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Language Family: Wakashan

Dialects: Northern Nuučaan̓uɫ, Barkley, Central Nuučaan̓uɫ

Language known as: Nuu-chah-nulth, Nootka, Nootkans, West Coast, Aht

The Nuučaan̓uɫ (Nuu-chah-nulth) language is spoken by 13 First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The ha’houlthee (chiefly territories) of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, or tribes, stretches along approx. 300 kilometres of the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island, from Brooks Peninsula in the north to Point-no-Point in the south, and includes inland regions 1. Although there are at least three recognizable dialects of the Nuučaan̓uɫ language, they are all mutually intelligible.

State of the Language

First Nation Population Fluent Speakers Understand or Speak Somewhat Learning Speakers
ʔiiḥatis (Ehattesaht)6410121018
Ka:'yu:'k't'h' / Che:k:tles7et'h'7540271559
Mowachaht / Muchalaht860161423
Nuchatlaht First Nation1725unknownunknownunknown
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation91100204028
Toquaht First Nation101400550
Tseshaht First Nation11106052625
Uchucklesaht Tribe12113211
Ucluelet First Nation13652102248


Northern Nuučaan̓uɫ

This dialect is spoken by the northern Nuučaan̓uɫ First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island from Brooks Peninsula to Kyuquot Sound.


This dialect of Nuučaan̓uɫ is spoken in the areas in and around Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Although there are differences in vocabulary and pronunciation between the Nuučaan̓uɫ spoken by Barkley dialect speakers and the Central dialect speakers to the north, they can still understand each other14. The same cannot be said about their Ditidaht neighbours to the south. Although Ditidaht and Nuučaan̓uɫ are related languages, they are not mutually intelligible.

Central Nuučaan̓uɫ

Central Nuučaan̓uɫ is a dialect of Nuučaan̓uɫ spoken by the First Nations from Kyuquot Sound to Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The differences between Nuučaan̓uɫ dialects is small and do not hinder mutual intellibility. Most differences are in terms of different vocabulary and changes in vowel sounds14.

There is sometimes confusion between the Central Nuučaan̓uɫ dialect and the Nuu-chah-nulth Central Region. The Nuu-chah-nulth Central Region is an administrative area that includes five first nations that speak two dialects of Nuučaan̓uɫ.

Footnotes / References
1. Copied from the NTC homepage:
2. Language Data from Ahousaht Education Authority (2011), Language Needs Assessment #2506
3. Language Data from Hesquiaht Language Program (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3311
4. Language Data from Port Alberni Friendship Centre (2010), Language Needs Assessment #1802
5. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (2008). First Nation Registered Population.
6. Language Data from Ehattesaht Chinehkint Tribe (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3226
7. Language Data from Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School (2013), Language Needs Assessment #2981
8. Language Data from Mowachaht./Muchalaht (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3412
9. Language Data from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3430
10. Language Data from Toquaht Nation (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3318
11. Language Data from Tseshaht First Nation (2014), Language Needs Assessment #2483
12. Language Data from Uchucklesaht Tribe (2011), Language Needs Assessment #2297
13. Language Data from Yuutu it ath First Nation (2014), Language Needs Assessment #3290
14. Huuʔaciyuk̓ʷap Ciqy̓ak & Towagh Behr (2002). Hooves, Fins and Roots.