As the museum and archives prepare to move the collections to the new Collections and Research Building in Colwood, BC, more items are arriving in the Conservation labs for treatment to ensure they are stable enough to endure the journey. This past year, one portrait made its way to the paper conservation lab in need of pre-move stabilization. In this case, a large hole and obvious moisture damage were cause for concern.

    This portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Lum (BC Archives, J-01350) is one in a collection of four (BC Archives, MS-3411). Mr. Chin Lum Kee, also known as Ah Lum, was born in Guangdong (previously known as Canton), China in 1835. He arrived in the new colony of British Columbia during the Fraser River Gold Rush. While in Sto:lo territory, he met his wife, Squeetlewood, also known as Lucy, who was born in 1854.

    Figure 1. Recto of [Mr. & Mrs. Lum] (BC Archives, J-01350) before treatment

    Figure 2. Verso of [Mr. & Mrs. Lum] (BC Archives, J-01350) before treatment

    The portrait is a solar enlargement, based on a salted paper print (more information on this type of photography below). Black and white crayon have been used to work up the figures’ clothing and watercolour has been used to add soft colouring to the faces and background. In keeping with photographic portraiture of the time, the figures are captured from the chest upward with their bodies fading softly into the bottom of the picture plane. This solar enlargement on paper has been mounted to canvas and stretched over a wooden strainer.


    A Brief History of Solar Enlargements

    Solar enlargements, also known as crayon portraits, were produced between the 1860s and the early 20th century. During the 19th century, photographic prints were made by placing photo-sensitised paper in direct contact with a photographic negative.  Making a photographic print larger than the original negative began to be possible in the late 1850s with the invention of “solar cameras”. These enlarged prints required lengthy exposures and were faint and soft-focused. Furthermore, any imperfections in the photographic negative would be amplified in the enlargement.

    As a result, these faint photographs were used as a sort of under-drawing upon which charcoal and coloured paints and crayons were used to retouch and enhance the image. It was common for artists to be employed alongside photographers for this purpose.

    The most popular process for these enlarged photographic “under-drawings” was the salted paper print, however albumen prints could be used as well. Bromide enlarging paper was introduced in the 1880s which employed a gelatin emulsion layer available in many different surface textures. For more information on historical photographic processes, visit the Image Permanence Institute’s Graphic Atlas.


    Condition Issues

    The portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Lum came to the conservation lab because it was not in a condition where it could be safely handled. There was a large hole in both the paper photograph and the canvas behind it. The paper had been worn away along the left edge, resulting in a loss of some of the image. This is likely, at least in part, the result of some previous moisture damage. There were also tideline stains across the image from previous moisture damage. The adhesive holding the paper photograph to the canvas was disintegrating (or previously dissolved?) which meant most of the photograph was not actually attached to the stretched canvas support and was therefore more vulnerable to creases, rips and tears. Finally, the whole structure was heavily soiled with dirt, dust and debris.

    Figure 3. Bottom edge of [Mr. & Mrs. Lum], before treatment. Photograph lifted to show underside of primary support (paper) and the secondary support (canvas).


    Treating a composite object is always difficult. Since this portrait was so heavily soiled and already stained by moisture damage, an aqueous wash (water bath) was deemed necessary. The decision was made to disassemble the object, which meant removing the partially attached photograph (or “primary support”) from the stretched canvas and then removing the canvas from the strainer. Each piece was then cleaned separately and reassembled once dry.

    Cleaning the Primary Support

    To be sure none of the media would be affected by washing, solubility testing of all the different media types as well as the staining was carried out under the microscope. The media was already thought to be quite stable—after all, it had survived moisture damage in the past—and the solubility tests proved this to be the case. The tidelines had mixed results with some appearing quite soluble and others less so. These results were enough to suggest that the primary support would benefit from a wash: the media would not be affected and the stains would likely disappear or at the very least, be reduced. Washing out these stains and other products created as a result of deterioration in the paper would also raise the pH, making the paper more chemically stable.

    Figure 4. Recto of [Mr. & Mrs. Lum], before treatment. Paper triangles point to areas where solubility testing was carried out under the microscope.

    The primary support was dusted lightly with a brush to remove loose dirt and debris from the surface. The paper was then lifted from the canvas to separate it fully. Similar surface cleaning was carried out on the backside of the paper once it was detached.

    Then, the solar enlargement was washed in an aqueous bath. There were some small fragments that had come detached from the left side of the photograph. These fragments were also washed but using a different, more delicate method. These fragments were gently placed on wet Tekwipe®, a non-woven fabric made from cellulose and polyester. This fabric has capillaries that draw clean water from one basin through the fabric, wetting out the paper resting on its surface and removing dirt and other products of deterioration in the paper and then move the dirty water along the rest of the fabric to the empty basin on the other side.

    Figure 5. Primary support in an aqueous bath.

    Figure 6. Primary support being removed from aqueous bath. Note the colour of the wash water has turned yellow with dirt and the water-soluble products that are formed as paper deteriorates.

    Figure 7. Small fragments from the left side of the primary support being washed on Tekwipe® using capillary action.

    Once washed, all pieces for the primary support were placed under weight to dry flat. After a few days of drying, the photograph was humidified and a thin piece of Japanese tissue paper was applied to the back. This lining provides a consistent support layer and prevents any further losses or tears around the areas that have already suffered losses.

    Figure 8. Recto of solar enlargement after aqueous wash and lining with Japanese tissue. Note that some tidelines remain but they are reduced. The staining across Mrs. Lum’s face has been washed away.

    Cleaning the Canvas

    The canvas was gently removed from the wooden strainer and vacuumed on very low suction to remove loose clumps of dust and dirt that were deposited on the surface, particularly along the perimeter where the strainer had been.

    The canvas was also heavily soiled and need a wash, however there is an inscription in blue ink on the back of the canvas that was discovered to be water-soluble during the solubility testing mentioned previously. To protect that ink from being solubilized during the wash, cyclododecane was applied as a temporary seal. Cyclododecane is a waxy substance that becomes liquid when warmed. It was applied over the ink as a warm liquid and solidified in place upon returning to room temperature. One of the unique properties of this wax is that it sublimes (passes directly from a solid state to a gas state) at room temperature over relatively short periods of time.

    With the ink inscription temporarily sealed with cyclododecane, the canvas was washed with the help of textiles conservator Colleen Wilson. After the wash, it was allowed to dry and the cyclododecane was allowed to sublime, leaving the ink behind, unaltered.

    Figure 9. Paper conservator, Lauren Buttle, applying cyclododecane to canvas to temporarily seal the water-soluble inscription in preparation for an aqueous wash.

    Figure 10. Verso of canvas after being removed from strainer, with cyclododecane applied to inscription, before aqueous wash.

    Figure 11. Textiles conservator, Colleen Wilson, blotting canvas with a sponge during first bath with detergents.

    Figure 12. Verso of canvas 1.5 weeks after aqueous wash and after cyclododecane has fully disappeared.

    Cleaning the Strainer

    The wooden strainer was also vacuumed to remove surface dirt and dust. Some residual adhesive left on the outside edges of the strainer were re-moistened and removed with a Teflon spatula.


    With all the individual pieces cleaned, the lined photograph was reattached to the canvas and then the canvas was re-stretched and adhered to the outside edges of the strainer. The Japanese tissue lining of the primary support provides support over areas of loss.

    Figure 13. Recto of [Mr. & Mrs. Lum] (BC Archives, J-01350) after treatment

    Figure 14. Verso of [Mr. & Mrs. Lum] (BC Archives, J-01350) after treatment


    Re-Housing the Lum Portraits

    While the main reason for diverting the Lum portraits to the conservation lab was to stabilize them for the move, there was also the issue of how to safely transport them. When they arrived in the lab, they were altogether in a paper folder, a housing system that was not offering sufficient protection in the context of a collection move.

    Once conserved, this portrait, as well as the other three portraits in the collection, were placed in HTS (handling-travel-storage) frames. These storage structures are based on models developed by the Canadian Conservation Institute and the National Gallery of Canada. These frames will provide protection to each work and can be easily re-used for other similarly-sized works if necessary.

    Figure 15. [Mr. & Mrs. Lum] rehoused in an HTS frame.


    Canadian Conservation Institute (2018). “Framing a Painting – CCI Note 10/8”. Government of Canada. Framing a Painting – Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) Notes 10/8 –

    Reilly, James M. (1986). Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak Co.

    Whitman, Katharine (2005). “The Technology of Solar Enlargements”, Topics in Photographic Preservation, Vol. 11, pages 104-110. Washington DC: American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works. History (

    A few months ago, a box of archival records that had been requested for access was transferred to the Royal BC Museum paper conservation lab. These documents were part of the Archibald Menzies fonds, a small collection of records and belongings related to Archibald Menzies (1754–1842), a Scottish surgeon and naturalist who accompanied Captain George Vancouver aboard the HMS Discovery in 1791–95.

    The documents in this box were mostly parchment and had been folded several times in the past, then piled into a box for storage. Upon retrieving the box, the archivist realised that none of these documents were easy to open. The parchment was hard and inflexible, suggesting that any attempt to forcibly flatten out the records might lead to damage. When problems like this arise, these materials are diverted to our conservation team for assessment and remedy.

    Figure 1. Folded documents from BC Archives collection PR-1261 before being treated and rehoused.

    So, how can we convince parchment to relax, open up and share its hidden secrets?  First, we need to understand where it’s coming from.


    The Nature of Parchment

    Parchment is made from animal skin—usually that of a calf, sheep or goat. The skins are removed from the animal, dehaired and defleshed, and then treated with a lime or other alkali solution. After liming, the skin is dried under tension, and in some cases, surface treatments are carried out to make it more suitable to receive inks and paints. Before the invention of paper, parchment was a common writing support in Europe and parts of the Middle East. It continued to be used as such for several centuries after papermaking became popular and widespread.

    Parchment is very sensitive to moisture and heat. This means that when water is present, the parchment will expand and absorb moisture. When conditions become warm and dry, the parchment will shrink and release moisture. Over long stretches of time, these cycles of shrinking and expanding cause the parchment to deteriorate, becoming distorted and hard.


    Relax and Unfold

    The parchment documents in this collection were tightly folded, and attempts to open them were met with strong resistance. Forcing them open could have potentially led to cracks, breaks and losses in the document; however, leaving them as they were meant that no one could read them.

    To open these documents without incurring damage and loss, we needed them to relax. This state of inner peace was achieved with the careful introduction of moisture. Since parchment is so sensitive to moisture, the use of moisture to treat deteriorated parchment might seem counterintuitive; however, in the case of this treatment, moisture is delivered in the form of water vapour (never liquid water), and it was delivered with control.

    The tightly folded documents were placed in an environmental chamber where the relative humidity (RH) could be raised using an ultrasonic humidifier. The RH levels were monitored throughout this treatment using a hygrometer placed in the chamber.  Slowly, over a period of approximately two hours, the documents were unfolded bit by bit, until they were relaxed enough to fall completely open.

    Once the documents had fully revealed themselves, they were placed under very gentle pressure between felt pads to ensure they dried flat.

    A New Home

    Now that these documents are open for viewing, they will be stored flat. They have been transferred to a flat storage box with custom padded trays for two of the documents, with seals and cords attached, ready for the next researcher.

    Figure 6. Unfolded documents from BC Archives collection PR-1261 after being treated and rehoused.

    Every year the Government Records team at the BC Archives processes over 2,000 boxes of records created by the provincial government. Most of these records can now be accessed by anyone, even you! Just remember that all government records are covered by privacy legislation, such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This means some records have access restrictions on sensitive or personal information. Here is an overview of just a few of the record series from the last year or so that are now available in our database.

    Wanted posters from GR-4000

    • GR-3346.37 2021 Speech from the Throne
      • The archives’ most recent record, created less than a year ago·
    • GR-3518 Records of the Provincial Health Officer *
      • This accrual covers the records of Dr. Perry Kendall, who served as the Provincial Health Officer from 1999 to 2018. The records address the health of Indigenous populations, water quality and pandemic influenza preparation among other public health topics.
    • GR-3676 and GR-3677 Cabinet committee records and Premiers’ records*
      • Large accruals were added to these series this year, documenting cabinet proceedings and priorities. Most records up to 1991 are publicly accessible.
    • GR-3890 Drafting legislation case files*
      • Comprehensive records covering all aspects of the process for drafting and approving provincial legislation. The records relate primarily to the 1970s and 1980s.
    • GR-3948 Notebook related to the Tsilhqot’in War
      • This delicate and difficult to decipher notebook relates to the events of the 1864 Tsilhqot’in War. It includes a diary of a group of settlers attempting to apprehend the Indigenous men allegedly involved in the deaths of several settlers.
    • GR-3996 Conservation Officer Service major investigation case files*
      • The series consists of the major investigation case files of the Conservation Officer Service between 1992 and 2007. Major cases are serious in nature and address complex issues such as trafficking animal parts, big-game poaching, illegal fishing or guiding, or selling animals for human consumption that are procured illegally.
    • GR-3999 Environmental Appeal Board records*
      • This series includes appeal files submitted to the Environmental Appeal Board and its predecessors: the Pollution Control Board and Pesticide Control Board. The records document the government’s management of the environment.
    • GR-4000 Provincial Police circulars and wanted posters*
      • This series includes a variety of informational posters for alleged criminals wanted across Canada and the United States. Many of the records are pasted into indexed volumes, serving as simple criminal record “databases.”

