Wuikinuxv / Oowekeeno / Rivers Inlet

The Wuikinuxv, also known as the Oowekeeno or 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.

Alternate Spellings: Wuikenukv, Wikeno, Owikeno, Oweekano, Awikenox

History and Culture

Wannock, 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, means “poison” and refers to an 1848 raid by the Heiltsuk.

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, making a further surprise attack in which 3 men and 1 woman were killed and 32 woman and children captured.

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.

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

Wuikinuxv Language and Government

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 an unnamed 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.

At present the small community of Rivers Inlet, which is situated on the banks of the 3 km Wannock River, is the main center in Wuikinuxv territory.

Adjacent to it is the non-Indian community of Oweekeno. 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. The airline favors the tourists as opposed to the local community.