Friday, July 10, 2015

First Nations Villages



In M. Wylie Blanchett's book, The Curve of Time, she devotes a chapter to an old native village she visited. This chapter always piqued our curiosity with the way she painted the scene. When she visited, there were still burial boxes in the trees. Copper bracelets and human bones littered the ground below. She vividly describes the haunted feeling that surrounded her including a ghost dog that appeared on the beach on the way back to her dinghy. On this trip we had the opportunity to check out the remains of this same village, Mamalilaculla. The day we visited was rainy and dreary, the perfect atmosphere to visit a haunted village. We anchored Marinero in front of an falling-down, abandoned dock and paddled our kayaks around the corner to the beach. We stepped out onto a wide beach composed of white-shells, scraps of metal and shattered glass. Beyond the beach was a wall of blackberry bushes, punctured by a few paths cut into the thorny barrier. A trail wound through the brambles where we caught glimpses of the remains of the village, old shacks, an old welcome arch and a two-story house falling into the earth. We imagined that the long house had been swallowed by the blackberries beyond the arch. The trail led us to the old abandoned house that we then ventured into. It felt sad to step into this collapsing place that someone had once called home. The air felt heavy with a feeling of abandoned dreams and an ended way of life. Deeper in the forest we found what had been the old school and later, a tuberculosis hospital...it was creepy. In ancient times the natives had used the beach as their garbage dump thus the beautiful white-shell midden beaches we see everywhere in BC. It seems that they kept that tradition up until the village was abandoned sometime after the 1930's. The beach was littered with glass, dish shards and engine parts. It was a treasure trove to anyone who loves to collect old things. I'm sure Billy Proctor has spent time here collecting treasures to add to his museum. Aaron was entranced, he could have stayed for days. In the short amount of time we were there he found a rusty metal Indian figurine and dish shards that he loved.

In the afternoon we visited New Vancouver, an ancient village site that the tribe has recently returned to. We tied up to a dock and Jason and Isaac went ashore to see if we could get a tour. When they reached land they were greeted by an enormous dog who let out a low growl. I watched from the boat as they stopped in their tracks, waited and then retreated back to the boat with the dog trailing behind. As we were preparing to leave we saw three girls coming down the dock. They apologized that they hadn't seen us and wondered if we'd like a tour. On shore we were greeted by three dogs. One was a full-blooded wolf they had found as a pup, adopted and named Wolfie. We were all super excited to meet a real wolf. He was so friendly, mellow and smart. They showed us their long house where they had held their first potlatch last summer. They had brought together four tribes totaling 400 people for a great celebration. They showed us their totems and explained the meaning of each. When our tour guide, Eleanor, was describing the last totem she seemed to choke up a little. The story of the totem was that a woman was having a hard time conceiving a child so she was brought to a special stream to drink. She became pregnant after that and it was prophesied that the child she carried would bring his people home to their ancestral lands. That child was her grandfather. She said he didn't believe in the prophesy and even felt rebellious against it, but eventually he moved back to the land of his ancestors, bringing his tribe with him and reviving traditions of the past. After a fascinating conversation they walked us back down the dock and we moved to the Pearse Islands where we anchored for the night.












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