    A page from the GR-4064 fire atlas. Each volume measures over three feet by four feet and weighed over 60 pounds.

    • GR-4002 Forest Practices Board meeting files*
      • This series includes records of the Forest Practices Board which serves as the independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices in the province.
    • GR-4005 Conservation Officer Service wildlife attack final reports*
      • This series consists of final reports summarizing wildlife attacks on humans created by the Conservation Officer Service between 1991 and 2012. They illustrate the evolution of wildlife attack investigative technique, causes of wildlife attacks, and methods used to dispatch wildlife.
    • GR-4008 BC Ambulance Service and air evacuation major accident and investigation files*
      • This series consists of BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and air evacuation major accident and incident investigation files between 1992 and 2011.
    • GR-4041 Witness statements from CPR train robbery
      • These records purport to be related to a train holdup by the infamous Bill Miner at Ducks. The details match other historical accounts of the incident; however, the year is wrong! These may benefit from some further research.
    • GR-4048 Prince Rupert Forest District wild fire mapping records
      • These huge volumes document wildfires in the Prince Rupert region from 1921 to 1980
    • GR-4051 British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s ombudsperson’s investigations*
      • This series consists of the ombudsperson’s investigation into the British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s prize payout procedures between 1999 and 2010. BCLC retailers and BCLC retailer employees appeared to be winning major prizes at a higher rate than other players in the province. The public and the media expressed concern that some of those winning tickets may actually belong to ordinary players.
    • GR-4063 Cariboo government office records
      • This series contains colonial records from the Cariboo region, including Barkerville. Records cover all aspects of government administration in the area from registering mining claims to court cases to crime statistics.
    • GR-4064 Correspondence regarding immigration
      • This series includes correspondence of the Provincial Immigration Officer from 1903-1905. Many records relate to the deportation of Japanese people under the racist 1904 Immigration Act.
    • 24930E Plan of the No. 2 Extension coal mine
      • This plan was made as part of the investigation into the cause of a 1909 explosion in the Ladysmith mine, resulting in the deaths of 32 men.

    A selection of volumes from GR-3929, including the first patient file from 1870.

    Bonus records! Here are some other records that were made available a bit before 2021, but are still worthy of a mention:

    • GR-0522 Kamloops Government Agent land records
      • This is a large series of records (160 boxes) that show a comprehensive history of land use in the Kamloops area over 100 years. This includes the time period the land was managed by the Canadian government as part of the Railway Belt.
    • GR-3929 Riverview Hospital Historical Collection*
      • This collection includes a wide variety of records related to the operation of Riverview Mental Hospital (previously known as Essondale). The records were collected and maintained by the Riverview Historical Society. With the closure of the hospital in 2012, government records in the society’s holdings were transferred back to the government and have recently been made available in the archives. The collection includes records of all media and provides an overview of the hospital’s history, grounds, staff, and patient care.

    *These series include sensitive personal information or other restricted records that are not publicly accessible.

    A public notice to be posted in schools, included with police records in GR-4000

    ‘Tis the season: northern alligator lizards are busy making little lizards.

    Have you seen alligator lizards mating? If so, please take note how long they spend together. Males bite the head and neck of females and hang on, sometimes for over 24 hours. Mating itself doesn’t take 24 hours—so perhaps males hang on to make sure other males are excluded.

    In BC, the alligator lizards tend to vanish when new urban developments spread across the landscape—maybe (probably) the habitat is unsuitable, roadkill happens, a certain invasive lizard certainly doesn’t help, and well-fed domestic cats also take their toll, as do lawn mowers and weedwackers.

    But if you are lucky enough to have northern alligator lizards in your garden, please take detailed notes on their activity, prey, and how they use your garden structures. It’s also helpful to record mating activity and how long a pair stays together. Community science (sometimes called citizen science) is a way to get very detailed views of species distributions to see how species are responding to our increasing sprawl.

    Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, studies natural history, evolution and conservation of reptiles and amphibians, and the impact of urbanization on biodiversity.
    You can share photos and information with Greg at

    Here are a few of his blog posts:

    Love in the Time of Coronavirus: The Alligator Lizard Version 

    Look Out for Amorous Alligator Lizards 

    Studying Lizard Love Through Citizen Science 

    Alligator Lizards: Mating season has begun – YouTube 

    Government is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the citizens it serves. This often results in the renaming and reorganizing of its various branches and departments. These changes can make it tricky to track which government body was responsible for creating and maintaining particular records through the years. To help myself better understand who created some of the land records I was working with, I set out to create a visual representation of how the land management functions of government moved around over time. This soon expanded to include several other ministries whose records I worked on. It eventually grew to cover all ministries (and their precursor departments) from 1871, when the province was created, to 2021.

    Please see Overview Diagram of Ministries 2022 for the most current version of the diagram.

    I created the chart using information from BC Archives authority records, Orders-in-Council and lists of Cabinet Appointments from the Legislative Library. Ministries are shown in square bubbles and are connected to each other with arrows. The oldest departments are at the top, moving down to the current ministries at the bottom of the page. The ministries are arranged in columns that represent broad categories of government functions, such as health or agriculture.

    Arrows with solid lines show that a ministry was renamed. This usually means it continued to do pretty much the same work and fulfill the same functions of its predecessor.

    Arrows with dotted lines show that some functions moved to another ministry. Dotted lines also show links from ministries that are established (created) and disestablished. I was only able to note large changes; sometimes the various branches that make up a ministry were split between a half dozen other ministries, making it pretty impossible to track all their movements individually.

    The complexity and change over time make this a bit overwhelming to look at all together. But the changing names of a ministry can provide a high-level snapshot of general trends in government’s priorities over time. Each ministry is usually focused on a single function or issue, such as providing health care or managing public forests. The evolution of ministries reflects what government thought was important—and what mattered to voters. To a certain extent, this also reflects what mattered to society at large, though government was dominated by white men for most of the province’s existence, and universal enfranchisement did not occur until 1952.

    Government departments changed very little from the province’s creation in 1871 until the 1970s. Government was small. Initially, the Attorney-General and Provincial Secretary were responsible for functions that would be divided among a dozen different ministers today. The major changes involved the creation of new departments as the role of government began to expand in the twentieth century.

    Members of the Legislative Assembly demonstrating some pretty good social distancing. Photo taken in 1870 in front of
    the Victoria government buildings known as the Birdcages, after the union of the two colonies and just prior to Confederation. C-06178.

    Initially, building infrastructure and promoting the industrial harvest of natural resources (to expand economic opportunities for other white settlers) appears to be more of a priority than providing social supports. For example, two separate departments for railways and public works were established almost 50 years before the Department of Health Services and Department of Social Welfare were finally created in 1959.

    In 1976, all departments were renamed and became ministries. After this point, changes became much more common. By the 1990s it seems to have become fairly standard practice for a newly elected government to reorganize Cabinet, appointing new ministers to differentiate themselves from the previous government and reflect changing priorities throughout their term in office.

    Some ministries have remained remarkably similar over the last hundred years. Others have been regularly broken up, combined and moved around in ways that, at times, can seem confusing and a bit counterintuitive. For example, in 1978, the Ministry of Recreation and Conservation was disestablished and broken into several ministries, including a new Ministry of Deregulation.

    BC Legislative Assembly, Seventh Parliament, Third Session, in 1897 in the Birdcages.
    Construction of the current Legislative Assembly building was completed the following year. A-02563.

    Names have power. Word choice can really impact how people perceive things, and the level of importance or value they place on an issue. The arm of government responsible for social services provides a good example of this. It has fulfilled fairly similar functions over time, but the language around the work has evolved alongside societal beliefs about poverty. It began in 1959 as the Department of Social Welfare. Later names included the Department of Rehabilitation and Social Improvement, the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance. Currently, it is the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

    Establishing (or disestablishing) a ministry shows that government is assigning its affairs a certain level of importance, with an elected official appointed to focus on the function or issue. The creation of a Ministry of Women’s Equality in 1991, when BC’s first female premier Rita Johnson was in power, shows women’s equality was an important issue for government at the time. In 2001, this ministry was disestablished and lumped into the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services with four other disestablished ministries, including the also-disestablished Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.

    Overall, I have found the chart a helpful way to track government’s changing responsibilities at a glance. My hope is that it can be a useful tool for researching archival government records. A record’s creator (often the ministry or department that created it) is one of the main things archivists look at when arranging and determining different series of government records (GR-numbers) in the BC Archives database. If you can think about the ministry that may have created the records you are looking for, it may provide access to some unexpected results. You can search for archival records by creator here.

    Happy researching!

    Help shape teaching resources for your provincial museum.

    The Royal BC Museum is looking for BC French teachers to participate in one of two focus groups in August. We are looking for teachers from across the K-12 spectrum to participate, (eight teachers in each focus group, ideally with a spread across grade ranges).

    We want your input on the kinds of resources you’d like to have available from the museum. What would support you in the classroom, online or on field trips? You’ll be asked to assess what we have currently available, and then identify high priority gaps where you’d like to see resource development.


    Participants will be paid $100.

    Focus Group Dates

    • 10am-12pm, Tuesday August 24th – teachers from SD61, 62, 63 or 79 (onsite at the museum)
    • 10:30-12pm, Wednesday August 25th – teachers in districts beyond Greater Victoria region (online format)


    Results from the focus groups will inform a secondary phase which will contract a French educator to develop the identified resources and make them available on the Royal BC Museum Learning Portal and ShareEdBC websites

    Contact Liz Crocker to sign up.

    a black and white image of several people (men, women and children) sitting on a very large felled old growth tree. a ladder is placed against the tree for people to reach the top

    An old growth tree felled near Vancouver c. 1890 (BC Archives item C-06489)

    As a government records archivist, I process a lot of records related to land or resource use, and specifically forestry records. Since the beginning of British Columbia’s colonization, forestry has been a major part of the province’s economy. After over 150 years of industrial logging, the majority of the province has been disturbed by some kind of industrial activity, leaving an estimated 2.7% as productive old growth forest today.

    Most land in the province is Crown land controlled by the provincial government. Crown land and resources—in this case timber—are leased or licensed to forestry companies to use. These agreements are generally referred to as timber tenures and can include a variety of uses, lengths of time they are valid for and other required management practices.

    Managing all these resources has created a huge amount of government records. Many of these are now kept by the BC Archives for government reference and historical knowledge, and so that the public can hold its government accountable. I recently processed a series of records related to forestry in the Clayoquot Sound area, now part of GR-3659.

    GR-3659 documents a type of timber tenure referred to as a Tree Farm Licence (TFL). Most of western Vancouver Island is covered by a handful of TFLs. TFLs provide a forestry company with almost exclusive rights to harvest timber and manage forest in a certain area for 25 years. Every 5 years, companies are required to create detailed plans outlining how they will manage the land and resources within the TFL area.

    Working with the records in GR-3659 got me thinking about a related historical event—the 1993 Clayoquot Sound protests, also known as the War in the Woods, which occurred primarily on TFL 54 and TFL 57. So, I took a look at some of the other records that document it.

    This image shows a view overlooking large evergreen forest with a forest covered mountain in the background. There is a narrow body of water through the image close to the mountain

    Meares Island in 1978, before the War in the Woods (BC Archives item I-02748)

    Protests and blockades began in the 1980s after logging was proposed on Meares Island in Clayoquot Sound. Several attempts were made by the government to reach a consensus between the members of the forest industry, environmentalists, municipalities and Indigenous Peoples. These included the Clayoquot Sound Development Task Force (GR-3535, box 921203-0023) and the Clayoquot Sound Development Steering Committee. Environmentalists left the Steering Committee in 1991 after the government refused to defer logging until an agreement was made. The Steering Committee ultimately dissolved in October 1992, without completing a finalized development strategy.

    A few months later, in April 1993, Cabinet passed the Clayoquot Sound Land Use Plan, but it was widely contested. The government’s lack of consultation with local First Nations and the large area of old growth forest available for clear cutting resulted in protests that spread around the world. Protest camps and blockades were set up to prevent logging, in defiance of court injunctions. Police attempts to enforce the injunction led to over 800 arrests. Thousands of people protested over the summer of 1993, making it possibly the largest event of civil disobedience in Canadian history.

    Ultimately, the government was able to reach a consensus with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, whose traditional territory includes Clayoquot Sound, and new land use plans were developed. This also led to the creation of Iisaak, a new First Nations owned logging company operating in the area (some of their records are in GR-3659), and the designation of Clayoquot Sound as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

    a pile of letters and drawings done by citizens protesting old growth logging

    Letters protesting old growth logging received by the Premier in 1993 from across Canada and the rest of the world (BC Archives, GR-3571, box 921888-0036, file 16)

    A small portion of the RBCM Native Plant Garden.

