Cropped screenshot of detail of cairn marking Sahsima, south Oak Bay. Source: Burnt Embers blog; click to visit.
I recently have started following a wonderful new blog called Burnt Embers. It’s mostly a photo blog of the author’s surroundings – which appear to be deepest south Oak Bay, which is a municipality adjacent to Victoria, B.C. It’s a wealthy municipality not really known for being sensitive to archaeological concerns or First Nations history: for example, it’s the locale of the rather messy Esplanade controversy I documented last year (1, 2, 3).
Anyway, the blogger at Burnt Embers, one “ehpem”, has recently done a great service by bringing to light a series of attractive cairns, emblazoned with art by Tsartlip artist Charles Elliot (Temoseng), which pay tribute to Songhees and Straits Salish places, history, and names. As ehpem points out, Oak Bay Council has erected these cairns but provides no other information about them, whether on their website or anywhere else. They’ve been sort of bolted onto the Oak Bay landscape. No matter: ehpem has photographed them beautifully and assembled a great series of pages documenting each one and also created a google map which is really handy for getting around from cairn to cairn. The cairns are, in the order which ehpem documents them:
Sahsima – a transformer stone near the Chinese Cemetery. Sahsima, meaning “harpoon”, was the original name identified by Songhees elder James Fraser for the point where the Chinese Cemetery is located: Hayls the Transformer, with spirit companions, Raven and Mink, came by in his canoe, frightening away the seal the harpooner had been stalking. The harpooner rebuked them, Hayls turned him to stone as he stood there poised to throw the harpoon, saying “You’ll be the boss for seals … from Sooke to Nanaimo.” Continue reading
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Vancouver Island
Tagged blogs, burnt embers, Charles Elliot, Lekwungen, Oak Bay, photography, Salish, Songhees, Straits Salish, Temoseng, Victoria BC
UVIC students visiting "Aquattro Site" near Esquimalt Lagoon, 2008.
The next scheduled public talk of the Archaeological Society of BC, Victoria Chapter, will be held next Tuesday evening at 7.30 at the Pacific Forestry Centre, 506 West Burnside Road (map). The talk is free and open to any member of the public.
The talk is entitled Preliminary Investigation Results from DcRu-1151: A Locarno-Age Living and Processing Site at Esquimalt Lagoon, and will be given by local archaeologists Kristi Bowie and Kira Kristensen.
I had the pleasure of visiting this site while it was being excavated a few years ago. All signs were that the site included the remains of a house dating to between 2500 and 3500 years ago, the “Locarno Beach” period, though at that time the feature was not directly dated. Very little is known of domestic structures from this time and so the finds could be quite exciting. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this site, though it is doubtful I will be able to attend this talk due to the ongoing circumstances which also keep this blog running slowly. I am pasting in the abstract and speaker biographies below, or else click here for the PDF.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, fieldwork, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged ASBC, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Esquimalt, household archaeology, Salish, Songhees, Straits Salish
These darn, hidden sites that no one expects: archaeology at the Willows Beach Site, ca. 1990. (Not the MacKay Property) Source: Millennia Research 1990.
I apologize to readers from afar who may not be interested in the apparently parochial matter of a local woman’s encounter with archaeology on the Oak Bay waterfront, and the incomplete journalism which accompanied it.
But with the news Saturday (PDF*) that the Willows Beach landowner, Wendi MacKay, intends to appeal the earlier decision of Justice Fitzpatrick to the B.C. Court of Appeal, it becomes possible this case (previously 1, 2) will have repercussions for the practice of archaeology across the entire province. I hadn’t really thought about the implications of an appeal since, well, Fitzpatrick (section 33-38)] essentially says, “I would find the case in your favour if I could, but you gave up your rights to appeal, so I can’t.”
I might be calling wolf in my fears aired below.
But, bear with me.
Landowner Wendi MacKay in front of her house at DcRt-10. Source: Oak Bay News.
There is a new local newspaper article out on the Willows beach issue, below, which contains some important information and I think warrants new post. The article (PDF) from the Oak Bay News, confirms what was proposed in my previous post.
Namely, the archaeological work at the site did not cost anywhere near the $600,000 which was widely reported.
Archaeological site DcRt 10, Willows Beach, at 2072 Esplanade Avenue, in 2007. Source: Bruce Stotesbury, Timescolonist.com
Sorry for the lack of recent updates everyone, and also for jumping in with a “feel-bad” story, but since the Willows Beach site (DcRt-10) takes up a decent chunk of the most expensive waterfront near me, I was interested to read the coverage of a recent court judgment with an archaeological focus. The Times-Colonist‘s coverage is notable for an egregious misrepresentation in their opening sentence:
“An Oak Bay woman who built a house on an unregistered aboriginal midden has had her bid to recoup $600,000 from the provincial Archeology Branch struck down.”
This is true only for meanings of “unregistered” which include “a site recorded since approximately 1965, and subsequently the object of dozens of archaeological studies, including at least two on that very lot”. Sheesh.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged BC Archaeology Branch, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Oak Bay, Public Archaeology, Songhees, Victoria BC, Willows Beach
"Progressive Victoria" about to run over the Songhees. Was there ever a Songhees man with feathers in his hair, fringed buckskin, and a peace pipe? Source: Vincent's Victoria.
