Monday, November 27, 2017

"Ready for the cast--Qagyuhl" - Edward Curtis photograph 1914.

photo credit: Edward Curtis, November 1914.

This photo is entitled "Ready for the cast--Qagyuhl" and depicts two Kwakiutl men in a canoe preparing to spear fish. Local Northern Vancouver Island Indigenous peoples were hunter gatherers, often travelling great distances by canoe to procure seasonal harvests. Local fish, at low tide, were an important staple of the diet. Many species of fish and even octopus were harvested by hook and line and by spear. Edward Curtis was an ethnologist and photographer who traveled around North America documenting the lives of Indigenous people in the early 1900s. He made a number of trips to Northern Vancouver Island and also produced the movie "Land of the Headhunters" featuring local Indigenous peoples. He took many photographs of local Indigenous peoples going about their daily life in the early 1900s.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Nimpkish Camp "A" at Anutz Lake

In the days before the highway system on the North Island, forestry and mining workers used to live in a series of 'camps' which in many cases have been reclaimed by the North Island wilderness.
Nimpkish Camp A was located at Anutz Lake, where a campsite is still situated today. At one time this community included single men's bunkhouses, a cook house, a large number of married quarters and a large shop. Originally build to house those employed in the logging industry, in the 1950s the community also became home to workers at the Nimkish Iron Mine. Many North Islanders have fond memories of growing up in these camps.

Family Quarters - Nimpkish Camp A - 1944

Sointula - Circa 1910

In the late 1800s a group of Finnish miners at Nanaimo were growing frustrated with their working conditions, and formed a temperance society, which was a socio-political group that allowed them the freedom to discuss their frustrations and aspirations in Canada.
The miners decided that they aspired to a better life, with more freedom and equality, and toward that end they wrote to Matti Kurikka, a Finnish political philosopher, playwright, writer, and organizer, asking him to come to Vancouver Island. Kurikka arrived and the Finns established the Kalevan Kansan Colonization Company, and pre-empted land for the colony on Malcolm Island, naming their town Sointula, meaning "place of harmony." By the spring of 1903 the population of the colony was 238.
Sointula circa 1910

Saturday, October 21, 2017

"A Quatsino Village" 1866

This photograph, held by the BC archives, is noted as being a "Quatsino Village" and was reportedly taken circa 1866. This would make this one of the earliest photographs taken on the North Island. First Nations people, their villages, artwork and regalia were the subject matter of many early photographs taken on the North Island. Many became postcards depicting traditional west coast lifestyles. In the mid 1800s many First Nations still lived a lifestyle where they traveled seasonally to different villages. This confused the Europeans who would consider a village abandoned if they came upon it in a season during which the settlement was not utilized.

"Quatsino Village" circa 1866. BC Archives A-00939

*footnote: The Bill Reid Centre at SFU has noted that this photo has the following caption: "The village of Ma-ate with people assembled and Superintendent Powell and Commander Orlebar standing on the beach. Photo by O.C. Hastings, July 27, 1879." After some sleuthing work, however, they identify the village as being that of Ow-i-ye-kum at Forward Inlet.

Monday, October 9, 2017

First Nation traditional grave boxes in a tree in Alert Bay - early 1900s

Pre-contact with Europeans, and during early days of contact, First Nations in Northern Vancouver Island practiced a burial ritual that involved entombing the deceased in a cedar box or laying them on a plank, and placing them in the branches of a large tree. The boxes were not very big, and bodies were curled up in a fetal position to fit into them. Often symbols of wealth like rattles, beads or coppers would be placed in the box. When Europeans and Hawaiians came to the North Island in the mid 1800s they often did not know what to make of these trees filled with boxes. As Christian missionaries became more influential they urged First Nations communities to move away from placing their dead in caves or in trees, and to bury their dead in the ground. Many areas where traditional tree burial practices had been undertaken were desecrated in the early 1900s by looters.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Takush Village

Ta'kush Village 1899

Within the traditional homelands of the Gwa'sala people in Smith Inlet, Takush Harbour or T'akus was a main village site. Relatively isolated from European culture, the Indigenous peoples of this area retained many of their traditional ways well into the 1900s.

Ta'kush Village approx. 1900
At this time logging and fishing brought non-Indigenous people into this remote area, along with canneries and logging camps. Schools and churches were constructed. The following photo, undated, shows the United Church mission school at Takush.
United Church Mission School - Takush

Friday, August 18, 2017

Big House in T'sadzis'nukwaame village (New Vancouver)

This past photo of the week in the North Island Eagle newspaper was taken in 1900 by Charles F. Newcombe, who was a botanist and ethnographer who captured many images of First Nations life in photographs of coastal B.C. This image depicts the inside of a big house in "Kwakwaka'wakw Village of T'sadzis'nukwaame'," also known as New Vancouver. Emily Carr produced a painting of the interior of the same big house in 1912-13, entitled "Indian House Interior with Totems," which can be viewed on the Vancouver Art Gallery's website.