Stephen Hume has written some great columns on BC archaeology and history over the years and he comes out swinging in this recent piece:
Beside Highway 3 near Keremeos, a large glacial boulder has myths attached that extend far into B.C.’s past. It’s our own Stonehenge but it’s defaced with graffiti. Not far away, somebody jackhammered out of a cliff face one of the most significant ancient rock paintings in North America. Near Campbell River, another cultural site of great significance to first nations — the Big Rock — is also covered with graffiti. On Saltspring Island, effluent filters through a grave site with government approval. Near Qualicum, the bones of persons of great importance were mixed into paving material for a parking lot.
We pay lip service to first nations culture; we trot it out when we’re on the world stage — at the Olympics, for example — but our actions betray our venal hypocrisy. When conflicts arise between private commercial gain and public protection of our now-shared ancient heritage, money seems to trump culture almost every time.
I use the term “our” to describe this heritage because we are all citizens of B.C. together, first nations and settler society, fused by our braided history. We have one shared narrative in this province. It is composed of many stories. They begin not with the recent arrival of European adventurers or Asian monks but in a far more ancient past.
When we permit the desecration of important first nations sites, it’s our shared history that we abuse and our children’s legacies that we steal.
I am not convinced that the private member’s bill to which he is refers is the answer, and in any case it died on the vine – more on that later. And the BC Archaeology Branch is kept on a short leash through the expedient of under-funding. But I certainly appreciate Hume’s take-no-prisoners attitude – we need a few vocal bulldogs on the case. Incidentally, in a parallel universe to this blog, Hume’s brother is in a UVIC archaeology class right now, so maybe another bulldog can be raised – it seems to run in the family.
Notably, it looks like there is a move afoot to designate the Big Rock, spearheaded by Frank Assu of Cape Mudge. Let’s hope this succeeds, and maybe we won’t see it get dressed up again as a pumpkin.
Hume could have dug deeper and found that some of these boulders, including the Keremeos one was cleaned of its graffitti about 30 years ago by a joint initiative of the Archaeology Branch (not called that in those days) and the Royal BC Museum (also a new name). Unfortunately, the vandalism was repeated and we are at a place where the argument would be, if there were any money for such things, why bother spending it, we’ll just have to do it again.
Thanks for the interesting information, I didn’t know that. The easy answer is public education to respect these places plus fine the shit out of the vandals, but those are easy answers, easy to express and I wouldn’t know how to make either of them happen.
Maybe a razor wire fence around it with 2000 volts running through it would be a start.
When working with burial caves I used to dream of trip wires and loaded projectiles at their mouths. Too bad that “man-traps” are forbidden under the Criminal Code.
there is an amazing interactive article/photo in the NYTimes on ‘vandalized’ Nevada rockart:
I find this image fascinating for what it says about cultural marking, the vulnerability of heritage sites, how these successive markings represents “the guidance of work… through evidences of work previously accomplished” (albeit increasingly crude with the forward passage of time) and finally as a simple and effective way of interpreting that history using ‘new media’ photo tagging…
the link to the associated article is (if the above link is broken):
I found this post quite interesting as I was raised in Campbell River and Big Rock was a prominent landmark in the community. I agree that public education needs to be addressed. I was brought up being told that the Big Rock was the result of a Giant Grizzly Bear trying to jump to the Island and turning to stone as it touched the water, thus explaining the lack of grizzlies on the island. I was never told of its importance to the local First Nations, or what it might mean to them.
That being said, and pardon my ignorance, but weren’t these sites often used to mark passage routes, and pictographs used as a means of conveying “who” was travelling those routes? At the risk of being attacked by well developed arguments, couldn’t we say that the graffitti is continuing that tradition? I am by no means condoning the graffitti, however, whenever I return to visit my hometown, I always go to Big Rock to see what new graffitti has been added. It has become a spiritual place for me, and I am sure for many other residents, both past and present.