    The native plant garden at the Royal BC Museum, with more than 300 species of plants, is a haven for wildlife in an otherwise heavily urbanized setting.  The garden was initiated in 1968 in part to promote landscaping with our diverse native flora.  The diversity of bird species that are known to visit the garden is truly impressive considering the downtown setting, and the garden also harbours a wealth of invertebrate animals: butterflies, bees, dragonflies, and damselflies, as well as many others.

    Some of the animals are just passing through on their migration – for instance the eye-catching Green Darner dragonflies that have been seen there in the fall on their way south (yes! -some dragonflies migrate!) and the gorgeous Wilson’s Warblers that pass through on their way north each spring. Others are year-round residents in the garden: Song Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, while others come to the garden in the winter months and then head off to points north as the rest of the province warms up: Golden-crowned Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

    It is not just that the garden offers a patch of greenspace though. What makes the garden a preferred location for our native wildlife are the native plants that inhabit it. The plant species that are native to this region co-evolved with the animals that also live here, seasonally or permanently – they need each other. There is no better example of this then examining the butterfly species reported from the garden. They come to this small area because the plant that they lay their eggs on and that their caterpillar eats can be found in the garden. Some examples include willows for two of our local Swallowtail butterfly species, Ocean Spray for the Lorquin’s Admiral, and Sedum for Moss’s Elfin. In the fall elegant Cedar Waxwings are regularly seen gobbling up the Black Hawthorn fruits, as well as those of some of the other shrubs in the landscape. These fruits are a critical food source for birds that they cannot typically find in urban settings.

    The winter garden has value as well: native trees and shrubs offer a year-round source of food to the birds of the region because many invertebrates live on the plants; providing a source of protein to insectivores like Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Bushtits. This past winter a flock of as many as fifty Yellow-rumped Warblers spent many months foraging in the garden – always able to find food among the regionally-adapted plants because of the insects feeding on them.


    I don’t expect to get new lizard range records in mid-November, especially since the weather has been so grey and cool. This month it seems we have had wind storm after wind storm. Our northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea) should be down for winter—maybe an occasional one will appear on really warm days. Common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) will emerge, but only when it is sunny. I have seen wall lizards active in sun-exposed locations when the air temperatures are only 5–7°C. But since I have been indoors, I have resorted to correcting United States lizard misidentifications on iNaturalist.

    This Monday morning (November 16th, 2020) is grey and cold, and another wind storm is due tonight. But to my surprise, I received an email from Nicole Greenbaum at Paridon Horticultural Ltd. in Delta, BC. She found a lizard in the company’s tropical greenhouse and had correctly identified it as a western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis). Nicole’s discovery is western fence lizard #2 for British Columbia (and Canada).

    Canada’s second confirmed western fence lizard; photo by Nicole Greenbaum.

    The greenhouse is heated throughout the winter, and so if they are not able to catch this little lizard, it will have quite the winter. Of course I have asked them to catch it to represent BC’s first specimen for the museum collection. Photos are useful, but a specimen is better.

    Who wouldn’t want to live in a tropical greenhouse? Photo by Nicole Greenbaum.

    This lizard is a juvenile, with a body just over 3 cm. From the photos, I can’t tell whether it is male or female. But the record is now in iNaturalist.

    It is possible that a female laid eggs and even more are in the greenhouse, but most likely, this is a single stowaway that came in with a shipment of plants. We have no idea where it originated, nor when it arrived. The greenhouse has not received plants from the United States in some time (it is 2020 after all), so the lizard has likely lived there all summer. I suppose that is effective, pesticide-free insect control.

    I wonder when the next one will make its way north of the United States border?

     A Tale for COVID Time

    I have always believed that culture can transform, art can heal and history holds a mirror to ourselves and our time—thus my deep love for the study of history, arts and culture.

    This current unsettling time of global pandemic crisis easily evokes feelings of insecurity and fear. It is a time of racism and uprisings against racism and other forms of discrimination. When I was given a small public space to share my work, I wondered what would be helpful when facing the challenges of our time.

    The Royal BC Museum’s special Pocket Gallery A Tale of Two Families: Generations of Intercultural Communities and Family Lessons conveys a special message for the time of COVID. It assures us other people have not only made it through harsh times but have built legacies of success and community support.

    Due to historical exclusion and colonial record-keeping practices, few families from settler minority groups can trace their histories back to the gold rush period that began in 1858. Since 2016, I have worked with two families that can: one French Canadian and the other Chinese Canadian. Their stories reveal rarely recorded generational continuities from the gold rush era to the present day. These families have survived times of great adversity, including the Great Depression and the Chinese exclusion era, to build lasting legacies in BC. What has kept the two families going for generations and through difficulties? What has allowed them to continue to grow and prosper today?

    A deeper look at the family histories through the family members’ lenses reveals patterns in how the two families persisted through generations. Both families emphasize education, intercultural community building and kindness as family values. Their ideals resonate with our shared experiences and collective values as Canadians. During times of extraordinary challenges, such core values can shape people’s response. The stories of the Guichon and Louie families exemplify resilience through hard times in British Columbia history. Their family lessons are British Columbians’ strength.

    On September 23, 2020, the museum hosted a special COVID-safe appreciation event for the featured families and communities of this Pocket Gallery. Maurice Guibord, président, Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, shared on video the significance of the Guichon family history.


    Ms. Hilde Rose, the only living third-generation ranch operator, spoke on behalf of the Guichon family.  With her husband Guy Rose, who was a third-generation Guichon, she operated the Quilchena Cattle Co. and the historic Quilchena Hotel for decades.


    Mr. Alan Lowe, board chair of the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society and long-time beloved leader and former mayor of Victoria, spoke on behalf of the Victoria Chinatown communities to stress the importance of Chinatown history and the need to preserve it with a new museum in Victoria’s Chinatown.

    Mr. Brandt Louie spoke on behalf of the Louie-Seto family as a direct descendant of the pioneer families of the Louies, Setos and Lees in BC, and of the Lews from the United States. He is also the third-generation leader of the H.Y. Louie Family Co. Ltd. His full speech can be found here.

    The families’s joined commitment to education, intercultural community building and kindness resonate with our shared values as Canadians. These core values can help us shape our response during COVID time and the fight against discrimination through intercultural understanding and the pursuit of social justice.

    Royal BC Museum Biodiversity Research During the Pandemic

    Nature is unrelenting. The zoonotic origin of the SARS-CoV-2 novel virus responsible for COVID-19 is a powerful reminder of the connections between human activities, health and biodiversity. As I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all aspects of human society, while the urgency to document, understand and protect biodiversity remains unabated. Museums in particular face the dual challenges of keeping the public engaged and maintaining their research programs. In many institutions, fieldwork, normally a major component of research activities during the summer months, has had to be postponed. Many aspects of learning, public engagement and curation of collections have moved online.

    Researchers at the Royal BC Museum are considering the direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic on biodiversity while continuing to meet the challenges of biodiversity research. Aside from anecdotal reports (indicating, for example, that in many places biodiversity may be benefitting from reduced human activity), it is too early to provide a definitive answer to how the pandemic is affecting biodiversity. Given time, and with ongoing communication among scientists in natural history collections and the wider scientific community, this question can be answered by mobilizing and using biodiversity data found in natural history collections.

    Ongoing communication of natural history collections is important, especially during this challenging time. Many people experience natural history collections only as museum exhibits. In this context, it can be difficult to visualize museum collections as baseline biodiversity data that are fundamental to diverse scientific fields. However, natural history specimens constitute the data for documenting biodiversity and constructing phylogenies, and they address evolutionary, ecological and biogeographic questions. Additionally, possibilities extend beyond the physical specimen, and may include genomic, behavioural and occurrence data. Therefore it is crucial that collections be maintained, that they grow, and that their data be continually enriched and shared. Through collections, we can improve our understanding of evolving species interactions, including those of pathogens and their hosts, which can help to better predict the risks of novel zoonotic diseases.

    What about fieldwork? To cope with the travel restrictions and safety conditions surrounding the pandemic, some researchers have adopted different strategies. For example, in place of large-scale, rapid, people-intensive biodiversity surveys, some locations are studied in great detail over time, with fewer people. One project is the Quadra BioMarathon, conducted by researchers from the Hakai Institute to assess the diversity, abundance and composition of plankton just offshore from Hakai’s Quadra Island facility. The Royal BC Museum provides taxonomic expertise and advises on collection, preservation and identification of specimens.

    Curators, collection managers and other researchers at the Royal BC Museum continue to work on collections, expanding, refining and making accessible the data through online collaborations with colleagues from as close as across town or  as far as halfway across the globe. We are also committed to making biodiversity data and knowledge accessible to our diverse communities online.

    Ongoing projects by Royal BC Museum researchers include taxonomic analysis, linking specimens to nucleotide, genome or protein data, and making data accessible through the Royal BC Museum online database.

    Useful links:

    Royal BC Museum collections

    GBIF Global Biodiversity Information Facility

    iDigBio (Integrated Digitized Biocollections

    Royal BC Museum Natural History Curators and Collection Managers

    Dr. Victoria Arbour, Curator, Palaeontology

    Dr. Henry Choong, Curator, Invertebrate Zoology

    Dr. Joel Gibson, Curator, Entomology

    Dr. Gavin Hanke, Curator, Vertebrate Zoology

    Dr. Ken Marr, Curator, Botany

    Claudia Copley, Collections Manager and Researcher, Entomology

    Heidi Gartner, Collections Manager and Researcher, Invertebrates


    “Don’t let it loose.” That is the message to all pet shops in the province. Shoppers should see the logo that the Inter-Ministry Invasive Species Working Group (IMISWG) asked pet shops to display:

    But clearly this message is not getting through.

    A blue-eyed panaque was caught in a ditch leading to Shawnigan Lake.

    A pacu was caught in Green Lake, Nanaimo.

    An albino oscar was caught in Chemainus.

    A flowerhorn cichlid was found in Kelowna. Flowerhorns are a man-made hybrid and do not exist in the wild.

    Goldfish and rosy-red (fathead) minnows appear in BC with alarming regularity.
    All of these abandoned animals originated in the pet trade.

    And in 2019, two redbelly piranhas (above, the caught in September; below, the one caught in July) were found in Westwood Lake in Nanaimo. This is a South American species with a famous reputation, exaggerated by several really bad B-movies.

    Piranha also may have been released in Langford Lake—a fish enthusiast who routinely dumped his piranha when they grew too large was reported by a friend. We are fortunate that piranhas won’t survive our winters and that most BC lakes are too cold to sustain them even in summer. However, it does show the frequency with which pets get dumped, and you have to wonder what motivates people to abandon pets, especially pets that are potentially harmful to the environment (and in this case, to people).

    According to Fuller et al. (1999), the native range of the redbelly piranha is lowland central and southern South America east of the Andes, including the Amazon and Parana basins and the coastal drainages of Brazil and Guianas. In North America, the species has been found in Florida, Hawai’i, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. You can bet all of these are aquarium releases. Individual white piranha (S. rhombeus) also have been released in Florida, and a sinkhole pool at a Florida tourist attraction was stocked intentionally in the 1960s. The pool supported a population for about 14 years before state officials used rotenone to wipe them out. Other piranha, which were not identified, have appeared in California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington.

    I don’t think we have a synopsis of records in Canada, but I know pacu and silver dollars—relatives of the piranha—have appeared in Manitoba and Ontario, so who knows how many piranha have also been dumped in this country.

    If you don’t want a fish, take it back to a pet shop, find it a new home, or if you have to, have it euthanized humanely. Our waterways are cool to cold, and it is unfair to make tropical fish suffer in cold water. And released tropical fish present a disease risk to our native fishes. Don’t release pets. BC becomes less beautiful with every abandoned animal (and aquarium plant—but that is another story entirely).


    Fuller, P. L., Nico, L.G. and Williams, J.D. 1999. Non-Indigenous Fishes Introduced Into Inland Waters of the United States. 

    This is the month that the garden explodes with food—and lizards. Everywhere you look, there is food to harvest. We try to weigh everything to get an idea of the cash value in our garden, but sometimes you just have to eat things right off the vine.

    Our tomatoes are ripening daily, with the Pineapple Cherry tomatoes at their delicious best now that we are nearing the end of August. Several of our tomatoes are not your typical variety: the Snow White ripens a pale cream-white colour, Black Prince are red-brown when ripe, and then we have the Green Zebra, which (as the name suggests) is striped green when ripe. They are all fantastic.

    We have already started saving seeds for next year. The seeds are left in water for a few days to simulate the rotting fruit, then we drain and dry to store seeds over winter.

    Zucchini, cucumbers, squash and melons are all producing fruit, though I don’t think the melons will amount to anything. Our pumpkin went nowhere. C’est la vie dans la grande ville. We will buy pumpkins to carve for Halloween and support a local grower in the process.

    Cabbages are being converted to sauerkraut. Some cucumbers were grown specifically for pickles, others to eat straight up.

    We have collected over 6 kg of blackberries, and our strawberries are still producing. The yellow raspberries produced just enough fruit for all three of us to enjoy a quick snack.

    Apples are nearly ready. And if this wasn’t enough fruit, our neighbours have offered some pearswe just have to pop over and pick them.

