Ditidaht First Nation is part of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Their traditional territory is located on the West Coast along the southern part of Vancouver Island.

Ditidaht traditional territory.
(courtesy Victor Temprano/Native-Land.ca)

Social Organization

Prior to the time of European contact in the late 1780s, the people now known as Ditidaht ("Nitinat") were a loose alliance of at least 10 autonomous local groups with neither tribal nor confederacy organization. Warfare and disease in the early historic period resulted in greater unity among the surviving local groups as villages were raided, people were killed, and some groups became extinct. Change in territories took place as groups disappeared or amalgamated with others. The local groups comprising the Ditidaht consisted of a number of people occupying a specific geographical area and centred around chiefs and their families. Each group was designated by the name of its main village's location, scattered along the west coast of Vancouver Island between Bonilla Point and Pachena Point, and inland along Nitinat Lake and east to include Cowichan Lake. In the 1890s, 17 Ditidaht villages and seasonal camps were designated as Ditidaht Reserves.


The Ditidaht people speak Nitinaht or Ditidaht, a distinct language, separate from that spoken by the Nuu-chah-nuulh (formerly Nootka) to the north, but closely related to that of the Pacheenaht, their southeastern neighbours on Vancouver Island, and to the Makah across the Juan de Fuca Strait (see Aboriginal Languages of Canada). Ditidaht is part of the Wakashan language group.


At present the only full-time occupied Ditidaht village is situated at Malachan, a settlement situated at the head of Nitinat Lake. Ditidaht people are also located in surrounding towns and cities. Prior to the mid-1960s Ditidaht people occupied several villages along the open coast, but when the coastal freighter supplying these villages ceased operating in the 1950s, the modern village of Malachan was established and the people moved up the lake to be closer to roads and other services. Despite their change in residency, Ditidaht people have continued to use the coastal resources, particularly fish and seafoods. In 2010, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development reported 727 registered Ditidaht in Canada.


Traditionally, Ditidaht chiefs held rights to the fish, roots and other food resources within their territory. The chiefs also held the weir-trap prerogatives on the major salmon streams. So strict were these property rights that poachers were killed for serious infractions, although theft of plant foods would result only in confiscation of the illegal harvest. Some high-status people held rights to certain salmon-harpooning sites or rocks where particularly good seafood could be harvested.


Ditidaht families also held rights to intangible property called "tupaat" (pronounced "too-paht"). Tupaat is an hereditary privilege or prerogative that often refers to ceremonial privileges that were frequently part of marriage dowries. Ditidaht tupaat consisted of songs, dances, games, history, crests and gear that continue to be displayed at potlatches. Music is an integral part of Ditidaht community events and singers and composers are active in promoting a rich ceremonial life. Family-sponsored dinners, weddings and memorials are occasions at which singers and dancers perform. Old, traditional songs are being learned and a few new songs have been composed and introduced.


Economic development in the 1990s included business development joining the Ditidaht, Ohiaht and Pacheenaht First Nations with Parks Canada to provide long-term employment opportunities for Aboriginal people in the maintenance, interpretation and marketing of the Westcoast Trail within Pacific Rim National Park. Campgrounds on Ditidaht Reserves constitute part on the trail facilities. Cultural tourism supports other Ditidaht-owned businesses, including a motel, store and gas station situated at Malachan. A salmon hatchery, commercial fishing and crabbing, as well as logging and value-added forestry provide other employment. Comanagement of resources within Ditidaht territory is a long-term objective; a Ditidaht Fisheries Warden participates fully with Department of Fisheries personnel in planning and regulation enforcement.