9040 Granville St, Port Hardy, BC V0N 2P0
Kwa'lilas Logo White

The History of Kwa'lilas Hotel

GilaKas’la! Welcome to Kwa’lilas Hotel, here is our story. Kwa’lilas is a kwak’wala word used by Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people meaning a place to sleep. A group of Elders chose this word in hopes that travelers and guests would find a peaceful rest after a day of exploration on Northern Vancouver Island.


Our History goes back over 12,000 years when our old people lived off the land and waters of our old countries. Traveling by sea between our villages allowed families to practice our culture through ceremonies like feasts, and potlatching. We also traveled to surrounding villages for trading and harvesting.

In 1964 the Canadian Government moved both the Gwa’sala and the ‘Nakwaxda’xw people from their traditional territories to the current location in Tsulquate – Port Hardy, traditional land that belongs to the Kwakiutl People.


The Gwa’sala and ‘Nakwaxda’xw are resilient people and the population is now over 1,000 strong and growing. On the reserve, we have our own school and health clinic. Families are again holding potlatches and our young people are learning to dance, sing, and speak their language.


In 2014 k’awat’si Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) was established to create opportunities for our future.

One opportunity is k’awat’si Tours – a Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw company that provides aboriginal cultural experiences and locally guided eco-tour adventures on the North Island.


The Kwa’lilas Hotel was built by our very own k’awat’si Construction company. The building makes extensive use of local cedar and the design is meant to resemble the traditional big house style with a smoke hole at the top of the building. Traditionally, when visitors see smoke coming from a big house, it means welcome.


You will find many expressions of our culture throughout our Port Hardy hotel including masks and designs by our artists. This is our way of sharing our history and legends and opening our hearts to welcome you to the North Island. Gila’kasla!


For more information about Kwa’lilas Hotel, including the signature copper art in the lobby, please visit our YouTube Channel. 


At center stage, the feature wall in the lobby of Kwa’lilas Hotel is a large, copper art piece. This stunning 18-footwide focal point depicts the history and the legends of the Gwa’sala Nakwakda’xw people. Look closely and you will find mythical creatures as well as respected Chiefs and elders who lived when the people still occupied their traditional territories.


The copper art piece is a magnum opus for Shain Jackson, the Coast Salish Artist who created it. Despite his acknowledgement that the artwork is seminal, it is also, in his words, simply the visual expression of the many stories told to him by the elders over a two- year period. He is proud to have been a conduit for creating the piece and helping to preserve their culture and history.