New documentary explores history of West Coast tsunamis from Indigenous perspective
Our 11th Relative: tour starts during Tsunami Preparedness Week 2023
April 11, 2023


“We know in our family history that we are the survivors of the last big earthquakes, the big tsunamis.” Hesquiaht carver and painter, Tim Paul.

Learn about the rich history of tsunami resilience on the Pacific West Coast, and how combining traditional Indigenous Knowledge with ocean science can better prepare communities for the next “big one”, as shown in the new documentary Tsunami 11th Relative, which premieres during its Vancouver Island spring tour that starts this week.

The Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) supported documentary shares Indigenous Knowledge of past ‘great saltwater floods’ that reached northwest Vancouver Island, told through a tapestry of stories set against the backdrop of the rich, natural beauty of the island.

One of these stories includes a magnitude nine earthquake that occurred in the Cascadia subduction zone on January 26, 1700, producing a tsunami so large it reached the top of mountains. This knowledge has impacted modern practices such as communities’ installing back-up solar power generation on higher ground.

Pieter Romer, the documentary producer/director and ONC Indigenous Community Liaison, says Indigenous Peoples’ survival and adaptations in the face of past devastating earthquakes and tsunamis are woven into the stories handed down through generations.

“I learned from Nuu-chah-nulth artist, Tim Paul, who was taught by his grandmother, that sky, sun, moon, mountains, rivers, lakes, land, sea, wind and stars are all our relatives. Earthquake/Tsunami is our 11th relative which is intended to teach humility - remind us of our place in this world and that we are the very smallest part of this universe.”

This project also highlights the urgent need to record these stories as our Elders pass on, adds Romer who is a member of the Nisga'a Nation. “Generational knowledge is a critical component in tsunami risk assessment as it helps us see the whole picture and mitigate future impacts in our communities,” he says.

The Indigenous communities within the study area include the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h’ First Nations, Nuchatlaht First Nation, Ehattesaht/Chinehkint First Nations, Quatsino First Nations, and Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations. Community members and elders shared their stories, teachings, and oral histories for this documentary, including but not limited to the major 1700 and 1964 tsunamis that occurred in their territories.

Tsunami 11th Relative stems from the Northwest Vancouver Island Tsunami Risk Project, a collaborative initiative led by Strathcona Regional District in partnership with five First Nations, ONC, four municipalities, two regional districts and several private and provincial stakeholders.

The documentary explores the science behind hazard tsunami mapping, with representatives from ONC, Northwest Seismic Consultants and Northwest Hydraulic Consultants explaining how modeling the sea and land surface can help determine the speed and inundation of tsunami waves under different scenarios. The project utilizes a two-eyed seeing framework, and its results are informing strategies for emergency management and risk reduction.

In the documentary Tsunami 11th Relative, ONC GIS specialist Mark Rankin explains how integrating geographic mapping into sophisticated propagation models allows communities to prepare safety plans for expected inundation levels and current velocities.

Tsunami 11th Relative is on tour this spring across Vancouver Island, screening within communities as part of giving back and gratitude for the knowledge shared for the tsunami risk assessment project. Tickets: Free

A Media Kit with high resolution photos is available.

Watch a preview of the documentary here.


Date Time Location
Friday, April 14 6:30 - 8:30 PM Port Alberni Echo Rec Center Cedar Room, Port Alberni
Saturday, April 15 6:30 - 8:30 PM Port Alice Community Centre, Port Alice
Sunday, April 16 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM Quatsino Bergh Cove Organic Schoolyard, Quatsino
Tuesday, May 2 6:30 - 8:30 PM Kyuquot Elementary Secondary School Gymnasium, Strathcona
Wednesday, May 3 6:00 - 7:30 PM Oclucje Band Office Upstairs #13 Upper Level Road, Comox-Strathcona
Thursday, May 4 12:00 - 1:30 PM and 6:30 - 8:00 PM Community Hall 161 Maquinna Avenue, Zeballos BC
Friday, May 5 7:00 - 9:00 PM Tidemark Theatre, Campbell River
Saturday, May 6 2:00 - 3:30 PM House of Unity, Tsa’xana
Saturday, May 6 7:00 - 8:30 PM Gold River Community Hall (Arena Building)
Sunday, May 7 2:00 - 3:30 PM and 6:00 - 7:30 PM Tahsis Recreation Centre Gym, Tahsis
Wednesday, June 7 7:00 PM Vic Theatre, Victoria

11th Relative was produced by Ocean Networks Canada with cinematography/editing by Geordie Trifa and funded by The Lake Family’s All One Fund.

Media contacts:
Pieter Romer (Indigenous Community Liaison, Ocean Networks Canada) at 250-216-2207 or
Dorothy Eggenberger (Senior Communications Officer, Ocean Networks Canada) at 250-882-4826

Ocean Networks Canada, an initiative of the University of Victoria, acknowledges and respects the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples on whose traditional territory the university stands and the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day. A message from Songhees Elder Elmer George welcoming visitors to these traditional lands of the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ people is available on the UVic website.

ONC communications services

Feature image: K'aka'win (word for Orca in Nu-chah-nulth language) petroglyphs in Sprout Lake Provincial Park, BC. Some oral histories attribute the orca’s presence in the lake to a mega-tsunami. More info. Credit: Pieter Romer

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