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:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kokish & Beaver Cove

The name Kokish, which is also the name of a nearby river, is said to be a Kwak'wala word which means either 'notched beach' or "place where the river spreads." The Kokish River was reported to have that name on maps as early as 1919, and is located within Beaver Cove, a part of the traditional territory of the 'Namgis First Nation.

Anthropologist Franz Boas noted that Kokish was considered a place of origin, which means that there were traditional stories in the times before people or when people were first created which took place in this location. In the early historical contact times (1700s - 1800s) the use of Beaver Cove may have alternated between Indigenous tribes, which was not uncommon at the time.

Eustace Smith, who rowed up to Beaver Cove from Comox in 1900 to take up a government pre-emption of land and begin farming, said that there was no one in the area for miles.  In an oral interview of BC pioneers Smith stated that to local First Nations the Beaver Cove area was taboo, as they believed that Dzunuk'wa, a supernatural being, resided there.

The town of Beaver Cove, which along with Englewood and East Bay made up a trio of small towns ringing Beaver Cove, was first established in 1917 to support the mills run by the Beaver Cove Lumber and Pulp Company.  The community was home to a pulp mill, a saw mill and a shingle mill. There were over 140 employees, and the town included a settlement of Chinese workers.
Beaver Cove

 Unfortunately by 1920 the mill was bankrupt and the lone occupant became a paid caretaker.
Beaver Cove Lumber Company, November 1919
VPL Accession Number: 20790
Beaver Cove Lumber Company, November 1919
VPL Accession Number: 20788
In the early 1950s Crown Zellerbach bought the logging rights in the area, and moved the community of Beaver Cove in order to develop a large log sorting facility at the head of Beaver Cove.  The new community was named Kokish, and it existed from 1955 to 1985 up the hill on the southeast side of Beaver Cove.

The Kokish community was close, and celebrated events together such as logger sports day. In 1981 the three room school was disposed of by the school district, and in 1985 what was left of the community was disbanded.  Crown Zellerbach, which had leased homes to come families for as low as $35/mo., offered interest free loans of $10,000 to assist people with purchasing homes in Port McNeill or Port Hardy.

"Way of life ending for Kokish people" in the North Island Gazette September 21, 1983 (p. 6).
"Eustace Smith, the last authority" in Raincoast Chronicles 6/10. p. 272 - 275.  Harbour Publishing 1983, 1994.
"For Sale by Tender: Kokish Elementary School" in the North Island Gazette December 2, 1981. Engelwood

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Photos of the Week - Recap!

Every week I provide a historical photograph to the North Island Eagle, one of our local newspapers.  I've been a bit negligent in uploading them here, so this column will be a collection of a number of these recent photographs!


Princess Maquinna steamer docking in Quatsino, early 1900s
In the early 1900s numerous communities scattered around the North Island were connected by regular visits of the Canadian Pacific Railway's steamship fleet. These steamers embarked at local communities on a regular basis and provided a mode of transportation, a way to ship much-needed supplies, and were often the only source of outside news. Service on the ships was first class, with a formal dining room and staterooms for those who could afford them. Others rode on the deck for a cheaper fare. Steamship day was always an exciting time in a community. Local people would flock to the dock to see who had come in on the ship, to sell wares to the tourists, and to see what had arrived in the post. This photo, taken by Ben Leeson sometime between 1900 and 1910, shows the Princess Maquinna coming in to dock in Quatsino.___________________________

Englewood School - 1908
Commercial logging started in the Beaver Cove area, just South of Port McNeill in about 1908. In 1925 the Wood & English company opened a sawmill in the northern part of Beaver Cove. This location provided a sheltered bay, access to deep water, and a stream which provided a source of power for the mill. The Nimpkish logging railway was redirected to the new mill, and a town sprang up in this new location.The community was named Englewood, a play on the Wood & English mill. Englewood boasted a steamer port, post office, general store, community hall, bunkhouses, mill offices, married quarters, a small Japanese village, and a school. The Wood & English operated until 1941.

Port Alice pulp mill during construction (1917?)
Taken by local resident Ben Leeson, this photograph of the Port Alice mill was likely taken around 1917, about a hundred years ago. The first World War created an increased demand for cellulose products, and at this time the rights to logging in Quatsino Sound were transferred to the Whalen Pulp and Paper Company, which ramped up production through new investments in the pulp mill.
Ne-No-Le-O - Mama Yockland picking salmon berries
Taken in the early 1900s in the Quatsino Sound Area by Ben Leeson, this photograph is entitled "Ne-No-Le-O - Mama Yockland picking salmon berries." The original photograph would have been in black and white, but Leeson hand coloured photos for sale to tourists who came into Quatsino on steamships. This photo shows a woman known colloquially as "Mama Yockland," who has the distinctive head shape of the women of the Quatsino Nation, which practiced head-binding on young girls. She is collecting salmon berries in a traditional woven basket. Leeson captured many images of the people of Quatsino Sound going about their normal daily lives which now form a valuable historic record. Photo reference - City of Vancouver Archives A-15-54
Sealing Schooner Diana in Quatsino Sound, 1893. BC Archives: F-05317
In the late 1800s there was a large Bering Sea sealing industry based out of Victoria. Ships were generally identified as having crew comprised of 'whites' (European ancestry), First Nations, Hawaiians, and Asian crew members. There is a record of some members of the Quatsino First Nation working on these vessels. In the late 1880s there were about 65 Canadian registered sealing ships in the Pacific. This particular vessel was built in 1889 and was originally named the Sea Lion. On this trip in 1883 the ship, now called the Diana, reported obtaining 2,394 pelts, most of which were caught off the Japanese coast.
Robert Hunt

Robert Hunt was born in England in 1828. At 21 years of age he signed up as a labourer with the Hudsons Bay Company (HBC) and shortly thereafter arrived at the newly constructed Fort Rupert in today's Port Hardy in 1850. He moved on to work in the Nass Valley for a few years, and there met and married Mary Ebbetts (Ansnaq), from the Taantakw√°an (Tongass) tribe of the Tlingit nation, of the Raven clan. In about 1882 the Hunts purchased Fort Rupert from the HBC. They had 10 children, and many of their descendants still live in the North Island to this day. One of their sons, George Hunt, became an expert on the language and customs of the Kwakwaka'wakw people.