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The Tla-o-qui-aht people, part of a group called the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, populated the Esowista peninsula long before Tofino got its name. The town was made known to the Western world by the Spanish explorer Bodega y Quadra, who in 1791 named his discovery of a nearby inlet for his Naval Academy teacher, Admiral Vicente Tofino de San Miguel. The area remained largely undeveloped until Vancouver Island’s first trading posts sprung up in the late 1800s. At this time a trading post called Clayoquot sprung up on nearby Stubbs Island. Tofino lacked infrastructure even as it was incorporated as a city in 1932, but a few decades later a road was finally built that connected the town to the rest of Vancouver Island.
Relatively little further development has taken place in the town, especially compared with the rest of Vancouver Island. Tofino’s appeal lies in its unadulterated nature: its relatively untouched national park, unpopulated beaches. The town’s symbol is an 800 year old cedar tree, the Eik Cedar, which the townspeople fought to preserve from being cut down several years ago. Indeed, preservation is the way of life here. It is still possible to take a wooden canoe out on the water and take part in traditional aboriginal culture, or watch the storms and experience a natural phenomena that is literally as old as time.