The Penelakut Tribe accounts for about 13 percent of the Hul’qumi’num population. Historically, Penelakut villages were found on Kuper Island, Galiano Island, and on Vancouver Island near the mouth of the Chemainus River.
Today, the Penelakut have reserves on Kuper Island, Tent Island, Galiano Island, and one small reserve on the lower reaches of the Chemainus River.
The term ‘Penelakut’ is used to refer to all the Hul’qumi’num people who, at one time or another, have lived on Kuper Island. Historically, there were three permanent winter villages on Kuper Island: at Penelakut Spit, Telegraph Harbour, and Lamalchi Bay. There were also villages at Chemainus Harbour and on Galiano Island. Penelakut Spit extends off the northeast end of Kuper Island, and was the site of the largest Hul’qumi’num village on the Gulf Islands.
Penelakut comes from the Hul’qumi’num name for this place, penálaxeth’, which means ‘log buried on the beach’ (perhaps a reference to houses being partly buried by sand on the beach). This village had fifteen or more large houses on the beach, located almost at sea level in the area just to the south of the spit.
As noted earlier, Indian Land Commissioner Gilbert Malcolm Sproat visited this village in 1877, describing it as looking like “one long house, 3 or 400 yards in length, but in reality it is divided into 15 large compartments” (Sproat 1877).