Cortes Island was traditionally used by the Klahoose First Nations for thousands of years before the European settlers began arriving, the Island’s resources still are very important to their cultural and economic well-being.
Squirrel Cove was one of the summer places the Klahoose have used for many years, each spring they would harvest shellfish and berries. They also planted and harvested gardens here before heading back to Toba in the Fall where they had their main village. Then in the late 1890s, they relocated from Toba Inlet to Squirrel Cove.
The first white settlers on Cortes was Michael Manson, his brother John and a friend, George Leask, all of whom preempted land in the late 1880s. At that time there were no roads, no buildings, and no steamship service to or from Cortes. When you needed to get somewhere in those days, it was by rowboat or dugout canoe.
John would deliver meat orders to logging camps, rowing to these locations, on one occasion he rowed 150 km each way to the head of Knight Inlet and back again to bring out two schoolgirls to board at the Manson’s home, this would raise the number of available pupils to the number required to open a school on the island. These folks were true pioneers, as tough as the land around them.
Cortes Island is a large island but only the southern half is populated leaving large wilderness areas on the island. The permanent population of about 1000 is scattered sparsely with concentrations on the south end near Manson’s Landing, The Gorge, a largely protected inland waterway entered through a narrow cliff entrance, and the Whaletown and Squirrel Cove areas. It’s a great place.