June 15th, 2018

Home to old growth forests, local craft beer, and world class surfing, Tofino is also an important historical point on Vancouver Island. An important hub for early settlers, it is also of particular historical note to indigenous peoples of the island. The town is now a popular tourist destination for people from all walks of life, from vacationing islanders to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who, as Vancouver Islanders will remember, famously photo-bombed a wedding in Tofino in August of 2016 while he was on a surfing trip).


Dating back to the 16th century, Tofino is home to the Wickaninnish peoples. The importance of these peoples to the island’s First Nations history is seen in the name: the name “Wickaninnish” means “having no one in front of him in the canoe” or “no one goes before him.” Chief Wickaninnish was so influential and powerful that by the end of the 18th century, descendants of his line were the undisputed rulers of much of Vancouver Island. More than 13,000 First Nations people lived within his territories, which stretched from Estevan Point to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Today, Chief Wickaninnish and his descendants are remembered in the Wickaninnish Inn, an eco-resort that strives to harmonize with nature, and which is decorated by woodwork of the late master-carver Henry Nolla.


An important area for indigenous peoples, Tofino was also a stop for early settlers arriving to Canada. One such settler who left a lasting impact was the woman who came to be known as Cougar Annie, a fiercely independent woman who lived a long life often in near isolation about two hours outside of Tofino. Having come to the area with her first husband in 1915, Annie raised eight children, outlived four husbands, and then spent much of her life alone in the rugged wilderness, shooting enough cougars (to protect her livestock) to earn her the appellation “Cougar Annie.”


With a vibrant cultural heritage and diverse historic past involving people from multiple traditions and locales, Tofino has something to offer a wide variety of people. The town boasts everything from world class resorts to adventure tourism and, of course, surfing––the best in Canada. It is, perhaps, little wonder that tourists flock to marvel at the small West Coast community’s laid back feel, rich culture, and its breathtakingly beautiful wilderness.

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