    A grey squirrel has figured out that our garden has loads of food and destroyed our mini-sunflowers. It also has been eating plums, leaving sticky scraps on our compost bins. That is part of gardeningsometimes you have to share. Wasps and house finches have nibbled on their fair share of the blackberries.

    Even without our greenhouseit got crushed by the snow last winterwe still grew some nice peppers, and the Italian parsley and New Zealand spinach are growing well. Carrots are our biggest failure; only a few grew.

    Lizards have hatchedeverywhere you look, a lizard the size of my pinkie finger darts off to hide in our rock walls and garden beds. The adults are still here toobut they seem to be less interested in basking in the midsummer’s sun. Perhaps the females don’t need to bask so much now since they are not carrying developing eggs.

    Much of the work now shifts indoors. Berries and tomatoes are being frozen for winter use. Beans are being shelled and left to dry for winter chili, stews and soup. Onions are pulled and drying on the deck so they will store well. Only the Scarlet Runner Beans are still growing and will be picked later in the season.

    The bean plants that are finished are now pulled and left on the ground to decay and add substance to the soil. We still need to harvest the potatoes in our front garden, and then in the next few weeks we will plant a cover crop. Once the cover crop has grown a few centimetres, we will cover it with a tarp to let worms and other recyclers enrich the soil.

    And even while the harvest is in full swing, we are planting lettuce and kale starts for autumn and winter. It is amazing to be able to walk outside in winter and get fresh produce when you need it.

    This has been a good summer for food production. We have hundreds of dollars in produce, with over $50  in blackberries alone at current market rates. We added oak-leaf mulch and some horse manure early in the season, watered when we needed to, and that is about it. Even a modest city garden can produce plenty of good clean food.


    I have been watching a female lizard in my garden slowly increase in girth as her eggs developed in May to early June. I recorded each day whether she was gravid or not, and noted when she lost her tail. Simple observational science is something I could do to better understand common wall lizard biology in BC while working from home.

    Here she was May 20—the last time I saw her with her original tail.

    My notes around the time I think eggs were laid went as follows:

    June 5 – basking on rocks, 80% tail lost in the last few days, still looks gravid.

    June 6 – not sighted

    June 7 – not sighted

    June 8 – not sighted

    June 9 – rainy, cold, not sighted

    June 10 – basking on rocks, has folds of skin along the flank suggesting eggs laid.


    I have watched our resident female wall lizard as her tail regenerated, and I saw her again yesterday (July 30) sporting a tail several centimeters shorter than the original.

    Our resident female hiding in the shade on a sunny July 30.

    I patrol the garden daily to see what the lizards are doing, and when and where they are active. My wife will confirm this obsessive behaviour. But this morning (July 31) I dropped my daughter off at a day camp, and on return home, as I walked up my driveway, I spotted our first hatchling.

    I gasped—I am not ashamed to admit it.

    The hatchling already seems to have a favourite rock.

    Lizards invaded our garden in 2019, and one year later we have a home-grown baby lizard. It looked pretty comfortable in its new habitat, so perhaps it hatched yesterday (July 30) or the day before. And there is no way to tell, without perhaps a series of DNA samples, whether this hatchling came from the female I have been studying, or whether some other female dug a nest in our garden. Young lizards leave their parents’ territory to avoid cannibalism, so this one may head for the hills. But it does give us an estimate of timing between egg deposition (somewhere between June 6–8, assuming eggs were not laid June 9 when it was cool and rainy) and the first appearance of hatchlings July 31.

    Females mature in their second year and can have one to three clutches of eggs each summer, depending on latitude and local conditions, with clutches ranging from 2 to 10 eggs. In nature, incubation ranges from 6–11 weeks. Embryo development is about halfway at oviposition, and females bury eggs in sandy or crumbly substrates at the end of 10–20 cm tunnels (Van Damme et al. 1992). In a laboratory experiment, temperature dramatically changed incubation times, with wall lizards incubated at 32–35°C hatching 10 days earlier than lizards incubated at 28°C, and over five weeks earlier than those incubated at 24°C (Van Damme et al. 1992). We had a cool spring, and I am not surprised then that 50–52 days passed between the first evidence that the female had laid eggs and the appearance of a hatchling.

    Hatching success is high in the 24–28°C incubation range, and Van Damme et al. (1992) suggested 28°C is the best trade-off between hatching success, incubation rate and hatchling health. I wonder how many more hatchlings will appear in the garden?

    For more information:

    Van Damme, R., D. Bauwens, F. Braña and R.F. Verhyen. “Incubation Temperature Differentially Affects Hatching Time, Egg Survival and Hatchling Performance in the Lizard Podarcis muralis.” Herpetologica 48, no. 2 (1992): 220–228.

    It is 2020, and people are asking whether this year will get any stranger.

    How about barracuda in BC waters? Does that qualify?

    I received several emails and other messages today (July 10) noting that a 5.4 kg barracuda had been caught off Vancouver Island this week. This is a really cool record, and I hope it’s added to iNaturalist.

    Pacific barracuda (Sphyraena argentea) from San Diego, California. Photo by Darren Baker, uploaded to Fishbase IMG-20120830-00071.jpg.

    Pacific barracuda (Sphyraena argentea) are known to range all along our coast, and as Alaska-based biologist Scott Meyer notes, they range north to Alaska during El Niño years. The first record from Alaska (off Kodiak Island) dates back to 1937, when a school of barracuda was sighted, though only one was caught. The surface waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean must have been warm that year, because a barracuda also was caught off Sooke, British Columbia. Another barracuda was found in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1958. In BC they are known also from Queen Charlotte Sound and the Prince Rupert area (see Hart 1973). Pietsch and Orr (2019) detail several barracuda records from the Salish Sea in their magnum opus, Fishes of the Salish Sea.

    The first record along the BC coast was a specimen cataloged at the Royal BC Museum (RBCM 33), caught at Otter Point in Sooke, July 27, 1904. It is the only Pacific barracuda in the RBCM collection. According to Peitsch and Orr (2019) the earliest record of Pacific barracuda in the area comes from Gig Harbor, Puget Sound dating back to 1878.

    I wouldn’t mind another specimen for the museum collection to accompany the 1904 specimen and our other warm-water strays: the louvar and finescale triggerfish found here in 2014, the North Pacific argentine from 2010 and the spotted porcupinefish from 2019.

    I wonder what fish is next? Maybe we will get more hammerhead sharks? They were seen off Ucluelet in 1952 and 1953. Sure would be neat to have them here again.



    Carl, Clifford C.  “The Hammerhead Shark in British Columbia.” Victoria Naturalist 11, no. 4 (1954): 37.

    Cowan, Ian McTaggart. “Some Fish Records From the Coast of British Columbia.” Copeia 1938, no. 2: 97.

    Hart, John Lawson. Pacific Fishes of Canada. Fisheries Research Board of Canada Bulletin 180. 740 p.

    Quast, Jay C. 1964. “Occurrence of the Pacific Bonito in Coastal Alaska Waters.” Copeia 1964, no. 2: 448.

    Pietsch, Theodore, and James. W. Orr. Fishes of the Salish Sea, Puget Sound and the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca. Victoria: Heritage House, 2019. 1032 pages.

    Van Cleve, Richard, and W.F. Thompson. “A Record of the Pomfret and Barracuda from Alaska.” Copeia 1938, no. 1: 45-46.

    Authors: Robert J.WilliamsaAlison M.DunnaGavinHankebJoel W.DixonaChristopherHassalla

    aSchool of Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, U.K.
    bRoyal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC, Canada


    The human-assisted movement of species beyond their native range facilitates novel interactions between invaders and native species that can determine whether an introduced species becomes invasive and the nature of any consequences for native communities. Avoiding costly interactions through recognition and avoidance can be compromised by the naïvety of native species to novel invaders and vice versa. We tested this hypothesis using the common wall lizard, Podarcis muralis, and the native lizard species with which it may now interact in Britain (common lizard, Zootoca vivipara, sand lizard, Lacerta agilis) and on Vancouver Island (northern alligator lizard, Elgaria coerulea) by exploring species’ responses (tongue flicks, avoidance behaviour) to heterospecific scent cues in controlled experiments. The tongue flick response of P. muralis depended on the different species’ scent, with significantly more tongue flicks directed to E. coerulea scent than the other species and the control. This recognition did not result in any other behavioural response in P. muralis (i.e. attraction, aggression, avoidance). Lacerta agilis showed a strong recognition response to P. muralis scent, with more tongue flicks occurring close to the treatment stimuli than the control and aggressive behaviour directed towards the scent source. Conversely, Z. vivipara spent less time near P. muralis scent cues than the control but its tongue flick rate was higher towards this scent in this reduced time, consistent with an avoidance response. There was no evidence of E. coerulea recognition of P. muralis scent in terms of tongue flicks or time spent near the stimuli, although the native species did show a preference for P. muralis-scented refuges. Our results suggest a variable response of native species to the scent of P. muralis, from an avoidance response by Z. vivipara that mirrors patterns of exclusion observed in the field to direct aggression observed in L. agilis and an ambiguous reaction from E. coerulea which may reflect a diminished response to a cue with a low associated cost. These results have significant implications for the invasive success and potential impacts of introduced P. muralis populations on native lizards.


    biological invasions, chemoreception, indirect competition, non-native Podarcis muralis, scent recognition

    See full article

    See Claudia’s Research Gate profile, which includes her recent publications and peer reviewed articles.



    Twenty-eight species of hydroids are now known from Japanese tsunami marine debris (JTMD) sent to sea in March 2011 from the Island of Honshu and landing between 2012 and 2016 in North America and Hawai‘i. To 12 JTMD hydroid species previously reported, we add an additional 16 species. Fourteen species (50%) were detected only once; given the small fraction of debris sampled, this suggests that the diversity of the total arriving hydroid fauna was likely larger. Our ongoing studies provide the first documentation of these species being rafted from one continental margin to another. Plumalecium plumularioides (Clark, 1877) is newly reported for the Japanese hydroid fauna. Fourteen species (52%), held to be either naturally amphi-Pacific or possibly introduced by ships at some earlier date, were already known from the Pacific coast of North America. We suggest that Obelia griffini Calkins, 1899, as represented in the JTMD fauna, may be a North Pacific oceanic neustonic species. We propose that Hydrodendron mirabile (Hincks, 1866) and its congeners be included in the family Phylactothecidae Stechow, 1921, here emended. We establish a new family, Plumaleciidae Choong and Calder, 2018, to accommodate the genus Plumalecium Antsulevich, 1982.

    See full article

    This article examines the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project (PCLP), a partnership project between the Royal British Columbia Museum and the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, as a case study of heritage from below. The project is based on community action research and practices, joining forces of memory, research, and community institutions, organisations, and groups. Considering ‘heritagisation’ as a process of heritage building, and drawing on their experience as practitioners on this project, the authors argue for the need to consider the vast diversities within and among communities, and the need to work on ‘heritagisation’ through ongoing dialogic engagement.

    Through a myriad of continuous dialogues and inherent challenges, the process and progress of the PCLP is shaped by this dialogic engagement. As an ongoing project, the PCLP demonstrates how a network extended to diverse participants with shared goals can emerge through the organically developed heritagisation process encouraged by the partners’ collaborative efforts in an experimental model for community work by memory and research institutions.

    See full article

    Working at home has allowed me to pay plenty of attention to the individual lizards in our garden. I can watch where they go, locate preferred basking spots in the garden, watch what they eat, and try to figure out when eggs have been deposited and, later, when hatchlings will emerge.

    Individuals are easy to identify based on size, sex and scarring. Most lizards have tails that have regrown, and the relative length of the original tail helps identify each animal.

    Our gravid female wall lizard on May 22 (left) and May 26 (right), 2020, with a complete tail.

    Our gravid female had a perfect tail until recently, but on June 5, I noticed that she had been attacked. Her tail was now less than a quarter of its original length. The stump was still fresh and had not grown over with new skin.

    We have several domestic cats vying for our garden (they also like using our garden beds as a litter box). The complexity of our garden attracts lots of birds, and it’s prime hunting territory for pudgy suburban felids to roam and kill at will. One cat (we know him as Meow, because that is what he said when we asked him his name), is a frequent visitor to our yard. He is likely the local lizard lacerator.

    Our female lizard on June 5 with a freshly cropped tail (inset).

    By June 10, the tail had healed and had a convex growing bud.

    By June 19, the regrown portion was obvious at about 3 mm long (inset).

    By June 26, the tail had seriously sprouted.

    And on July 4, we estimated the regrown portion of the tail was 29 mm.

    It appears that the growth is slow at first as the tail heals and the tissues organize themselves, but between June 19 and July 4, the tail grew an estimated 26 mm. The regrown tail will never be as long as the original, but it can be shed again if the lizard is attacked.

    Nature is amazing. Field bindweed, an invader from Eurasia, grows at an alarming rate in our garden. Beans can go from a mere sprout to a massive flowering plant in a few weeks. And we can add lizard tails to our list of fast-growing crops.

    When we harvest leafy veggies like lettuce, chard or New Zealand spinach, we take a few leaves for our meal and leave the rest of the plant to grow. The would-be predator attacking the wall lizards in our yard is also harvesting tails and letting the lizards regrow a new crop. I don’t think domestic cats have the mental capacity to intentionally farm lizard tails, but that is effectively what is happening.

