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Penelakut Indians

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A small tribe of Salishan stock, speaking a dialect of the Cowichan language and occupying a limited territory at the south end of Vancouver Island, B.C., with present reservations on Kuper, Tent, and Galiano Islands and at the mouth of Chemainus River, included in the Cowichan agency. From disease and dissipation introduced by the coasting vessels of early days, from changes consequent upon the influx of white immigration about 1858, and from the smallpox visitation upon Southern British Columbia in 1862, they are now reduced in number from 1000 of a century ago to about 250, of whom 140 live at the Penelakut village. They depended upon the sea for subsistence, and in their primitive customs, beliefs, and ceremonials resembled their kindred, the neighbouring Songish, and the cognate Squawmish about the mouth of Fraser River on the opposite coast. Some of them may have come under the teaching of Fr. Demers and the Jesuits as early as 1841, but regular mission work dates from the arrival of the secular priest, Fr. John Bolduc, who was brought over by the Hudson Bay Company in 1843 to minister to the Indians about the newly established post of Camosun, now Victoria. The mission work of the Oblate Fathers in the Vancouver and lower Fraser River region began with Fr. Paul Durieu in 1854. Like most of the Salishan tribes of British Columbia they are now entirely Catholic and of exemplary morality. The Penelakut live by fishing, boat building, farming, labouring work, and hunting; have generally good health and sanitary conditions, fairly good houses, kept neatly, and well-cared-for stock and farm implements. They are an "industrious and law abiding people, temperate and moral, a few of them only being addicted to the use of liquor". The centre of instruction is a Catholic boarding school maintained on Kuper Island. (See also SAANICH, SONGISH, SQUAWMISH.)


BANCROFT, History of British Columbia (San Francisco, 1887); Dept. Ind. Affairs, Canada, annual repts. (Ottawa); Reports on the Norhwestern Tribes of Canada by various authors in British Association for the Advancement of Science (London, 1885-98).

About this page

APA citation. Mooney, J. (1911). Penelakut Indians. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Mooney, James. "Penelakut Indians." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Dorothy Haley.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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