The Kwakiutl were originally one tribe of the Kwakwaka'wakw, the First Nations people of coastal British Columbia and the northeastern end of Vancouver Island. There were originally 28 different tribes, each with its own dialect, but many groups ended up merging. During the late 1700s, Europeans started referring to the Kwakwaka'wakw as the Kwakiutl. The name stuck because it was easier for the newcomers to remember and pronounce.
Evidence of the Kwakwaka'wakw people goes back at least 8,000 years. They lived in nomadic pole tents during summer as they fished, hunted and gathered throughout the region. In the winter, they lived in permanent timber-framed houses in village settlements, usually with large, centrally located longhouses built for ceremonials and other gatherings.
The potlatch, a popular tribal gathering among the Kwakiutl, was banned by the Canadian Federal Government in 1884. That ban lasted until 1982, when an article was added to the Canadian Constitution Act to protect First Nations culture and traditions. Due to this change, the Kwakiutl, along with other First Nations people, have experienced a revival of their language and culture.
Fishing is still an important industry among the Kwakiutl, and they fish commercially as well as for survival. Port Hardy and Campbell River, both noted fishing towns, have seen an influx of Kwakiutl people.