    Robb Bennett¹,², David Blades², Gergin Blagoev³, Don Buckle⁴, Claudia Copley², Darren Copley², Charles Dondale⁵, and Rick C. West⁶

    1 Corresponding author –
    2 Natural History Section, Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC, Canada
    3 Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada
    4 16-3415 Calder Crescent, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
    5 Canadian National Collection, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, 960 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON, Canada (retired)
    6 6365 Willowpark Way, Sooke, BC, Canada


    In 2006, the Royal British Columbia Museum began systematically documenting the full diversity of British Columbia’s spider fauna. Initially, museum specimens and literature records were used to update an existing checklist and identify poorly sampled habitats in BC. Annual field surveys of spiders, primarily targeting alpine and subalpine habitats, began in 2008; barcode identification of previously unidentifiable specimens commenced in 2012. These efforts have resulted in significant increases in the area of BC that has been sampled for spiders, the number of species documented in the BC checklist, and the number of specimens in the RBCM collection. Many of the additions to the checklist represent the first Canadian or Nearctic records of those taxa or are undescribed species. By 2017, data from more than 9000 spider specimens had been entered into the RBCM database.Data from many specimens, however, remain unrecorded and currently (2017) the RBCM collection is estimated to house more than 90 000 specimens. The number of species recorded in BC has climbed from 212 in 1967 through 653 in 2006 to 859 in 2017. Here we present BC localities data and general global distributions for those 859 taxa. The progress of the RBCM’s work has made the RBCM an important repository of western Nearctic spiders and shown that British Columbia is an important area of Nearctic spider diversity.

    See full article


    The distribution of northern British Columbia alpine plants is poorly documented. To improve our understanding of the flora of this vast, remote region, we collected more than 11 000 specimens from 65 mountains during 2002–2011. Most of these locations had not been visited by botanists. Of the more than 400 species we have collected, two are new to the province, others represent significant range extensions. Twelve species share elements of a disjunct distribution that has apparently not been previously recognized and consists of three regions: (1) northwestern North America; (2) Beartooth Plateau; and (3) northern Colorado. These 12 species appear to be absent from the extensive areas of suitable habitat that occur in the intervening areas. The most reasonable explanation for this pattern is that these species, adapted to arctic–alpine tundra conditions, migrated throughout western North America during the Pleistocene, a time when suitable habitat was much more widespread than now, and subsequently went extinct in many areas as the climate warmed during the Holocene.

    Keywords: arctic–alpine vascular plantsdisjunctnorthwestern North AmericaBeartooth Plateaunorthern Colorado

    See full article


    Many plant species comprising the present-day Arctic flora are thought to have originated in the high mountains of North America and Eurasia, migrated northwards as global temperatures fell during the late Tertiary period, and thereafter attained a circumarctic distribution. However, supporting evidence for this hypothesis that provides a temporal framework for the origin, spread and initial attainment of a circumarctic distribution by an arctic plant is currently lacking. Here we examined the origin and initial formation of a circumarctic distribution of the arctic mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna) by conducting a phylogeographic analysis of plastid and nuclear gene DNA variation. We provide evidence for an origin of this species in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau of southwestern China, followed by migration into Russia c. 11 million yr ago (Ma), eastwards into North America by c. 4 Ma, and westwards into Western Europe by c. 1.96 Ma. Thereafter, the species attained a circumarctic distribution by colonizing Greenland from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Following the arrival of the species in North America and Europe, population sizes appear to have increased and then stabilized there over the last 1 million yr. However, in Greenland a marked reduction followed by an expansion in population size is indicated to have occurred during the Pleistocene.

    Keywords: ancestral location; arctic flora; circumarctic distribution; migration; species origin.

    See full article



    Many plants, especially at high latitudes, have both widespread and highly discontinuous geographical distributions. To increase understanding of how such patterns originate, we examine genetic patterns in the arctic–alpine plant Sibbaldia procumbens . We evaluate the contributions of refugia and the role of long‐distance dispersal in shaping the current range of this species.


    Northern Hemisphere, especially North America.


    We sampled Sibbaldia from 176 localities, including 168 for S. pro‐cumbens . We analysed sequence variation in three plastid DNA non‐coding regions (the atp I–atp H and trn L–trn F intergenic spacers and the trn L intron), performed Bayesian phylogenetic analyses and statistical parsimony analyses on the combined sequences, and analysed the geographical patterns of haplotype distribution and genetic diversity using data from all populations.


    Sibbaldia procumbens probably originated in the mountains of South and East Asia. We identified highly distinct clades in Europe and North America, which overlapped on oceanic islands of the North Atlantic indicating long‐distance dispersal capability. The North American clade included two lineages, one in California and the other widely distributed across the continent and North Atlantic. Haplotype diversity in the latter lineage was markedly higher to the south, suggesting mid–late Pleistocene southward displacement of North American populations with subsequent migration northwards into previously glaciated regions. In Europe, disjunct geographical regions generally harboured distinct haplotypes.

    Main conclusions

    Multiple Pleistocene refugia for S. procumbens occurred in both North America and Europe. North American refugia existed in California and in the southern Rocky Mountains, but in contrast with most widespread arctic–alpine species we found no evidence for a Beringian refugium. Cryptic refugia may have existed within the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. Episodes of range expansion and contraction and long‐distance dispersal have all contributed to the genetic structure and widespread but fragmented distribution of this species.

    See Full Article

    I recently spent a glorious sunny day on Willows Beach in Victoria. Staghorn sculpins (Leptocottus armatus) and many small soles raced to deeper water as we walked along in ankle-deep water. The tide was out. People were everywhere, but no one was lifting rocks to see everything hiding in plain sight.

    Further up the beach was a line of marine macroalgae (especially Ulva, sea lettuce) stranded by the receding tide. Under each rock you can expect a handful of isopods, as well as shore crabs and small Dungeness crabs that scuttle away, and even the tiniest puddles under a rock sheltered up to 8 fish—sculpins and gunnels. The sun heated the beach, but under the algae-draped rock, water stayed shaded and cool and kept everything alive until the tide returned.

    Most pools had tidepool sculpins (Oligocottus maculosus), and most were the typical grey-brown mottled form. But there also were many of these green sculpins—the same species as the typical grey-brown tidepool sculpin. These green sculpins are perfectly camouflaged in patches of sea lettuce.

    A bright-green tidepool sculpin sure stands out from its typical grey-brown relatives.

    Without the usual coloration to rely on, you have to look more carefully to see whether this is a tidepool or fluffy sculpin (O. snyderi). Fluffy sculpins have cirri (little wispy flaps of skin) along the lateral line in clusters of three to six, and the clusters of cirri follow the lateral line along the flank of the body. This photo—even though it was taken with my old iPhone 6. which performs poorly when taking macro shots—shows that the cirri along the lateral line are only found near the head, and they are single. This clearly is not a fluffy sculpin.

    Next time you are on the beach and the tide is out, take some time to explore tidepools and rocky ledges along the shore, and carefully lift some rocks. You probably will find a lime-green sculpin or two. You may also find lime-green penpoint gunnels (Apodichthys flavidus) or rosylip sculpin (Ascelichthys rhodorus). If you are really lucky, you will find sculpins with bright-pink colouration to match coraline algae, or a blue-and-red-banded longfin sculpin (Jordania zonope). Even in this city, there is plenty to see along shore.

    On June 16, I received notification that my blog post on introduced lizards in Hawaii was live on the internet. The last paragraph in that article is about western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis), where I ask people who see them in BC, to report the observation (with a picture if possible), or tag the occurrence in iNaturalist. Western fence lizards were on Matsuda et al.’s (2006) radar as a potential immigrant since the species exists so close to the Canadian border.

    A Plateau Fence Lizard (S. tristichus) I photographed in Arizona in the year 2000.

    Between submitting that blog post and it going live, the plea for lizard sightings was answered. A report came my way of a western fence lizard loose in BC. I had always assumed the first record would surface in the Okanagan region, since several anecdotes from there suggest fence lizards are already present as far north as Oliver. Furthermore, field guides show western fence lizards just south of the Okanagan region (St. John 2002; Stebbins and McGinnis 2018) and Storm et al. (1995) presented a range map for western fence lizards having a straight line at the international border. Lizards don’t recognize political boundaries, so there is no way Storm et al.’s map is accurate. Fence lizards would do really well in the orchards, fence lines and piles of fruit crates of the southern Okanagan.

    Instead of the Okanagan, the first record of a western fence lizard in British Columbia came from the Cloverdale area of Surrey, on June 6, 2020.

    The newly discovered western fence lizard from Surrey, British Columbia; photo by R. Farrell.

    Our first confirmed western fence lizard was a juvenile, and it had lost its tail to some would-be predator. We have no idea how this lizard arrived in BC; most likely it is a stow-away from south of the international border. It could have been an escaped pet, or maybe there is a population now in the area that has gone unreported. The lizard is still loose, but we are hoping to catch it and add it to the museum collection.

    The lizard is strangely coloured for a western fence lizard, but it does have the yellow-orange tint to the rear surfaces of the fore and hind limbs. The other possible look-alike in the region, though not in Canada, is the sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus), which has white on the undersides of its limbs. Sagebrush lizards are in Washington, but nowhere near as close to BC as western fence lizards (Storm et al. 1995; St. John 2002; Stebbins and McGinnis 2018). The nearest population of western fence lizards in Puget Sound is at Cherry Point, about 27 km south of where the Cloverdale specimen surfaced, thanks to a researcher in 1990 who released a handful of fence lizards to see if a population would get established.

    Western fence lizard from Deschutes County, Oregon; photo by A. St. John.

    In addition to this Cloverdale record in Surrey, a western fence lizard was reported on iNaturalist, April 2019, at MacNeill Secondary School, Richmond, British Columbia. However, this 2019 report cannot be verified since neither specimen nor photograph are available. Perhaps a second western fence lizard is loose in BC. Maybe it’s a sagebrush lizard. It would be great to get a picture of that Richmond reptile to verify the species.

    And I am still not giving up on the Okanagan—if you live anywhere between Summerland and the international border, keep your eyes peeled for fence lizards!

    Some background information:

    Matsuda, B. M., D. M. Green, and P. T. Gregory. 2006. Amphibians and Reptiles of British Columbia. Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

    Stebbins, R. C., and S. M. McGinnis. 2018. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts.

    St. John, A. 2002. Reptiles of the Northwest, British Columbia to California. Lone Pine Press, Renton, Washington.

    Storm, R. M., W. P. Leonard, H. A. Brown, R. B. Bury, D. M. Darda, L. V. Diller, and C. R. Peterson. 1995. Reptiles of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington.

    Rain this June has reduced our watering bill. Rain helps the plants we want, and also helps the weeds, so we spend a few hours each weekend weeding here and there. We are now well into the growing season, and we got a few new plants. From left to right below: the wasabi plant;  behind it, an acacia (which will be potted—can’t wait to see it flower); a raspberry that creeps along the ground (YAY—ground cover in the food forest that produces food and limits the regrowth of grass); and a gooseberry. The ferns (below) we have had for a while in the shade along the side of the house and they need some TLC. Both sides of the house need some thought and effort once the main food-producing areas are established. The wasabi is growing well, and that acacia was so crazy looking that I couldn’t resist.

    In the front food forest we have apples, cherries and blueberries well on the way.

    Beans, onions and potatoes are growing fast.

    The honey berries ripened early and we had them in pancakes. The front third of the garden is covered in wood chip and has three new sea buckthorns (far right below), a rose (middle) has set itself along the driveway, and I buried a few salmon berries to see if we can grow a few of those—that’ll bring in the hummingbirds. It is an area the deer can access. They seem to leave it all alone, and now that the grass is bashed back, only minor weeding is needed.

    The back yard is looking lush. Along the eastern fence (on the right in this panorama) is our thornless blackberry—last year we had about 3 kg of berries—this year it is COVERED with flowers. What a bounty—and we save them frozen for winter crisps and smoothies (or for a small human who likes eating frozen berries like candy). The area around the sunken patio needs some effort—there are herbs in there—but the grass and other agressive plants have run wild.

    The peppers, squash, cucumbers and pumpkin are growing nicely out back, although they are along the west side of the garden and our neighbour’s cedar hedge does drain the life from that soil. Plants grow poorly the closer they are to the cedars. Volunteer kale holds on and will seed again—yay kale.

    Strawberries are ripening daily. You can’t beat the flavour of home grown strawberries warmed in the sun.

    Ladybird beetles are everywhere. We have at least seven lizards in the front garden, and maybe three or four in the back. The female wall lizard which was obviously loaded with eggs now looks lighter, so we can expect hatchlings in a few weeks. The photo below is the male that may be the father of this year’s hatchlings, and as far as I can tell, our only garden lizard in the front yard with an intact tail.

    The poppies are popping up all over the place. Tomatoes and cabbage are rocketing up, and the New Zealand spinach is ready for selective harvest. Chives have gone to seed, a leek has a seed head taller than Anna, and the lettuce is still growing well. There’s so much to eat in such a small space.

