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
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