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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Posted in Archaeology, archives, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Esquimalt, graves, mausoleum, mortuary, painting, sculpture, Songhees, Victoria, Victoria BC, William Tyrwhitt-Drake
Cover of Dan Savard's new book. The RBCM caption reads: "This man has been variously identified as a chief from four different areas of BC’s interior, including possibly Tyee Jim from the central interior (tyee means “chief” in Chinook, a trade language). John Wallace Jones or Thomas McNabb Jones photograph, about 1897." Source of this photo: Amazon.ca
There is an exciting new book in the pipeline on early photography and First Nations of the historic period. The author, Dan Savard, is senior collections manager of the Royal BC Museum’s anthropology audio and visual collection. The promotional blurb reads:
On a winter’s day in 1889, Tsimshian Chief Arthur Wellington Clah visited Hannah and Richard Maynard’s photography studio in Victoria to have his portrait taken. “Rebekah ask if I going likeness house,” Chief Clah wrote in his diary, “So I go, to give myself likeness. Rebekah stand longside me.” In Images from the Likeness House, Dan Savard explores the relationship between First Peoples in British Columbia, Alaska and Washington and the photographers who made images of them from the late 1850s to the 1920s.
I won’t be here (have some bottom sampling to attend to in Haida Gwaii), but Dan is giving a free public lecture and will sign copies of his book next week at the RBCM.
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Posted in anthropology, archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, pics
Tagged First Nations, photography, Public Education, RBCM, Royal BC Museum, Victoria, 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.
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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.
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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
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.”
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