Long before colonists settled in what later became British Columbia, the land on which residences and museums now stand was Lekwammen territory. Also called Lekwungen, these people are represented by the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations today. The First Nations were a diverse group of extended families who spoke a common North Straits Salish language.
When European ships sailed through the Juan de Fuca and Georgia Straits, they came across 10 Lekwammen villages among what is now the shores of Greater Victoria. British explorer James Douglas welcomed the Lekwammen as new trading partners and set up a trading centre in 1842. Today, members of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations remain on nearby reserves, though they are smaller than their original territories.
Where to Go
The spirit of the Lekwammen people has an impact on life in Victoria. Here are a few places to explore as you learn about the city’s heritage, many of which can be accessed through the Vancouver to Victoria ferry.
The Royal BC Museum
This acclaimed museum acknowledges and celebrates the history of Victoria’s indigenous peoples. The museum features thousands of photographs, recordings, and objects showcasing the rich history of the First Nations. These items represent more than 10,000 years of the province’s history. The “Our Living Languages” exhibit is an interactive experience that reveals how Victoria’s indigenous people remained resilient even in the face of change.
The Victoria Indigenous Cultural Festival
Hosted by British Columbia’s Indigenous Tourism Association and the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations, the colourful yearly festival offers diverse cultural experiences. Visitors will enjoy three days filled with eclectic artwork and carvings as well as dancing, food, and storytelling. The celebration is held along Victoria’s Inner Harbour at the Royal BC Museum’s Mezzanine.
Take a Songhees Islands Cultural Tour
Led by Coast Salish elders, Victoria’s Aboriginal tours allow you to learn about indigenous plants and areas of interest. These tours often include wildlife watching or viewing Aboriginal performances and ceremonies. Some trips even incorporate whale watching along the southern and eastern waters of Victoria.
Discover the history and culture that makes Victoria a unique destination for adventurous travellers. For more information about sightseeing, outdoor activities, or BC ferries Vancouver Victoria, book your trip today via our website.