As part of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation the Mowachaht ("people of the deer") territory includes Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island.
As part of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation the Mowachaht ("people of the deer") territory includes Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island. They are also known as the Nuu-chah-nulth, which is also the ethnolinguistic name for many Aboriginal communities with similar languages and culture on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The Mowachaht formerly consisted of two independent groups that amalgamated as a result of disease and prolonged warfare in the historic period. Their traditional territories include the outer coast of Nootka Island, Nootka Sound, Tahsis Inlet and Tlupana Inlet, and Yuquot and Coopte villages. Archaeological investigations reveal that Yuquot has been occupied by Aboriginal people for at least 4300 years.
Prior to the formation of the Mowachaht, the group at Yuquot was the first Nuu-chah-nulth people to have extensive contact with Europeans. They traded sea otter pelts with Capt James James Cook in 1778, and controlled all Aboriginal trade with his ships. Cook's crew found that the sea otter pelts could be sold for great profit in China, and a maritime fur trade in sea otter pelts began in 1785. Yuquot, known as Nootka and Friendly Cove, soon became a major trading centre. The Yuquot, led by Chief Maquinna, controlled the trade at Nootka Sound, and became wealthy and powerful. In 1789 a Spanish expedition built a military post at Yuquot, and seized British trading ships, resulting in the Nootka Sound Controversy. By the mid-1790s the trade declined at Nootka Sound. This may have influenced Maquinna to capture the trading ship Boston in 1803, ending the sea otter trade at Nootka Sound.
Reduction from prolonged warfare and European-introduced diseases caused many of the groups to amalgamate. In the 19th century the two Aboriginal groups of Tahsis and Tlupana Inlets joined, forming the Mowachaht. In the early 20th century the Muchalaht band officially merged with the Mowachaht band. Today the Mowachaht live at the village of Ahaminaquus, near Gold River, and at Yuquot. The combined population of the Mowachaht and Muchalaht in 2001 was less than 180 people.