It’s impossible to tell whether the waves are dancing to the beat of the drum, or if the drummer’s hands are following the rhythm of nature. And maybe that’s the point, because according to the teachings of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, everything is one. The waves come rolling in over the rocks; with a sigh, they release a constellation of droplets that ride the wind into the trees, pulling the scents of salt, sand and cedar into the sky. The drumbeat stops. But the Pacific Ocean keeps dancing to the rhythm of nature.
Trevor Cootes, a councillor with the self-governing Huu-ay-aht, stashes his drum. For as long as his people’s history has been shared through song and dance, this sheltered cove has been known as Kiix̣in (pronounced “kee-hin”). “It was one of our main villages,” he says of the site, which overlooks the Broken Group Islands on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Cootes strolls along paths recently delineated with sun-bleached oyster shells that guide visitors through this national historic site. “Our ancestors lived here in longhouses during the whaling and fishing season,” he says.
Kiix̣in is ancient — archeologists have dated the history of human occupation here to at least 5,500 years. But it’s also an emblem of the old becoming new again. The village has receded into the forest, fallen house posts serving as reminders of a rich culture but also as nurse logs for saplings striving to touch the sky.