The Massacre at Whiffin Spit depicted by artist Willow Planes Dodge in the book The Sooke Story. (Sooke Region Museum).

SOOKE HISTORY: Whiffin Spit’s many lives

First Nation elder recalls Massacre of Whiffin Spit

Elida Peers | Contributed

The narrow reach of land, known as Whiffin Spit, that almost encloses Sooke Inlet has seen many different histories.

The first that we know of was when the First Nations used it as a lookout post to protect their encampments within the inlet.

While Spain’s Manuel Quimper, in the captured Princesa Real, rounded the spit to enter the harbour in 1790, and the British Royal Navy’s HMS Herald surveyed the entire inlet in 1846, these excursions did not leave much visible effect.

When J. H. Todd established the headquarters for the fishtraps industry within the harbour in 1904 and used the spit as a place to store the fishtraps pilings each winter, this would have been the first industrial use.


For the past half-century, we have come to understand and value the natural beauty of this marine feature, and today countless thousands enjoy walking along this route, in all seasons, and all weather.

Some of us grew up listening to stories told by elders of the T’Sou-ke nation. When the museum was compiling the history of Sooke in 1999, we asked a T’Sou-ke artist, Willow Planes Dodge, a granddaughter of Ida Lazzar Planes, to illustrate one of the most prominent legends of Whiffin Spit, the Massacre of the T’Sou-ke people.

“There was a night when a war party of Clallams came from across the strait in stealth, and struck en masse, leaving only a mother called Hoy-U-Whit, and two sons who escaped to a cave in the hills … the trio laid their plans for revenge, watching a group of Clallam warriors that remained feasting on Whiffin Spit, guarding their spoils.

“The elder of the sons would begin the revenge by swimming across the basin to reach the eastern shore, at a spot opposite from Whiffin Spit. The mother and younger son would go to the base of the spit and wait for the elder son to give the signal – he would hoot like an owl. On the far shore, the son hooted three times, and when he had swum across the channel to creep up on the Spit itself, he gave one long hoot for his mother and brother to proceed.

“Each armed with a club, the mother and sons crept stealthily from group to group, killing or maiming every Clallam but one. It was that one warrior, the story tells, that carried the tale back across the strait to his own territory.”


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New crop of hand-crafted heats popping up across Saanich

Community arts program promotes wellness, sends message of caring from people of all ages

Oak Bay couple honoured for 35 years volunteering

Mayor awards distinguished Oak Leaf to Bert and Doris Dinsmore

Hospital foundation president praises generosity of Peninsula residents

Karen Morgan said support during COVID-19, financial and otherwise, has been touching

Meet the Liberal candidate for Oak Bay-Gordon Head

Roxanne Helme about ‘governance, not politics’

New Democrats on Saanich Peninsula still looking to announce candidate

While BC Liberals have nominated Stephen Roberts, New Democrats have not yet announced candidate

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

Most Read