The Sarita is the most important of the thirty-five rivers and creeks in Huu-ay-aht territory, and we call it The Heart of the People. Huge runs of salmon, numbering in the tens of thousands, supplied generations of our people with a secure and plentiful source of food. The river also permitted easy travel from the ocean to upland areas in Huu-ay-aht territory, and to elk, deer, bear, trout, lakes, camps, and sacred sites.
Huu-ay-aht histories record that for thousands of years the Sarita River was the location of numerous villages and other important sites. The most important is Nuumakimyiis, a traditional winter village located at the mouth of the river.
Near the mouth of the Sarita River, at the foot of Poett Heights mountain, there is a grove of red cedar that were once our primary source of wood and cedar bark. Today, this grove of cedar is remarkable for the scores of culturally modified trees (CMTs) that bear witness to the activities of generations of Huu-ay-aht. Some of the trees have scars where cedar bark was stripped away for use in basketry or clothing; other trees were felled to secure wood for making houses, canoes, boxes and many other items. The cedar in this grove form the largest known traditional forestry area in all of Huu-ay-aht territory.
Logging in the 1950s and 1960s reduced the natural buffer along the main channel of the Sarita River and also in the upper reaches of the watershed. This resulted in damage to fish habitat in the river through channel widening, the in-filling of pools, reduced surface flow, and the loss of woody debris.
In recent years, much has been done to mitigate this damage through the cooperative efforts of Huu-ay-aht First Nations and their partners.
You can learn more about these initiatives and the history of our territory on our YouTube Channel.