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bryant DeRoy pic.jpg

Photo credit: Bryant DeRoy

The Xwulqw’selu Sta’lo’, Koksilah River Watershed, (the Watershed) is an historically, culturally, and economically important watershed located south of Duncan on Vancouver Island and lies within the traditional territories of Cowichan Tribes, Malahat Nation and other First Nations. The area known as Hwsalu-utsum (“Koksilah Ridge”) is central to Quw'utsun Origin stories and the watershed has been an important area for fishing, harvesting plants, hunting and more since time immemorial. Diverse interests rely on clean water in the Xwulqw’selu. The Watershed is home to insects, birds, animals, and regionally significant aquatic ecosystems and their fish species. Communities and governments alike are committed to cherishing and preserving this special place for the benefit of future generations. 

Learn more about the history of the Watershed and the communities and values it supports in our technical reports

Home to many species...

Many species live in relationship with the river. For an in-depth scientific review of the ecological and cultural character and condition of the watershed: 


There are many diverse values in the watershed: cultural, ecological, social, economic. The Watershed Plan will be focused on how to achieve the community's desired outcomes. This photo slideshow gives just a small taste of the diversity of community values in the Xwulqw'selu Watershed. 

Quw'utsun Spiritual Birthplace

“Thousands of years ago, Syalutsa, the first Quw’utsun’ person fell from the sky and landed near Koksilah ridge (Cowichan Tribes 2018). Not long after, he was followed by his younger brother, Stuts’un, who landed on Swuqus (Mount Prevost). Among the first lessons that Syalutsa and Stutsun were taught by the Creator was to perform kw’aythut (spiritual bathing) “in every little stream, river or lake” (Marshall 1999, p. 16) in order to connect with and learn from spirits, and the land upon which their lives depended. In addition to kw’aythut, Syalutsa taught his brother Stutsun to take only what is needed from the land. Together, these practices allowed the brothers to better understand their place in the world, a teaching that would be passed on to their descendants for generations to come. Evident from the Quw’utsun’ creation story, water is a powerful source of connection to the land, and spiritual bathing is a fundamental part of culture and identity… Having lived here for thousands of years, Quw’utsun’ territory including the Koksilah watershed, is full of places that imbue a combined sense of history, culture, identity and land stewardship.” (Pritchard et al., 2019, p.7)

"We have in each of our hearts and minds a commitment to the natural world, the same commitment that the natural world has made to us, in terms of our survival, our sustainability."  

-Former Chief Lydia Hwitsum at the May 2023 Xwulqw'selu Watershed Planning Agreement Signing

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