Cowichan (American Indians Ready Reference)
The Cowichan (the Cowichan included the Pilalt and Sumass) inhabited six villages on the lower course of the Cowichan River, on Malahat, and one village on Saanich Inlet. Permanent dwellings were large rectangular post-and-lintel constructions of split and hewn cedar. Households cooperated in numerous ceremonies and for mutual protection. The Cowichan were dependent upon a wide variety of marine products, some of which were stored for winter consumption and trade. The harpoon was used for sea mammals. Hunting and trapping of land mammals were the responsibilities of the men; women gathered a wide variety of food and utilitarian plants.
In 1775, the Bruno de Hezeta-Juan Franscisco de la Bodega y Quadra expedition became the first European American group to have contact with the Cowichan, and they brought smallpox with them. Malaria, measles, influenza, dysentery, and typhoid followed. Fort Langley prevented attacks by the Cowichan upon the Upper Stalo Salish, but they continued to fight with the Clallam, Lummi, and Musqueam. In the 1860's, the Cowichan encroached upon Pentlatch territory to use the Qualicum fishery.
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