Possessing Meares Island

Possessing Meares Island

A Historian's Journey into the Past of Clayoquot Sound

Barry Gough


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A fascinating account that links early maritime history, Indigenous land rights, and modern environmental advocacy in the Clayoquot Sound region by award-winning author and historian Barry Gough.

Centred on Meares Island, located near Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast, Possessing Meares Island weaves a unique history out of the mists of time by connecting eighteenth century Indigenous-colonial trade relations to more recent historical upheavals. Gough invites readers to enter a dramatic epoch of BC’s coastal history and watch the Nuu-Chah-nulth nations spearhead the maritime sea otter trade, led by powerful chiefs like Wicaninnish and Maquinna. Eventually, Meares Island declines into an economic backwater due to overhunting the sea otter, the bloody Clayoquot War of 1855, and most importantly, the proxy of empire—the Hudson’s Bay Company—establishing colonial roots in nearby Victoria. Caught up in the tides of change, the Treaty of 1846 ushers in a new era as the island is officially declared property of the British crown.

Gough bridges the gap between centuries as he describes how the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council draw on this complicated history of ownership to invoke their legal claim to the land and defend the majestic wilderness from the indiscriminate clear-cut saw. Possessing Meares Island will not only appeal to history buffs, but to anyone interested in a momentous triumph for Indigenous rights and environmental protection that echoes across the nation today.


Barry Gough:

Barry Gough is one of Canada’s premier historians and biographers. His insightful research and lucid writing spanning five decades have earned him high distinction. Among his awards are the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing, the Canadian Historical Association’s Clio Prize, the Maritime Foundation’s Mountbatten Award, the Washington Historical Society’s Robert Gray Medal, and the Alcala Galiano Medal. He is a Fellow of the Society for the History of Discoveries. He lives in Victoria, BC, with his wife, Marilyn.