Origin of place name: Quadra Island historian and writer Jeanette Taylor notes that the name derives from the First Nation name for this place. In her book, Exploring Quadra Island, Taylor quotes Lekwala speaker George Quocksister, who translates this name as "you can walk through to the other side." An arm of Kanish Bay, Small Inlet, cuts east across Quadra Island almost to Waiatt Bay on the "other side" of the island. A trail connects Small Inlet with Waiatt Bay.
Kanish Bay is the site of an ancient First Nation winter village. On the north shore of Kanish Bay, near where it turns into Small Inlet, Taylor notes, in The Quadra Story, "The depths of the middens (refuse piles) in places like Heriot Bay and Waiatt Bay indicate they were winter villages in use for thousands of years. A site in Kanish Bay, at the northwestern entrance to Small Inlet, has a midden well over three metres (ten feet) deep."