I mentioned it in a comment the other day so you may have seen it already, but there are a couple of great posts at the blog “Vincent’s Victoria“. The first post is the already-mentioned review of John Lutz’s talk “Getting the Indians Out of Town: Race and Space in Victoria’s History” – Victoria, British Columbia, that is, better known as World Headquarters to this blog. In Vincent’s post we find out about the slow process by which First Nations had their presence in the city core steadily reduced, mainly by moving the reserves, but through other means too. The post then discusses the “Signs of Lekwungen” project which I posted on before. it’s really a shame I didn’t hear about John’s talk until after he had given it – there are other talks in the series but his would have been the most interesting to regular readers here.
The second post is extremely interesting, as it uses editorial cartoons from the Victoria Daily Times newspaper to tell the story of the movement of the Songhees reserve in 1910.
Posted in archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged archives, british columbia, Esquimalt, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Songhees, Victoria BC, Victoria Daily Times
Signs of Lekwungen "Walk in Two Worlds", near corner of Fort and Wharf Street in Victoria. Source: Flickr.com user ngawangchodron
The city of Victoria in collaboration with the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations has fairly recently created a series of outdoor art installations which mark culturally-significant places. As the City’s online brochure explains,
Established in 2008, the Signs of Lekwungen (pronounced Le-KWUNG-en) is an interpretive walkway along the Inner Harbour and surrounding areas that honours the art, history and culture of the Coast Salish people who have resided in the Victoria area for hundreds of years.
The Songhees and Esquimalt Nations are part of the Coast Salish family and are descendants of the Lekwungen family groups. Lekwungen is the original language of this land.
The Signs of Lekwungen consist of seven unique site markers – bronze castings of original cedar carvings, conceptualized and carved by Coast Salish artist, Butch Dick. The markers depict spindle whorls that were traditionally used by Coast Salish women to spin wool. The spindle whorl was considered the foundation of a Coast Salish family.
Posted in First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged art, Butch Dick, Esquimalt, First Nations, Lekwungen, Songhees, Spindle Whorls, Victoria BC
Burial cairn on Race Rocks. Source: RaceRocks.com
While I was away over the summer the local free paper, the Victoria News, did a (to my mind) high quality series on reburial and respect in Songhees and Esquimalt communities (cache). The three articles by Lisa Weighton include comments from numerous aboriginal spiritual and political leaders, and sensitively describes how Straits Salish faith asserts that the dead are always with the living. The dead do not conveniently depart to some other place, but continue in a world alongside and intersecting the world of the living.
Hence ancestral remains are not something belonging to a past which can be “gotten over” but are very much part of the present world. Laying a person to rest, or back to rest after disturbance, requires food, clothing and prayer. I don’t pretend to understand the concept well, but I have been to some such ceremonies and the power of the moment is impossible to deny. In my limited experience the article fairly represents the spiritual and emotional needs that must be met under the sad circumstance of disturbing the dead. It is incumbent on archaeologists and all citizens to not only work to minimize disturbance of the dead but to respect traditional practices. It has been impressed on me that such practices are meant to protect us, the living, First Nations or not, as well as to give comfort and respect to the dead. This should now be considered absolutely part of mainstream archaeology.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, british columbia, Cultural Resource Management, Esquimalt, First Nations, reburial, repatriation, Songhees, Victoria BC
Detail of Capt. Vancouver's 1792 chart showing the "supposed strait of Juan de Fuca". Source: viHistory
vihistory is a web site designed to aid in historical research of Vancouver Island, at which it succeeds admirably. You should poke around and have fun with their census data and the other worthy, if dreary, pursuits it affords the serious scholar.
One feature which is not immediately clear on first glance, perhaps deliberately as has entertainment potential, is a large selection of very high-resolution maps and images which you can download from this page. The file sizes are large, of course, but increasingly that is less of an obstacle in the past. The maps are mostly of historic Victoria, but there are some regional maps such as telegraph and lighthouse maps of British Columbia, and a couple of maps of Nanaimo. As usual, I have surfed through the maps so you don’t have to – and some of them are remarkably fun, and informative.
Posted in anthropology, archives, First Nations, history, Miscellaneous, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Captain Vancouver, cartography, dioramas, Esquimalt, ethnohistory, Fort Victoria, history, maps, Nanaimo, Songhees, Victoria, Victoria BC
Victoria 1859. Source: LOC
In 1846, the Oregon Treaty established the boundary between British and American territory west of the Rockies (and unintentionally established the benchmark date for whether archaeological sites are automatically protected under the Heritage Conservation Act, but that’s another story). Vancouver Island was to remain in British hands in its entirety, but otherwise the 49th parallel was to be the boundary on land. The ocean boundary through the Salish Sea was resolved later, after the armed standoff on San Juan Island known as the “Pig War“. An International Boundary Commission was struck, with the mandate of surveying the 49th parallel and one of its base camp headquarters in 1858 and 1859 was Esquimalt. At this time, a series of photographs of the young Fort Victoria and surrounding buildings were taken, some of the earliest photographs from British Columbia I know of – including some remarkable pictures of First Nations people.
Posted in archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Boundary Commission, british columbia, Esquimalt, Fort Victoria, history, Library of Congress, Oregon Treaty, Songhees, Victoria, Victoria BC