Thursday, October 3, 2013

White visitors challenge grease trails

A version of this article was originally published in the North Island Gazette March 19, 2009.

There is much archeological evidence that Vancouver Island First Nations regularly crossed Vancouver Island to trade in a variety of food and goods.  These likely included eulachon grease coming from the Mainland Inlets and whale oil and meat coming back from the West Coast of Vancouver Island, among many other items.
These 'grease trails' were well known and well used, probably for thousands of years, saving First Nations people the treacherous voyage around Cape Scott by dugout canoe.
In 1862 Lieutenant Philip James Hankin and Dr. Charles Beddingfield Wood (ship's surgeon) of the Royal Navy decided to try to become the first non-natives to cross Northern Vancouver Island by foot.  Adam Grant Horne had previous crossed the Central Island from Big Qualicum to Port Alberni in 1856.
Hankin was the Lieutenant of the HMS Hecate, a British surveying vessel.  The Hecate was 860 tonne, 5 gun, paddle wheeled sloop which used a combination of sail and steam power.
On May 25, 1982, Hankin and Wood  were dropped off by the Hecate at Kyuquot, on the West Coast. They planned to follow the overland trade route utilized by local First Nations.  They were told that the journey would take four days.
The two traveled from Kyuquot to the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations village at Aktis Island by canoe.  They stayed a few days on the island due to bad weather, and noted that the whole village seemed to participate in organized sports.  Hankin noted that the local Chief, who was phonetically referred to as both "Clan-Ninick" and "Kai-ne-nitt", was a young man in his early 20s who seemed extremely well respected by his people.
Six local guides were recruited at Aktis who were each paid five blankets and two shirts, while three hundred blankets were given to the chief to thank him for his hospitality.
The party traveled to the head of Tahsish Inlet (which in Nuu-cha-nulth means "place where the water ends and we have to walk"), and then Hankin and Wood journeyed overland via Atluck Lake, Hustan Lake, Anutz Lake, and down the Nimpkish River to Nimpkish Lake.
Hankin and Wood found the trip more challenging than they had anticipated.
Hankin named the river connecting Hustan and Anutz Lakes "Famine River," as the party's provisions were depleted by that stage of the trip.  They had hoped to procure some wild game along the way to supplement their provisions, but were largely unsuccessful.  Once back on the coast Hankin and Wood traveled by dugout canoe to Fort Rupert, where they were reunited with the Hecate.
There are a number of coastal features names after Hankin, including Hankin Point in Quatsino Sound, Hankin Rock in Clayoquot Sound, the Hankin Mountain Range on Vancouver Island, and Hankin Ledge Point in Principe Channel.  

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