History of Cordova Bay

    Our present-day community of Cordova Bay has been built on the much more ancient village site called ȾEL¸IȽĆE, in SENĆOŦEN (the language of the W̱ SÁNEĆ communities of Tsawout, Tsartlip, Pauquachin, and Tseycum), or c̓əl̓ íɫc in ̌ Lək̓ ʷiŋínəŋ (the language of the Lekwungen communities of Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations). The original name (pronounced something like tsul-ilh-ch though not all the sounds in these languages are found in English) was glossed by the late Elder Dave Elliott Sr. as meaning ‘place of the defeated’, alluding to events that happened here deep in the ancient past. This is a place with many important stories.

    ȾEL¸IȽĆE is the ancestral village site located in Cordova Bay and occupied for at least 1000 years (a date which we know from mid-depth radiocarbon sample run on a salvage archaeological excavation done at a property in Agate Lane in 2008). Spanish naval maps from 1792 show two longhouses at this village, and by 1852 Governor Douglas signed the South Saanich Treaty with W̱EȾÁM¸ELTW̱ and his followers who lived at this village, in response to settlers taking logs from the Cordova Bay area.

    The Cordova Bay waterfront was a centre of community life for the people who lived at ȾEL¸IȽĆE, including house sites, burials, fishing and harvesting areas, an intertidal fish trap, camas meadows, and impressive monumental cedars. In spite of the South Saanich Douglas Treaty, no Indian Reserves were surveyed in Cordova Bay, yet W̱SÁNEĆ peoples have continued to exercise their fishing and other rights in the area well into the 20th century. Our Cordova Bay Local Area Plan celebrates this history, and points to a new direction for our community with honours and upholds these Indigenous ancestral places.

    See a map of the area here

    Article Courtesy of:

    Dr. Brian Thom
    Provost’s Engaged Scholar
    Associate Professor and Honours Advisor, Department of Anthropology
    University of Victoria

Letters to the Editor

You are always welcome to write to the CBA board of directors if you have a question or comment relevant to Cordova Bay. One of the directors will be pleased to respond. Please contact us by e-mail: president@cbaca.ca. We look forward to hearing from you.

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