image) of the original c̓išaaʔatḥ.

Unveiling the Wolf Tower, celebrating the Re-awakening of ƛuukʷatquuʔis on June 21, 2022.
Breaking the chains of oppression, celebrating the Re-awakening of ƛuukʷatquuʔis on June 21, 2022.

Sharing of wealth as was the tupaati law
The ownership and use of these nism̓a (lands), and practically everything of value in the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht)t ḥaḥuułi , were governed by tutuupata (the plural of tupaati), a complex set of hereditary privileges or prerogatives. Tutuupata instructed the ways in which both economic resources, such as c̓aʔak (rivers), saamin (fish) trap sites, and plant gathering sites, as well as intellectual property resources, like ʕeʕimtii (names), ceremonial nuuknuuk (songs), huyaał (dances), and ʔiinaxma (regalia) should be owned and utilized. Tutuupata determined rank in c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) society and were inherited within a family. Tupaati laws don’t merely give a c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) person wealth; you are entitled to give a ceremony which is yours, and you must validate tupaati by distribution of gifts. Historically, much of the tutuupata redistribution was done at the winter village of ƛuukʷatquuʔis [Tlukwatkwuu7is] (Wolf Ritual Beach).


Tseshaht men drumming and singing in celebration of breaking the chains of oppression on June 21, 2022.

c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) Seasonal Round (Economic Cycle)
Our historic and traditional c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) economy was mostly determined by tupaati – the designated ownership and use of ḥaḥuułi (territory) resources. Tseshaht tupaati included both hitaas “outside” and mačiił “inside” nism̓a (land) and sea resources throughout the ḥaḥuułi (territory) and its watersheds.
After amalgamation of the various groups had occurred, the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) had a much larger ḥaḥuułi (territory) with a broader resource base. This meant that in late c̓ułičḥ (winter) and early ƛ̓uʕiičḥ (spring) the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) travelled to their hitaas “outside” ƛ̓up̓iičḥ (summer) tupaati to utilize the resources of these traditional sites and procurement areas in Barkley Sound. These included all nism̓a (lands), hiłc̓aatu (ocean), c̓aʔak (rivers), ʕaʕuk (lakes) and it’s resources such as sea mammals, p̓uuʔi (halibut),  rock-fish and saamin (salmon). As the seasons changed, the resources changed, and the
c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) would move back to their mačiił “inside” c̓ułičḥ (winter) tupaati, following the saamin (salmon) up the Alberni Inlet to the c̓uumaʕas (Somass) c̓aʔak c̓ułičḥ (River) to celebrate the c̓ułičḥ (winter) sharing of wealth.