naaʔuu feast puts traditional Tla-o-qui-aht food on culinary map


Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (Tofino, BC) — Roberta Tom is on a mission. You may know other world cuisines, but Tom wants to introduce the traditionally inspired cuisine of her people, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, to the world.

“I wanted to show the world that we know about Chinese food. We know about Italian food. We eat all those kind of foods when we go out and about. But I never see any restaurants that would do the food that's from our area," she says. "That was my dream.”

WATCH: Roberta Tom, on the traditional inspirations behind her culinary creations  

Watch naaʔuu feast puts traditional Tla-o-qui-aht food on culinary map on YouTube.

As the caterer for naaʔuu, a new Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation cultural dinner experience, Roberta Tom is now realizing her dream, bringing Tla-o-qui-aht Indigenous foods to the forefront on the traditional unceded homeland of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (commonly known as Tofino), for the spring 2024 edition of naaʔuu running this May-June 2024.

enter to win: you could win a naaʔuu experience, including a stay at Tin Wis Resort - keep reading for details.

Tom, whose name in Tla-o-qui-aht is Shewish kis (which means “She’s always so hospitable. Always welcoming people on her shores”), was born in Tofino, grew up in Port Alberni, and returned to the coast to cook when she was 19 years old. 

She is now a mother and grandmother, bringing generations of knowledge of the Vancouver Island Indigenous foods to her cooking for the naaʔuu events. 

Roberta Tom, in the kitchen.

Pulling flavours from the Tla-o-qui-aht lands, and cooking techniques from her elders, the menu will include local salmon, fresh oysters, scallops, snapper, shrimp, root vegetables, berries, and breads.

Photo: Bryanna Bradley
One of Roberta Tom's dishes that will be served during the naaʔuu 2024 event run.

“I have been taught by my mother and my grandmother, my grandparents about food and about the importance of food and the way we have harvest in different locations, different seasons. 

We take what we need, and that's all. And then if we have extra, we share. We're taught how to cook, we're taught different ways to cook the food.”

Experience Tla-o-qui-aht culture and cuisine at naaʔuu 2024—get tickets now

Attending naaʔuu creates an opportunity for those visiting the Tofino area to be immersed in a tangible cultural experience, and bring consciousness to the long standing presence of First Nations on Vancouver Island. The naaʔuu events will create accessibility for guests looking to learn about traditional Tla-o-qui-aht culture, and in making Indigenous food more accessible in Tofino. 

“I want people to know this is what we do. This is how we eat. We eat the fish from the head to the tail. We don't waste any part of the fish” Roberta explains. 

Ivy Martin and Carl Martin, harvesting food on Tla-o-qui-aht homelands.
Sharing a laugh while digging oysters.
Tla-o-qui-at food is rich in west coast staples.

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation's Carl Martin explains, “when I collect clams, I collect clams for my uncles, aunts, my grandmothers. I don't just get it for me, but like I said, we don't ever over harvest. Never, ever, doesn't matter what you're doing. 

We have respect for the creatures, the land, water.”

Photo: Bryanna Bradley
Carl Martin harvesting seafood along the shores of Tla-o-qui-aht homelands.

Martin adds, “Food is very important because the land took care of us, and we take care of the land.” 

With the variety of cultural components woven into the naaʔuu experience, from food to art to music and storytelling, the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation hopes to encourage a revolution to bring people back to the land, back to the Tla-o-qui-aht culture, back to the heart of the First Nations on Vancouver Island. 

Roberta explains, “The stories that we have keep our tradition going, keep our culture going, keep our ancestors who taught us all this going. The importance of being connected through the waters, through the oceans, the lakes, the rivers, the air, and your backyards.

By eating food together and telling the story, we're going to remember that story for the rest of our life."

When you Go 

The Tin Wis Resort is a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation-owned beachfront hotel located in Tofino (within Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s homelands) located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. 

getting there  

access to Tofino is a BC Ferries adventure away from Vancouver or direct flight from YVR with Pacific Coastal Airlines. 

where to stay

Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort (Tla-o-qui-aht owned and operated) is offering a naaʔuu packaged stay, with discounts on your event tickets with a hotel booking. To book, go to the Best Western Tin Wis site, and select your naaʔuu dates to find the best offers.

Tsawaak RV Resort & Campground is for the nature lovers who want to stay outdoors or bring your own accommodations. Situated right next to Tin Wis Resort, and also operated by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. Phone the resort at 250-266-5015 to book your naaʔuu package directly. 

Tofino Resort & Marina is offering 15% off for guests booking their naaʔuu package

Pacific Sands Beach Resort is offering 10% off of the ticket price for guests booking their cultural package

Learn more about naaʔuu through this Vancouver Sun review

Tla-o-qui-aht legacy of nature preservation
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is Canada’s most storied First Nations, home to a ground-breaking Indigenous lands rights settlement after one of the country’s biggest civil uprisings, known as “the war in the woods.” 

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