    The usual avian suspects are flitting about—Bewick’s wrens; crows, which are now dive-bombing pedestrians; robins, which have nested and are much quieter; and Anna’s hummingbirds, chipping sparrows and house finches, which pop by regularly. We were buzzed by an osprey the other day—that was neat to see.

    And I finally got around to protecting our grape with netting (above). The local mule deer seem to notice it once it grows about six leaves, and then they strip the plant. Not this year.

    The garden is never finished, and it is always a learning experience. We are starting a chop-and-drop program to leave cut debris in place rather than taking it over to a separate compost pile. The chopped and dropped debris acts like leaves in a forest to reduce rain compaction of soil, and eventually it rots and adds organic matter to the surface – to be re-worked by nature. Probably the greatest thing to see is our daughter learning about the seasons in the garden, where food really comes from, what is ready to eat and what is not.

    What does a cork have to do with my research? Cork was produced in Europe and North Africa and shipped to North America in bulk until the Atlantic was blockaded during WWII. Stow-away pests were inevitable.

    In the 1940s, the western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata) was introduced repeatedly to Gloucester, New Jersey, as a stowaway in bales of cork bark (Kraus 2009; Burke and Deichsel 2008; Lever 2003; Conant 1945). In 1944, a single specimen of the ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus) also was caught on the Gloucester piers (Conant 1945). Common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis) also appeared over several years in New Jersey in the 1940s from shipments of cork bark (Kraus 2009; Conant 1945). The diversity of stowaway lizards underlines the ease and risk of accidental transport of lizards. Maybe the switch to synthetic stoppers has plugged this international leak in border security.

    All corks aside, British Columbia’s wine region has been invaded twice by common wall lizards (that we know of). In 1983, a handful of these invasive lizards were intentionally released in two private gardens in Summerland. Fortunately for the ecology of the Okanagan valley, the Summerland introductions failed. The second invasion, in 2015, consisted of a lone wall lizard found at a vineyard in Osoyoos, transported as a stow-away in a shipment of grapes from Vancouver Island. Fortunately for fans of BC wines, the lizard was removed before grapes were crushed, and died in captivity.

    You can see the record in iNaturalist, though the exact location in Osoyoos area has never been pined down.

    While writing this short post I tripped across a website for the LacertA Winery in Romania. Their label showcases the eastern green lizard (Lacerta viridis), which grows to 45 cm total length. Imagine if eastern green lizards had been released here instead of the much smaller common wall lizard!

    Photos courtesy of Walter Friedl, managing partner, LacertA Winery.

    According to Speybroeck et al. (2016), Romania has us beaten for lizard diversity with the snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii), eastern slow worm (Anguis colchica), slow worm (A. fragilis), the steppe runner (Eremias arguta), sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), Balkan green lizard (L. trilineata), meadow lizard (Darevskia praticola), viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara), common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) and Balkan wall lizard (P. tauricus). And now I can’t look at, or open, a bottle of wine without thinking of lizards.


    Burke RL, Deichsel G. 2008. Lacertid Lizards introduced into North America: History and Future. 347-353. In: Urban Herpetology. Mitchell JC, Jung Brown RE, Bartholomew B. (eds).  Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Salt Lake City, Utah.

    Conant B. 1945. More reptiles in cork shipments. Copeia 1945(4):233.

    Engelstoft, C., J. Robinson, D. Fraser and G. Hanke. 2020. Recent rapid expansion of European Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) in British Columbia, Canada. Northwestern Naturalist 101(1): 50-55.

    Kraus F. 2009. Alien Reptiles and Amphibians: A Scientific Compendium and Analysis. Invading Nature: Springer Series in Invasion Ecology 4. Drake JA (ed). Springer, New York.

    Lever C. 2003. Naturalized Reptiles and Amphibians of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

    Speybroeck, J., W. Beukema, B. Bok, J. Van Der Voort, and I. Velikov. 2016. Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Britain and Europe. Helm Field Guide Series, Bloomsbury, London, United Kingdom.

    During the first visits of Hudson’s Bay Company officials to Victoria Harbour—William McNeil in 1837 and McNeil with John Work and John McLoughlin in 1839—there was no information recorded about the Indigenous Lekwungen peoples of the area. (Keddie 2003)

    The first information was recorded in 1842 during the visit of the company’s James Douglas to settle on the location of the future Fort Camosun—later Fort Victoria. It was during Douglas’s second visit in 1843 that he brought along the Québécois Jesuit Jean Baptiste Zacharie Bolduc, a missionary who was part of the Quebec Mission to the Pacific Northwest (fig. 1).

    Figure 1. Jean-Baptiste-Zacharie Bolduc. Courtesy of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. P560,S2,D1,P109.

    The accounts of the Bolduc provide some of the most important observations of the Indigenous peoples in the Victoria region, more so than those of Douglas at that time. It is important in this regard to be familiar with the different versions of the Bolduc accounts that have been presented in the literature and used by various researchers.

    One difference in the accounts that is significant is Bolduc’s observation of 525 people at Cadboro Bay—the only village observed and visited in 1843. Unfortunately, anthropologist Wilson Duff, in his study of the Victoria Treaties (Duff 1969), used a reference that did not have this account. One wonders what different conclusions Duff may have come to if he was familiar with Bolduc’s original writings.

    To understand the context of what Bolduc documented it is important to know where he was during his visit and more precisely what he said. In examining the information from Bolduc, I referred to and compared published accounts in French and their various English translations when considering statements such as the number of 525 people identified by Bolduc at Cadboro Bay on March 17, 1843. I consider Bolduc’s statements about the number of people he observed to be accurate estimates.  My conclusions were based on the original published documents of Bolduc, his propensity to record accurate information and statements he made of the circumstances of his visit.

    What is crucial here is that there are translations of Bolduc’s work that do not mention the 525 people at Cadboro Bay, as well as other important details. The reference pertaining to Cadboro Bay that I used was Bolduc’s original 1844 account, translated by Landerholm (1956), which is similar to that of a later editor/translator, Kowrach (1979). The latter author used the English translations of Landerholm and others in his French to English translation. Both of the latter translators used the French language documents in the collections of the Oregon Historical Society as well as earlier English translations.

    The incomplete English translation of De Smet that casts doubt on Bolduc’s statement regarding the count of 525 people at Cadboro Bay is an earlier 1847 English translation by Father De Smet: “Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky Mountains in 1845-46, Edward Dunigan, New York.”  This does not mention the count of 525 people at the Cadboro Bay village. The missing figure is also absent from De Smet’s earlier, French-language version, “Colombie. Extract d’une letter do M. Bolduc, Missionaire apostolique, a M. Cayene, Cowlitze, le 15 fevrier 1844” (1845).

    However, what is significant is that De Smet’s French-language publication was not a direct copy from French to French, but extracts and paraphrasing of Bolduc’s documents. De Smet simply left out material that he did not think was important or that did not present Bolduc in a favourable manner, such as his complaint about having to shake so many hands at Cadboro Bay. The count of 525 people at Cadboro Bay was included in Bolduc (1845).

    De Smet’s 1847 English translation was from the altered and incomplete French version. The reference was simply left out by De Smet. Wilson Duff, in writing about the Victoria Treaties, used the information from historian Kaye Lamb (1943), who also obtained his information from De Smet’s incomplete writings.

    The Best Published French Language Source

    The best published source in the French language of Bolduc’s trip to Vancouver Island is the 1845 publication of Bolduc’s Journal and letters: “Mission De La Columbie. Deuxieme Lettre et Journal of M. J.-B.-Z. Bolduc, Missionnaire A La Columbie. Quebec: De L’imprimerie De J.-B. Frechette, Pere, Imprimeur-Labraire, No. 13, Rue Lamontagne,” under the subtitle: “A Vant-Propos. Suite Du Journal De M. Bolduc, Missionnaire A La Columbie” is the “Exrait du Canadian du 19 fevrier, 1845”. Within this are two letters, the second on 28 pages being the one of concern here, entitled: “Extrait Du Journal De M. Bolduc” – “Adreese a M. C…… T……. Cawlitz, 15 fevrie 1844”.  Both of the 1843 and 1845 journal documents contained in this larger document and written in French (RBCM Archives N.W. 970.7 B687m; old manuscript MS-0580) were translated into English by Tess Jennings (1937). Jennings’s translation is from the Bolduc 1845 French-language copy in the RBCM Archives (NW970.7 B687m). The 1843  journal of Bolduc does not contain information on southern Vancouver Island.

    Bolduc’s Reliability as an Observer

    In the 1845 publication of Bolduc, the editor/printer Pere Frechette comments in the preface, as translated by Jennings: As in the first Journal, we do not wish to change in any way the form in which it was written.”

    There are five volumes entitled “Missions de Quebec” in the library of the Oregon Historical Society (Landerholm 1956). One of the seven reports translated by Landerholm is entitled “Mission de la Colombie. Notice No. 6,” dated July 1845. The latter includes Bolduc’s travels to Puget Sound and Vancouver Island. These documents provide a view of how careful Bolduc was in documenting numbers of various Indigenous groups and numbers of converts. This was originally published as a report of the Missions of the Quebec Diocese. On page 2, is the translation of a letter of Bolduc’s entitled “Mission of the Cowletz River, March, 1843. On page 4 is the translated statement of Bolduc:

    “I am also going to keep a journal of my northern trip, and try to assemble reliable facts concerning these nations of faraway places.”

    In this report of March 6, 1843, Bolduc regularly provides estimates of the numbers of people in the many groups he visits. He shows interest in leaning the names of individual communities and his keen interest in languages is shown in his writing of a dictionary of the Chinook language.  Bolduc was clearly an experienced observer. His statements about population numbers can be considered accurate. Bolduc’s statement about the numbers of Indigenous people he observed in the Victoria area in 1843 cannot be dismissed as unreliable.

    Figure 2. Portion of the 1842 Adolphus Lee Lewis map showing the village location at Cadboro Bay and the proposed location of Fort Victoria. Courtesy of the Hudson Bay Company Archives. Provincial Archives of Manitoba. Map Collection G.2/25(T11146).

    Cadboro Bay Commentary of Bolduc

    Some additional commentary is necessary regarding the missing pieces of the Landerholm translation of Bolduc, which goes as follows:

    “We headed for the southern point of Vancouver Island. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when we arrived there. At first we saw only two canoes, but, having discharged two cannon shots, the aborigines left their retreats and surrounded the steamboat. The following day canoes arrived from all sides. Seeing that there was no danger, I landed with the commander of the expedition and the captain. Yet it was only after several days… that I went to their village, situated at six miles from the harbor [from Victoria harbour] at the base of a charming little bay [Cadboro Bay]. Like almost all of the surrounding tribes, this one possesses a stockade fort of about 150 feet square. They fortify themselves thus to provide shelter from the Yougletas [Lekwiltok], a powerful and warlike tribe… These ferocious enemies fall, usually at night, on the villages they wish to destroy, kill and massacre as many of the men as they can, and take the women and children as slaves. On top of posts in the fort one sees many human heads sculptured in red or black, and occasionally both colors together. On my arrival the whole village, men, women and children, arranged themselves in two lines to shake hands with me, a ceremony which they would not omit for a great deal. I counted 525 individuals, apart from absent ones. I assembled them all in the largest lodge, the chiefs’.”

    In his 1845 French publication, Bolduc notes on page 12: “Je comptai 525 individus, et plusieurs etaient absents.” Jennings’s translation of this is the same as that of Kowrach (1979:108): I counted five hundred twenty-five individuals and many were absent.” Landerholm (1956:193) translates the French as: “I counted 525 individuals, apart from absent ones.”. I thought it was more likely that the end of Bolduc’s sentence would be correct as: “and several were absent.”

    I consulted with French teacher Deni St. Clair of Victoria in regard to Jennings’s English interpretation of the statement about the number count in Cadboro Bay. St. Clair pointed out that “plusieurs” is properly spelt as “plusiers” and noted that: “The potential problem I see here is that the dictionary meaning of plusiers is “several” not “many” (St. Clair, personal communication, December 21, 2014).

    The interpretation that “several were absent” makes sense in the context of Bolduc’s observation in “the following days” when he made a journey to where Indigenous people were cutting posts for the fort. Here Bolduc notes: “I baptized three more children who were absent the day of solemn baptism.” The latter “solemn baptism” is referring to the baptism of children on March 17 at Cadboro Bay.

    James Douglas makes reference the day before to the activities of cutting posts mentioned by Bolduc:

    “Spoke to the Samose today and informed them of our intention of building in this place which appeared to please them very much and they immediately offered their services in procuring pickets for the establishment.” Douglas had offered to give them a 2 1/2 point blanket for every 40 pickets of 22ft. by 36in (Douglas 1843).

    Were there people other than Lekwungen at Cadboro Bay?

    One might speculate that Bolduc may have brought outside Indigenous people with him on his first visit to Cadboro Bay on March 17. There is no evidence to support the idea that large numbers of people accompanied Bolduc on his first trip to Cadboro Bay. Bolduc does not mention anyone going with him on his first trip, but he does mention people accompanying him on his second trip to Cadboro Bay from Victoria Harbour.

