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

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.

Logging in Holberg

This photo, taken in 1946, shows two loggers cutting down a large spruce tree in the Holberg area. At the time it was common for loggers to use a series of 'spring boards,' which were notched into the tree, to stand on while making their cuts. Ideally they cut the tree just above the thick butt area. Interestingly this photo was preserved by the BC Ministry of Travel in the BC Archives. Within the traditional territory of the Quatsino First Nation, the community of Holberg was first established in 1895 by a group of utopian Danish settlers, but eventually became a major centre for logging, and then home to a military base.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Port Alice RCMP boat - 1960

Taken in 1960, this photo shows the Port Alice RCMP vessel. During this period there was not the network of logging roads around Quatsino Sound which exists today, and this RCMP boat would have provided policing services to many communities around the sound. This vessel was build by Star Shipyards (Mercer's) in New Westminster, BC.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Potlatching in Alert Bay - this week's North Island historical photo

In 1884 the Government of Canada introduced an amendment to the Indian Act which made participation in the Potlatch ceremony illegal. These large gatherings were an integral part of coastal Indigenous culture, and played an important role in the social system of local communities. Indian Agent William May Halliday felt that many of the practices associated with the potlatch, like the giving away of large quantities of goods, were irresponsible. In 1913 he made the first attempts to arrest people involved in Potlatching. Related governmental efforts resulted in the confiscation of many ceremonial items. This photo, taken in Alert Bay in 1912, shows the scale of a large potlatch at the time. Traditional practices were merging with the access to trade goods, and items such as blankets, flour, and kitchen goods can be seen in the photograph, ready for distribution to guests. The U'mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay is now home to many items which have now been reclaimed. Visit the U'mista website for more information: