Tag Archives: Victoria BC

The Giant of Happy Valley

The giant of Happy Valley Esquivalt(?) [sic].  Sent to Professor Flower at Nat Hist Mus and returned to the owner Left McCallum. Source: British Museum.

“The giant of Happy Valley Esquivalt(?) [sic]. Sent to Professor Flower at Nat Hist Mus and returned to the owner Left McCallum.” Source: British Museum.

When I was looking for more information about the Coast Salish grave houses I pictured a few days ago, I ran into these images from the British Museum.  They show the torso and head of a large human figure, carved out of wood.  The height of the sculpture is 4 foot 9 inches, meaning the whole sculpture, assuming it once had legs, would have stood well over seven feet tall.  So, a giant indeed.  There is very little information about the sculpture, other than it comes from happy Valley, “Esquivalt” – clearly meaning Esquimalt – a neighbouring municipality to the west of Victoria.  The next municipality to the west is Colwood, and indeed it has a prominent “Happy Valley Road” running through it into Metchosin.  While at the first glance the sculpture doesn’t appear to be a typical NW Coast sculpture, I think there’s reason to at least consider that possibility.

[edit: be sure to see the comment from Pete at the bottom]

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Coast Salish Mausolea, Victoria, 1859

 Grave near Victoria on the harbour, 1859, by William Tyrwhitt-Drake.  Source: British Museum. Click for their record and verso.

Grave near Victoria on the harbour, 1859, by William Tyrwhitt-Drake. Source: British Museum. Click for their record and verso.

So, not long ago we had an excellent discussion here centered around Edward Richardson’s 1864 painting of a Coast Salish grave house or mausoleum.  I’ve recently come across another set of images of these places which are so important to First Nations. These images were painted by well-known early Victoria resident (and former mayor and Supreme Court of BC Justice)  Montague Tyrwhitt-Drake.  They’re pretty interesting paintings  from the early colonial period on southern Vancouver Island which I don’t recall seeing before.

The painting above clearly shows a small mausoleum, weighted with rocks on top, in front of which are two carved figures. The one on the right includes fishers or river otters, both of which have important spiritual significance in this area.  Each of these images has notes on the back, which are also reproduced at the British Museum site (click the image to go to the accession record). For this image, the notes aren’t transcribed, though maybe someone with better olde handwritinge fkills would care to have a go  As near as I can make out, the back reads:

This is another eccentric specimen of Indian taste for sculpture, it is equal to the finest specimens of _________  — see the elegant attitude of that man scratching his ?cheek bone, but a _____ ________ _______ would have mastered __________ a flight of ___________ imagination. The other is holding two dogs [sic] of a breed which I am afraid is lost to the present generation. This ______ are carved in wood and _____ ________ near a large grave of the family vault above ground ___________ .

It”s true, both sculptures are lively and naturalistic. In both cases, and the one below, there is apparently a rendering of face paint.  I’m sure those readers more knowledgeable than I will see a lot of interesting detail in these pictures.  Note the open prairie environment – anthropogenic Garry Oak meadow, no doubt.

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Interior of a Coast Salish Longhouse, 1864

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson.  Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives.  Click to enlarge.

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson. Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives. Click to enlarge.

Following on from the post about the Salish mausoleum, here is a companion painting by Edward Mallott Richardson from the same year, depicting the interior of a house.  It’s a curious painting, seemingly devoid of close detail.  Where are all the drying fish?!  But at the same time it shows some features of interest which may be worth discussing.  Note the fellow with the gun has a powderhorn, for example, and the basket behind him looks like one of those rectangular coiled ones, only with a tumpline, as shown by the woman entering on the left.  On the far right is a semi-conical object that might be a hat, sitting on a platform within a small compartment.

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A Coast Salish Mausoleum, 1864

A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca

A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca  Click to enlarge slightly.

“Grave House” is one of those archaeological terms which render slightly creepy a feature that is more or less an everyday experience: the mausoleum, a house for the dead, filled with coffins.

This is a fascinating image I hadn’t come across before: a very early image of a Coast Salish mausoleum.  It highlights the artistry and vividness of these features better than the few sketches or early photographs do. The accompanying text at the Canadian Archives is:

Subject depicts grave boxes in a grave house with guardian figures. The grave house is covered with a roof of wooden planks but has no walls. At the front of the house stands six guardian figures. There are flags to the left and right of the house. On the left hand side of the house a tent is set up and clothes are hanging. A shotgun hangs from the front beam of the house. Item was up for auction in the September 28, 1970 Christie’s sale in Calgary. Lot 31.

The image isn’t very high-resolution but there are still some things to talk about – and there is another Richardson painting I’ll link to in a day or two. (edit: here) Continue reading

ASBC Victoria September 18th 2012: Public talk on bedrock stone bowls by Beth Weathers

Stone Bowls in bedrock at Willows Beach, Victoria

Stone Bowls in bedrock at Willows Beach, Victoria. Photo courtesy of Beth Weathers.

Investigation into Intertidal Bedrock Bowls at Willows Beach, Victoria.

BETH WEATHERS

Tuesday Sept 18, 2012, 7:30 pm Pacific Forestry Centre,
506 West Burnside Road. map

Free and Open to the Public

Overview (via ASBC): In 2009, Beth Weathers was informed by a local resident that there were some “Indian Bowls” in a bedrock outcrop at Willows Beach in the Oak Bay area of Victoria. Upon investigation, Beth identified and recorded 27 bowls that have been ground into one granite outcrop near the mouth of Bowker Creek. These bowls, and others like them, will eventually became the topic of her MA thesis. Beth will present information and results to date from her studies into these fascinating ancient features.

Bio: Beth Weathers has worked as a professional archaeologist for over a decade, first in Cultural Resource Management consulting, then at the British Columbia Archaeology Branch, where she is still employed. She was also instructor and TA for two semesters at UVic during her spare time.

Note: At the completion of Beth’s presentation a brief period will be devoted to the Annual General Meeting business.

For information, e-mail asbcvictoria@gmail.com

PS: While we’re talking public talks, where is the Archaeology Forum going to be this year?

ASBC Victoria – Public Talk Tue Nov 15th: Duncan McLaren on Early Archaeology of the Central Coast

Duncan McLaren using Livingstone core on Castor Poop Lake on Porcher Island, B.C.. Daryl Fedje holds the leash.

Next up for the local (Victoria) branch of the Archaeological Society of B.C. is a Tuesday, November 15th talk by Dr. Duncan McLaren of Cordillera Archaeology and the Anthropology Department at University of Victoria.  Duncan’s highly successful  Ph.D. thesis was an interdisciplinary, geoarchaeological approach to the early occupation of the Dundas Island group on the northern B.C. coast. He is now in the early stages of applying a similar research program to the Central Coast of B.C., which promises great advances in knowledge.

The talk is free and open to the public, and you don’t need to be an ASBC member to attend.

Early Period Archaeology and Landscapes on the Central Coast of British Columbia

November 15th, 2011, 7:30 pm
Pacific Forestry Centre,

506 West Burnside Road (Map)

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

Burnt Embers blog: Oak Bay Cairns Mark Songhees History

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