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Regions with significant populations
British Columbia
English, Oowekyala
Christianity, native
Related ethnic groups
Heiltsuk, Haisla, Kwakwaka'wakw

The Wuikinuxv IPA: [ʔuwik'inuxʷ],[1] ("Backbone people"), also rendered Oweekano (Pre-1976); Oowekeeno /əˈwkən/ (1976-2003) (variation: Oweekeno, Owekano, Oweekayno, Wuikenukv, Wikeno, Owikeno, Awikenox,[2] and also known as the Rivers Inlet people, are an Indigenous First Nations people of the Central Coast region of the Canadian province of British Columbia, located around Rivers Inlet and Owikeno Lake, to the north of Queen Charlotte Strait. The Wuikinuxv people and their neighbours the Heiltsuk and Haisla peoples were in the past sometimes known incorrectly as the "Northern Kwakiutl".


The name used for the main village on Katit Indian Reserve No. 1, which is on an island in the Wannock River, that connects Owikeno Lake to Rivers Inlet, "Wannock", means "poison" and refers to an 1848 raid by the Heiltsuk, as recounted by John Thomas Walbran in his authoritative opus on coastal names in British Columbia:[3]

The lake is about 35 miles long, and connected with the inlet by the Oweekayno river now known by the name, adopted by the Indians, of Wannuck (sic); the meaning of which is "poison", as in olden times visitors to the tribe, evidently unwelcome, had the reputation of dying suddenly, these deaths being attributed to poison. About 1848 this tribe suffered dreadfully through a slave raid made by the powerful Bella Bellas, who after inviting the tribe to a potlatch....awaited their guests in ambush, and as they unsuspectingly arrived, one canoe after another, poured a deadly fire into them, killing all the men and capturing the women and children. The following morning the Bella Bellas advanced on Katil [one of their oldest and principal villages being on a small island...situated in the lake at the head of the river.] making a further surprise in which 3 men and 1 woman were killed and 32 woman and children captured.

— John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names, 1592-1906: their origin and history[4]


A recently completed Bighouse, which is the first in many years, is the focus on a rebuilding of Wuikinuxv society.

The culture was structured much the same as the other indigenous peoples of the coast. At the height of the coastal civilization, Wuikinuxv territory encompassed the mouth of Rivers Inlet to the head waters of Owikeno Lake.


They use the berries of Vaccinium vitis-idaea ssp. minus as food.[5]


Oowekyala, the language of the Wuikinuxv, is closely related to the Heiltsuk language, so much so that it is considered one of two dialects of a language named Heiltsuk-Oowekyala, the other dialect being Heiltsuk. It is also closely related to Haisla and is also related to Kwak'wala, the most widely spoken of the Northern Wakashan languages. It is more distantly related to Nuu-chah-nulth, Ditidaht and Makah, the Southern Wakashan languages.


The government of the Wuikinuxv people is the Wuikinuxv Nation. The Wuikinuxv Nation is a member of the Wuikinuxv-Kitasoo-Nuxalk Tribal Council, based in the town of Bella Coola.

Location and services[edit]

At present the small community of Rivers Inlet which is situated on the banks of the 3 km Wannock River is the main centre in Wuikinuxv territory; adjacent to it is the non-Indian reserve First Nations community of Oweekeno.[6] It has an airstrip and daily service from a local airline. In the summer months, airline service is disrupted by the traffic in and out of the sport-fishing camps.


  1. ^ "The Heiltsuk-Oweek'ala Language".
  2. ^ William C. Sturtevant, 1978. Handbook of North American Indians: Northwest Coast
  3. ^ BC Names/GeoBC entry "Owikeno Lake"
  4. ^ Walbran, John T; British Columbia Coast Names, 1592-1906: their origin and history; Ottawa, 1909 (republished for the Vancouver Public Library by J.J. Douglas Ltd, Vancouver, 1971)
  5. ^ Compton, Brian Douglas, 1993, Upper North Wakashan and Southern Tsimshian Ethnobotany: The Knowledge and Usage of Plants..., Ph.D. Dissertation, University of British Columbia, page 101
  6. ^ BC Names/GeoBC entry "Oweekeno (First Nation Village)"


External links[edit]