History

Sechelt is the name of a town, a peninsula, an inlet, and a people. The town is a small community sitting on a sandbar, the narrow Sechelt isthmus which separates Sechelt Inlet from the Strait of Georgia. Named after the original First Nations people of the region, the Shíshálh, the word Sechelt means "land between two waters."

Indian legend has it that the creator gods were sent by the Divine Spirit to form the world. They carved out valleys leaving a beach along the inlet at Porpoise Bay. Later, the transformers, a male raven and a female mink, added details by carving trees and forming pools of water. The raven is an integral part of the Sechelt Indian Band's culture and is often seen in their carvings.

In the 1860's European missionaries first came to Sechelt, resulting in a devastating loss of as many as 90% of the Shíshálh population to smallpox.

Photograph
Sechelt in 1913 or 1915
Probably Photographed by Charles Bradbury
Courtesy of Helen Dawe Collection, Sechelt Archives
This shows the cemetary in the foreground and the church and town in the distance.

Starting in the 1920's, Europeans settled in larger numbers, building a store, a post office, hotels, a dance hall, sawmills, logging camps, wharves, and farms. A fleet of passenger steamship vessels connected Sechelt to the mainland. Union Steamship Company promoted Sechelt as a resort area, bringing passengers across to their wharves in Sechelt and Selma Park. Aside from tourism, Sechelt's economy was oriented primarily towards logging and fishing.

Photograph
Sechelt sometime between 1926 and 1935
Photographer Unknown
Courtesy of Helen Dawe Collection, Sechelt Archives
This shows the Sechelt wharf, along with the second hotel (R) and the fourth store (L) after earlier ones were destroyed by fire.

Surviving early buildings in Sechelt include the Rockwood Lodge (built in 1936) and its open air pavilion with beautiful gardens, and nearby Saint Hilda's Anglican Church (also built in 1936) and Sechelt Elementary School (built in 1939).

In 1952, Highway 101, which stretches from the Langdale ferry terminal to the Egmont ferry terminal, was completed and ferry service commenced. The Sunshine Coast reoriented to more car traffic and less boat traffic, with the result that Cowrie Street replaced Wharf Street as the heart of Sechelt, and Union Steamships made their last journey to Sechelt in 1959.

Photograph
Cowrie Street in the 1940's
Photographer Unknown
Courtesy of Helen Dawe Collection, Sechelt Archives
This shows the old gas station on the right hand side, Rockwood Lodge in the far distance, and Redmonds grocery at the near right.

In 1986, the Shíshálh people achieved the right for self government, one of the first Indian Bands in Canada to do so.

To learn more about the history of the Sunshine Coast, you can contact the Sechelt Archives and the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives.