Camas and Cairns

Lekwungen women harvesting camas bulbs on Beacon Hill. Illustration by Victoria graphic artist Gordon Friesen.

Lekwungen women harvesting camas bulbs on Beacon Hill. Illustration by Victoria graphic artist Gordon Friesen. (Edit: a bunch of their pictures are down, even on their site. Click to go to story)

Two small articles look at the archaeology of Beacon Hill Park in central Victoria.   Camas country includes charming illustrations and a knowledgeable write-up by Janis Ringuette, who also summarizes the remarkable story of how Beacon Hill Park workers consolidated a series of burial cairns (in the 1980s, no less), in order to facilitate mowing.  As she aptly notes:

Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman Geoff Young promised an interpretative sign. He said the Committee had been planning a marker well before the stones were “accidently disturbed.” He agreed a sign was needed because “They just look like ordinary rocks on the surface. It’s not a spectacular site. You have to know them.” Parks Director Al Smith said, “It’s going to be one of the more interesting features of the park, especially when we get the marker in place. We should have something showing the Indians were the original owners of the land.”

As of April, 2008, there was still no sign. Acknowledgment of more than 1,000 years of native occupation and use of Beacon Hill Park land is limited to one sentence–sandwiched between information about Roderick Finlayson and a gun emplacement–on a Finlayson Point monument. By contrast, at least thirty-six park monuments, markers and plaques focus on the white culture’s 162 year presence. Nine of those markers honour the British Royal Family.

Until the City of Victoria erects an interpretative sign, the aboriginal burial cairns will continue to be mistaken for ordinary rock piles.

For more information on Victoria-area Camas cultivation, consult Brenda Beckwith’s UVIC Ph.D. thesis (PDF download). For more on burial cairns to the south of Victoria, check out the cairns research page for Race Rocks, complete with video, by UVIC’s Own(tm) Darcy Mathews.

One response to “Camas and Cairns

  1. Pingback: World’s Tallest « burnt embers

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