    As Bolduc is writing about the events of March 17, 1843, after they occurred, the wording he uses suggests that the other groups came after hearing about his visit to Cadboro Bay and began arriving in Victoria Harbour the day before or the morning of the day he set up his outdoor chapel in Victoria Harbour. After telling the Songhees that he would return on Sunday, Bolduc states (1845:13): “Cependant le bruit de mon arrive s’etant repandu dans le voisinage, plusieurs nations arriverent en masse.”

    Jennings’s translation of this is: “But the sound of my coming is being widespread in the neighborhood, many nations arrived en masse.”  Landerholm’s (1956:194) English translation is: “Meanwhile the rumor of my arrival having spread, several neighboring tribes came en masse.” There is no information to suggest that other tribes or Lekwungen from other villages were present during Bolduc’s visit on March 17 to Cadboro Bay. The quotation referred to is related to a time frame after Bolduc’s visit to Cadboro Bay. Based on Bolduc’s information we can conclude that the 525 people at Cadboro Bay were likely all Lekwungen who primarily lived at Cadboro Bay and did not include outside populations.

    Here is Landerholm’s version of the events after Bolduc told the Lekwungen that he would return to Cadboro Bay on the 19th to baptise the children:

    “Meanwhile the rumor of my arrival having spread, several neighbouring tribes came en masse. The 18th being Sunday, I employed it for constructing a temporary alter [near Victoria Harbour] for celebrating on land the Lord’s day. On Sunday early in the morning, more than 1,200 natives from three great tribes, Kawitshins, Klalams, and Tsamishes, [Cowichan, Klallam and Songhees], assembled around the modest temple… That day being the one I had set for the baptism of children, I went to the principal village [Cadboro Bay] accompanied by a Canadian named Gobin and all the crowd that had been present at the divine service. On arrival, I had again to submit to the terrible ceremony of shaking hands with more than 600 persons. The children were placed in two lines at the seaside. I distributed to each one a holy name on a bit of paper, and I began the ceremony. It may have been about ten o’clock, and when I had finished it was almost nightfall; then I counted the new Christens and found 102 of them. On top of that I had to go more than two leagues on foot to return to the steamboat.”

    The Location of the Boats’ Anchorage

    There has been some confusion regarding the specific location where the Beaver was anchored and where some Indigenous people were coming from during the start of Bolduc’s March 15 visit.

    I would interpret the anchorage of the steamship Beaver to be inside Shoal Point at the west end of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, either at what is now the Fishermans’ Wharf location or just east of Laurel Point. The latter we know was the anchorage during the 1839 visit (Keddie 2003).

    There are several details of translation that need to be discussed pertaining to the Landerholm translation regarding the first observations at the expeditions arrival.

    The translation: “At first we saw only two canoes” leaves out the activity of fishing. Bolduc’s “Nous ne vimes d’abord que deux canots occupes a’ pecher” should say: “We at first only saw two canoes occupied in fishing”.

    The translation: “but, having discharged two cannon shots, the aborigines left their retreats and surrounded the steamboat. The following day canoes arrived from all sides”. This could be interpreted to say that Indigenous people came immediately in large numbers shortly after the boat arrived in the harbour, but: “Mais bientot le canon fit sortir les indigenes de leurs retraites” should be translated as: But the canon soon made the natives leave their retreats and “Cependant, comme il se fesait déjà tard, nous n’en vimes que peu ce jour-la.” becomes:  However, as it was already late, we saw but few that day.

    “Mais le lendemain de bon matin, il fallait voir les canots arriver do [de NOT DO] tout cote et entourer le steam boat.”  [But], The next morning it was possible to see canoes arrive from every side and surround the steamboat. From this observation it appears that only one canoe with two people fishing was seen in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. It was not until the next day that more people came in canoes from elsewhere.

    Bolduc writes: “Seeing that there was no danger, I landed with the commander of the expedition and the captain”. This fits with Douglas statement, that after a night on the Beaver he went out the next morning to examine “the wood of the north shore of the harbor.” This clearly indicates that the Beaver was not anchored off Clover Point but was in a harbour with forest on the north shore.

    In 1927 there was a discussion among local historians regarding the locations of the 1842 and 1843 visits of James Douglas. In regard to the 1842 visit C.C. Pemberton mentions in a letter of October 19 to historian Kaye Lamb and to Judge Howay that Walbran (who had a considerable knowledge about the origin of place names but mistakenly referred to the “1841” Douglas survey): “remarks that Sir James’ grandson had informed him that Sir James made his first landing from the Beaver at Clover Point, . . . and . . . party then walked through the area of Beacon Hill Park to the Gorge” but Pemberton knew nothing about it.  “I believe that when Sir James made his survey in 1842, he came in the Cadboro, and in 1843 he landed from the Beaver at Shoal Point…. I think I have a faint remembrance of hearing, when I was a boy, of this landing, and naming of Clover Point.”

    Pemberton, in a another letter to Judge Howay, on November 2, pertaining to the 1842 visit, noted that: “D. H. McNeill. . . says that he knows that his grandfather, Capt. Wm. McNeill, landed Sir James and party at Clover Point, and then went around to Victoria Harbour and anchored, waiting for them to return to the Beaver.”(Pemberton 1927).


    Bolduc’s writings have suffered from problems of translation, but his work is significant in providing a glimpse of Lekwungen peoples as they were in the spring of 1843.


    Bolduc, Jean Baptiste. 1844. Letter of M. Bolduc to M.C. of February 15. In: Notices & Voyages of the Famed Quebec Mission to the Pacific Northwest, pp. 189-198. Oregon Historical Society. 1956.
    Bolduc, Jean-Baptisite Zacharie. 1845. “Extrait Du Journal De M. Bolduc” “Adreese a M. C…… T……. Cawlitz, 15 fevrie 1844]. (RBCM Archives N.W. 970.7 B687m – old manuscript MS-0580).
    De Smet, Pierre-Jean. 1844. Voyages aux Montagnes Rogcheuses et Une Annee de Sejour. Chez Les Tribes Indiennes Du Vaste Territoire De L-Oregon, Dependant, Des Etats-Unis D’Amerique, Par le R. P. Pierre De Smet, Missionarie De La Compagne De Jesus. Malines. P.J. Hanicq, Imprinmeur De Saint Siege, De La Sacree Congregation De La Propagande et De L’archevech De Malines.
    De Smet, Piere-Jean. 1845. Annals De La Propagation De La F01 Recueil Periodique. Tome Dix-Septieme, A Lyon. Copy in the Royal B.C. Museum Archives (NW 282 A614, Vol. 17).
    Douglas, James. 1851. In: Private Papers of Sir James Douglas, RBCM Archives B20/1853.
    Douglas, James. 1843. Diary of a Trip to Victoria, March 1–21, 1843. RBCM Archives, Ms A/B/40/D75.4.
    Douglas, James. 1850.  Letter of September 1, in Fort Victoria Letters 1846-1851. The Hudson’s Bay Record Society, Vol. XXXII, p. 115–118.
    Douglas, James. Diary of a Trip to Victoria. March 1-21, 1843. RBCM Archives A/B/40/D75.4a.
    Duff, Wilson. 1969. The Fort Victoria Treaties, BC Studies 3:3-57.
    Jennings, Tess.  1937. (Translator). “Mission of the Columbia. Second Letter and Journal of Father J. –B. Z. Bolduc. Missionary of the Columbia”. Works Progress Administration, Project 4185, Frederick E. Bolton, Sponsor and Project 5606, J.S. Richards, Sponsor. Seattle, Washington, (RBCM N.W. 970.7 B687d).
    Keddie, Grant. 2003. Songhees Pictorial. A History of the Songhees People as seen by Outsiders, 1790-1912. Royal B.C. Museum, Victoria.
    Kowrach, Edward J. 1979. (Editor and translator) Mission of the Columbia. Jean Baptisite Zacharie Bolduc. Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington.
    Lamb, W. Kaye. 1943. The Founding of Fort Victoria. British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII, no. 2, April.
    Lamb, Kaye. 1943. The Founding of Victoria. The Beaver, Outfit 273, March, 1943:3-8.
    Landerholm, Carl (Translator. 1956. Letter of M. Bolduc to M.C. of February 15. In: Notices & Voyages of the Famed Quebec Mission to the Pacific Northwest, pp.189-198. Oregon Historical Society.
    Pemberton, C.C. 1927. Add. Mss.0522; letter to Kaye Lamb E D P361.9; letter to Judge Howay, Oct. 19, 1927.

    I learn new things just by sitting in my garden and watching the behaviours of common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis). Flies may be fast, but lizards nab them. I put cutworm grubs on a pile of rocks and lizards happily sneak up and grab them too. Lizards eat ants.

    People tell me wall lizards eat earthworms, even dried earthworms. I have received photos of wall lizards eating wasps. Wall lizards eat each other. They eat their own eggs.

    But one thing that is abundant in my garden that lizards leave alone is the ladybug. We have several species of ladybug. The lizards have specific rock piles they seem to hold as resident territory, especially this pair of adults (above)—these two are always close to a small rock pile in my garden.

    Right now, those same rocks are covered with larvae, pupae and adult ladybugs. Ladybugs smell bad because they emit:

    2,5-dimethyl-3-methoxypyrazine (DMMP)

    2-isopropyl-3-methoxypyrazine (IPMP)

    2-sec-butyl-3-methoxypyrazine    and


    The smell is described as a mixture of nutty, green bell pepper, potatoes and mould. I assume ladybugs taste like they smell. Even the yearling lizards in my garden are leaving the pupae and larvae of ladybugs alone, so they must learn early to leave ladybugs alone.

    Even a small number of ladybugs can taint a batch of wine, and since lizards taste their way through the garden, constantly flicking their tongues, it is no wonder they leave ladybugs alone. Lizards likely don’t even have to bite a ladybug to know it is unpalatable.

    Ladybugs and wall lizards do however eat the same prey—aphids. Gardeners may be happy to have both of these colourful predators in their gardens.


    The chemicals in ladybug emissions are from:

    Rovner, S.L. 2007. Why Ladybugs Smell Bad. Chemical & Engineering News.

    I do prattle on about the invasive common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) on Vancouver and Denman Islands, and the recent appearance of one Italian wall lizard (P. siculus) in Vancouver, but to put things into perspective, only two lizard species have appeared here, and only one is established. Others from the pet trade, or arriving as contaminants in tropical plant shipments (e.g., bearded Dragon, brown anole, green iguana), represent individuals that escape and never get established. Tropical species will not survive our cool wet winters.

    Hawaii, by contrast, has more exotic lizard species than BC has reptiles. The common wall lizard pales by comparison to the Green Iguana.

    The books I have for Hawaii are out of date, but they will serve to express the magnitude of the problem posed by accidental import, accidental release from the pet trade, and intentional release in areas where exotic species will survive.

    Combined with records on iNaturalist, the lizards introduced to Hawaii include the green iguana, green anole, brown anole, knight anole, Jackson’s chamaeleon, mourning gecko, stump-toed gecko, Indo-Pacific slender gecko, common house gecko, Madagascar giant day gecko, orange-spotted day gecko, gold-dust day gecko, Tokay gecko, delicate garden skink, mottled snake-eyed skink, moth skink, copper-tailed skink and azure-tailed skink. Two species of horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum and P. coronatum) were released on Oahu, but failed to establish populations, and the azure-tailed skink probably is extirpated—an invasive ant may have caused its demise.

    The green anole, a common pet lizard. This one was in captivity.

    If we include species that died out, there are 20 species of lizard introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, with 7 species accidentally transported by Polynesians, and the rest more recently from the pet trade or as stow-aways in packing material. Only the yellow-bellied sea snake and sea turtles are native to the Hawaiian Islands, all other reptiles and amphibians were introduced by humans.

    A female common wall lizard in Saanich, Vancouver Island.

    I am sitting in my dining right now and looking out at the grey sky, knowing that it is 8 degrees Celsius outside. Tropical lizards have no chance on Vancouver Island, and so I am not alarmed at the annual wave of brown anoles that arrive as eggs in plant shipments from the USA. The lizard species that could survive here need to be able to withstand freezing temperatures. European lacertids, like the green lizard, western green lizard, Ibiza wall lizard, Dalmatian wall lizard and Italian wall lizard that at one time or another were established in the United States, and the viviparous lizard which appeared in Japan, are the only lizards that fit the profile. Perhaps the entire family should be prohibited from the pet trade in North America to limit the risk of introduction.

    The western fence lizard also is a species that could survive in BC—it may be in the Okanagan region already, as far north as Oliver—so keep your eyes peeled for these guys. They have also been introduced to the Puget Sound area in Washington and would do fine on southern Vancouver Island. These prickly lizards are common around human habitation. They have bright blue patches on their bellies and do push-ups as a territorial display—if you see one, let me know or tag it in iNaturalist.

    After picking up a range of starters at the local nursery, we are finally ready to plant the rest of the beds in the garden. A pumpkin starter arrived from the garden of Steve and Amy Lewis—they started a few too many mega-pumpkins—we were happy to get a seedling. Wasabi is the experimental plant for this year.

    Soil was turned over, manure mixed down a bit, and weeds were pulled in preparation for planting. One of the most invasive plants in our front garden is Calendula—ours has a gorgeous orange flower, but this flowering plant had overgrown a third of the front vegetable bed.

