“It was far too windy to venture up Knight Inlet that day. After studying the chart, we decided to put in the time by wandering through the maze of islands over towards Village Island. There is an old Indian village there, Mamalilaculla, and we had never been in there before. The village was always, at least partly, occupied in summer-time, for it had a Church of England Mission and a small six-bed hospital for tubercular Indian girls.”
Thus, did Muriel Wylie Blanchet describe her visit to Village Island in the 1930’s in her classic book, The Curve of Time.
Abandoned in the late 1960’s, the village shown on navigation charts as Mamalilakulla is accessible by contacting the First Nations office in Campbell River, BC. (See page 342 of the 2018 Waggoner Cruising Guide for complete information.)
Tours on Village Island in The Broughtons
During a visit to the southern Broughtons in late May 2018, we decided to anchor for the night in the small bay just to the north of the village. Upon entering the bay, we noticed a construction barge moored to a couple of the pilings that were once part of the old dock. The construction foreman told us they were building a 120-foot floating dock to provide access for tours to the historic village site by First Nations Watchmen. The pilings from the old dock will be completely removed. He shared that the Band has plans to move a manufactured home on shore to use as a Watchmen office and that trails are being cleared for easier access to the ruins.
The Band’s website includes tribal newsletter discussion of venturing into more tourism services for Village Island, with Guardian Watchmen working from the on-site office. The new Guardian Watchman Program and the tours on Village Island will be led by Jake Smith, grandson of the Village Island Chief, Isaac Abraham, who was one of those arrested and sent to prison following the infamous government raid of the 1921 potlatch on Village Island.
Mamalilikulla provides a fascinating insight into the 10,000-year inhabitation of the West Coast by First Nations people. A view of the villages from the waterfront bookends the history of this place. From the abandoned houses slowly being reclaimed by nature, to the massive posts and beams which once marked the entrance to the longhouses, to the clamshell midden on the beach, you can let your mind wander to what life might have been like here. Better yet, schedule a personal tour by the First Nations Watchmen to get a first-hand account.
Tips for Visiting Village Island
The anchorage just to the north of the floating dock has room to accommodate one or two boats. Anchor in about 20 feet on sandy mud with good holding. The bay directly in front (west) of the old village is strewn with rocks and boulders and should only be traversed in a dinghy; watch carefully for underwater hazards. Very appropriate, since the actual name of the village is Mimkwamlis, meaning “village with rocks and island out front.” You can anchor the dinghy off the midden beach and come ashore after receiving permission from the Watchmen or Band office (250-287-2955) and a fee of $20 per person.
Check WaggonerGuide.com for future updates.
~Brett and Sue Oemichen, Waggoner Guide Field Correspondents