Grand Chief N’Kwala
June 20, 2021
Hwistesmexe’qen, known more commonly as N’Kwala or Nicola, was a 19th-century Indigenous leader who exemplified fatherhood.
Family & Kinship
Chief N’Kwla had 50 of so children of his own, and he was also responsible for the wellbeing of many others through his roles as Grand Chief of the Okanagan Peoples and Chief of the Nicola Valley Peoples.
N’Kwala was born circa 1785 at either the head of Okanagan Lake or near Nicola Lake to Okanagan Chief Pelkamu’lox and an unknown Stuwi’x woman.
N’Kwala became Grand Chief of the Okanagan Peoples after his father was killed in 1822. He was later granted the title of Chief of the Nicola Peoples following the death of his uncle Kwali’la.
Over the course of his life, it is believed that N’Kwala had up to 15 wives who came from different tribes across the Interior.
Chief N’Kwala was never photographed but his legacy is still felt today. Vernon’s N’Kwala Park at 5440 MacDonald Road was named after him.
A Renowned Peacemaker
Among both his People, and the fur traders and gold miners who entered the Valley, N’Kwala developed a reputation for “sagacity, honesty, prudence and fair dealing, and was rather a peacemaker than a fighting man.” Of all of the era’s Southern Interior Chiefs, N’Kwala was said to have the most power and influence.
N’Kwala passed away in the fall of 1859. He was succeeded by his nephew Tsilaxitsa. N’Kwala had raised his nephew since infancy, following the death of his mother during childbirth, and Tsilaxitsa followed many of his uncle’s philosophies during his own chieftaincy. Today, N’Kwala’s legacy lives on: hundreds of his descendants continue to live in B.C.’s Southern Interior and adjoining regions of the United States.