WFF ’21 Quick Review: ‘Tzouhalem’ is a Fascinating local legend

Our history is littered with stories of great men and women, figures that are larger than life and did incredible things. Being Canadian, most of the stories feature people from either Great Britain or France, but there were many nations of indigenous peoples here well before any colonists showed up. Tzouhalem tells the story of a larger than life figure on what we now call Vancouver Island, a warrior chief who was both a great man and a monster.

It’s not an understatement to say that the story of Tzouhalem (Ts’uwxilum), the man –namesake of a mountain, among other things– is fascinating and had a significant impact on local history. Raised by his grandmother after the rest of his family was killed in raids, he would go on to be an important war leader in a time when the population was being decimated by smallpox, and conflicts raged as a result. He defeated enemies, became famous, and later infamous.

The story is told by Howard Joe, a member of the Cowichan Tribes who grew up on stories of Tzouhalem and interviews with local historians and indigenous elders. It is a dynamic and changing story that gets right up to the border between history and legend. The result is a lovely slice of local history for anyone from British Columbia.

Rating: 3/5

Tzouhalem is playing as part of the 2021 Whistler Film Festival. It plays again in person on December 3rd and online from December 7th to 31st.

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