    Seeds arrived by mail, and we bought a range of peppers, some hotter than others—the scorpion pepper will be interesting.

    All our tomatoes went in, as did cabbages, and we have a few hundred New Zealand spinach plants poking up. Ladybird beetles are pupating and there are loads of adults, so let’s hope they keep busy dealing with aphids.

    New Zealand spinach (above) has an odd textured leaf and is not to everyone’s liking, but as it’s an edible weed, I am OK with it. Between New Zealand spinach, alexanders, kale, chives, oregano and leeks growing wild in the garden, we will always have some garden fresh food. The lettuce we bought as starters has overgrown its pot!

    Lizards are active and emerge by 08:30 as the sun hits the front garden. Two larger lizards seem to have replaced the three yearlings that were on the back fence, and our gravid female still has not laid eggs. Two lizards seem to have been attacked—tails were shortened—but that seems to be it for lizard drama in the last few weeks.

    Bewick’s wrens are nesting in our back yard, bushtits are stocking up on spider webs (and the cotton thread we use to tie up plants), crows are building nests, robins have hatched over a week ago, and Anna’s hummingbirds, chipping sparrows and house finches pop by regularly to liven up the garden.

    Now to set up the watering schedule and let nature do its thing.


    Light rain all day yesterday and the soil is nice and damp, but now warmed by today’s sun. Everything smells fresh and amazing. Lettuce starters are doing really well.

    Last year’s kale is in full bloom, ensuring we have kale year round with zero effort. Other flowers do their part to attract bees.

    Fruit trees flowering everywhere you turn. Blueberries soon will flower in the front yard.

    Strawberries in bloom, rhubarb growing nicely, the fennel is up, and red sorrel pops up where it wants.

    Rosemary attracts bees to the garden, while our raspberries and thorn-less blackberries send off many new leaves. Their flowers will soon appear. Oregano is everywhere in the raspberry bed.

    Forgotten onions are growing, others have been planted. Potatoes and carrots are planted. Free range chives, kale and chard is as luxuriant as ever.


    And our tomatoes—grown from seeds saved from last summer’s successes—are enjoying the sun on our south-facing deck.

    And the lizards are increasing in abundance. This one likely hatched out early last summer. I haven’t seen our gravid female in a few days—maybe she is digging a nest.

    Bewick’s wrens seem to have staked out territory and may nest here this summer. Chipping sparrows appear daily, as do American robins, dark-eyed juncos, chestnut-backed chickadees, house finches and our resident Anna’s hummingbirds.

    Turkey vultures and bald eagles soar in thermals. And Cooper’s hawks keep the smaller birds on edge.

    This city garden is alive.

    Not much has changed in the garden itself since late March. Some weeding has been done, and I am specifically targeting a few plants that produce seeds early. Purple Deadnettles are everywhere and the battle with them essentially is a Kobayashi Maru scenario.  Hairy Bittercress is another I target early since it catapults its seeds early in spring when the seed pods dry. Other than weeding and a bit of cleanup, we are now starting seeds indoors.

    Thyme, tomatoes, basil (the seeds were not faulty), cilantro and peas came up nicely.

    The arugula and cress are grown as “microgreens” to go directly into salads and sandwiches instead of into the garden. Growing microgreens is a year round thing for us—we have a small light stand with LEDs to start plants from seeds. We also have some flowering plants just for the flowers.

    Leftover potatoes and newly bought onions are getting planted this Eostre weekend.

    One of my favourite plants in the garden, however, is not something we eat. Mosses—mosses grow like mini forests and while some people power-wash the moss away, I like moss. I wish lawns were entirely made of mosses. Moss is soft on the feet, requires no mowing or maintenance or fertilizer, there is no need for aeration, and it makes plenty of habitat for tardigrades. I may never see a tardigrade in my garden, but I hope they are there and thriving. Since they can survive exposure to outer space, my garden likely is a tardigrade-happy place.

    I remember the lifecycle of mosses from my time as a teaching assistant in Intro Biology (course # 71.125) at the University of Manitoba. Moss plants—more specifically, the haploid gameteophyte (gamete producing plant)—we are used to seeing come in a male and female form. The female and male gametophytes produce gametes—egg cells and sperm cells respectively. When water splashes on the male plant, some sperm splashes on top of the female plant, and fertilization of the egg cell occurs. Fertilization of an egg (syngamy) merges each haploid copy of the species genes into one cell (the zygote) which continues to grow with its diploid gene complement.

    The sporophyte (or spore producing plant) is the next stage of the plant which grows as a stalk out of the top of the female gametophyte. The stalk elongates and develops a pod (known as a sporangium) at the tip where haploid spores are produced by meiosis. Those haploid spores are released and produce the next generation of haploid male and female gametophytes. This is my memory of the basic moss lifecycle—not bad considering I last taught intro biology labs in the early 1990s.

    And I will end this Printemps-post with a gratuitous photo of one of our Common Wall Lizards, one of four (possibly five) which have taken up residence in the front garden. They were basking in the sun at 08:30 this morning.

    The properties on which our legislative buildings are now located in Victoria Harbour are within the traditional territory of the Lekwungen First Nations, today represented by the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations. There is clear evidence in the form of written documents and maps that James Douglas intended this property to become an Indigenous Reserve as part of the treaty settlements of 1850. (See Appendix 1: The Paper Reserve.)

    The legislative property is shown on this 1862 map to the left of lot VI belonging to James Douglas. It is located at the southern foot of the James Bay Bridge. (BC Archives 11520A. Part of Beckley Farm No.4.)

    The Lekwungen people were rightfully compensated, in November of 2006, with an out of court settlement for the failure of this property to become a modern First Nations reserve. There is no evidence of any agreement being made in the nineteenth century to dispose of this proposed reserve with any Lekwungen peoples.

    This is a case where, in my opinion, compensation would not need to be predicated on the Lekwungen ever having a village on the property. There is, in fact, no archaeological evidence that there was a pre-contact village on this property. (See Appendix 2: Archaeological Observations in the Legislative Building Precinct and Along the Adjacent Waterfront 1972–2019. )

    Courtesy of the American Library of Congress. #2005680426, No.2.

    Homestead of Montreuil on what became the legislative Grounds, 1858. Buildings owned by non-Indigenous peoples seen to the right of this image on the larger panorama are west of the legislative property. Courtesy of the American Library of Congress. #2005680426, No.2. 

    A Historic Overview of the Legislative Property

    Here I will examine the nature of some of the early historic documentation regarding the legislative property. 

    There are no Hudson Bay company records or accounts of military, religious or other visitors to Victoria Harbour in the 1840s to early 1850s that pertain to Lekwungen people living in a village at the location intended to be a future “Indian Reserve” shown on the 1854 map The historic Inner Harbour village was located a few blocks further west, near Laurel Point. This village was one that was co-occupied by local Xwsepsum treaty people and their Clallam relatives from the American side of the Straits of Juan de Fuca for a short period of time about 1847–1855.  

    I would propose that the historic village sometimes being referred to as being “near”, “in front of” or “on” the legislative property was in fact at the latter location, near Laurel Point. (See Appendix 3: The Location of the Historic Village of the Xwsepsum and Klallum.)

    Here I will present some observations in regard to the earlier use of the property around the legislative buildings. There is no archaeological evidence of a shellmidden that would represent the remains of a village site at this location. Direct accounts that observe local First Nations occupying this site area are lacking.  

    Dorothy Kennedy has provided a detailed analysis of the ethnographic literature pertaining to the locations in Victoria Harbour and the Gorge Waterway of  the Kosampson and other Lekwungen peoples (Kennedy 2006:57-64 & 70-86). I refer to this and add my own opinions in Appendix 4: Lekwungen Winter Villages and Seasonal Movements. 

    Historic Observations: Who Occupied Buildings on the Legislative Property?

    An 1851 map (HBCA G.1/131 [N8362]) of surveyor Joseph Pemberton includes the area that was to become the legislative precinct. On this map are five small buildings marked in red. One small square dwelling in red is  located near the northwest corner of James Douglas’s property, and four more small square dwellings marked in red are in a line continuing on the property to the west along the waterfront—which later became the location of the Parliament buildings.

    Portion of Pemberton Map showing the legislative precinct area (G.1/131 [N8362]). All houses are coloured in red.

    These buildings only appear together on this one map. The map was most likely created from information collected by surveys undertaken in the late spring to early summer of 1851. The one building on Douglas’s property is also located on a map dating 1852 from information collected in the late fall of 1851. These small buildings were most likely occupied by Indigenous and/or non-Indigenous persons working for James Douglas during a period of intense building on his property between late 1850 and the summer of 1851.  

    In regard to the James Bay “Indian Reserve”, William Tolmie’s letter to Thomas Fraser of June 24, 1865 states: “That the piece of Land in question was ever in any sense an Indian reserve has from the first – been disputed by the company’s Officers, resident here, since the foundation of the Colony. – Indians of various Tribes sometimes employed by the Governor, and on other occasions by the Company, were allowed to reside on it at times under the surveillance of a half-breed (Montreuil) who lived on the spot in a small cottage said by Tiedmann to have been claimed by the Governor and to have been, with another small house on this Reserve, by him transferred to the Colony in 1859 for the sum of $200.” (Tolmie, William J. Letter of June 24th, 1865; HBCA A.11/80 f.148-169d)

    The James Douglas Property

    On January 13, 1849, a Charter of Grant awarded Vancouver Island to the Hudson’s Bay Company for “the advancement of colonization and encouragement of trade and commerce”. The main condition was to establish “a settlement or settlements of resident colonists” by 1854. Revenues from land sales were to go mostly for the construction of public schools, buildings, roads and bridges.

    Douglas and other Hudson’s Bay company employees now had the opportunity to acquire land that had previously been denied to them, as the purchase was seen as being in conflict with company business. 

    On December 10, 1849, James Douglas applied to Archibald Barclay to acquire land for himself. He showed the letter of application that month to Eden Colvile.  He wrote to Hargrave on January 17, 1850: “I am thinking of making a purchase of land on Vancouver’s Island…more as a speculation than with any serious intentions of settling. Yet there is no saying what in the chapter of accidents may come to pass.” (Letter to Archibald Barclay, Secretary to the H.B. Co. Governor and Committee. Eden Colville’s Letters. 1849-52. The Publications of the Hudson’s Bay Record Society XIX. Edited by E.E. Rich, 1956).  Douglas was unhappy with the small dividend from the HBC and seemed to consider quitting his job. He said to A.C. Anderson on October 28, 1850: “I hope the next [dividend] will be more respectable – or the sooner we cut and run the better.” (Fort Victoria, Correspondence Outward, 1850-1858, PABC)

    According to Roderick Finlayson, it was Douglas who convinced the governor and committee of the HBC to open the fur trade reserve for public sale, with the exception of 1212 acres containing part of downtown Victoria and Beckley Farm. (Finlayson, Autobiography of Roderick Finlayson, ms, PABC; Rich, The Hudson’s Bay Company, vol. 3:763)

    Douglas acquired his property indenture on Dec. 15, 1851. (Map – Victoria District, Lot No. 1, Section VI, James Bay by Joseph Despard Pemberton, 1851, HBC Archives H.1/1 fo.4)  In late 1850 Douglas also applied to acquire what became the 300 acre estate called Fairfield. (Victoria District. Section 1, Lot no.2, HBCA H.1/1 folio 6)


    James Douglas’s property to the east of the later legislative property, 1859. Courtesy of the American Library of Congress. #2005680426 – No 1.

    Building Activity

    On September 1 of 1850, James Douglas was—on his own property—in the process of “putting up a dwelling House with the aid of three of the Company’s servants, whose board and wages will be charged to my private account, for the time I employ them, and a party of native labourers, who promise to become useful as rough carpenters.” Douglas also acquired his 10 acres at Rosebank in Esquimalt harbour at this time. (Douglas to Barclay, Fort Victoria Letters, p. 115)

    Douglas had the foundation of his house finished in January of 1851. On January 23, he wrote Hargrave: “I have lately purchased a bit of land in this neighbourhood…and have laid the foundation of the first private house in the town of Victoria. This will of course cost me a good deal of money, but then it will be a refuge in time of need, and eventually repay the original outlay with interest.” (Hargrave papers, NAC). On July 1, 1851 Rear Admiral and Commander-in-Chief Fairfax Moresby reported to the Secretary of the Admiralty that “Douglas has a commodious dwelling, nearly completed, on his farm, near the Fort, and a farm house on the inland limit.” (BC Archives GR332, Vol. 1:335-41)

    By April of the same year, while his own 10 acres were “under improvement” (Douglas to Barkley, Victoria Letters, p. 176), Douglas started a vigorous building program on the HBC company property. He employed “100 Indians” in clearing brush and trees and began “putting up buildings about the Fort, having a dwelling House, and a Flour Mill in progress,”  erecting a hospital and having plans to erect buildings “for religious and educational purposes.” (Letter of April 16, Douglas to Barkley, Fort Victoria Letters, pp. 170-172). 

    The five houses on Pemberton’s 1851 (G.1/131; N8362) map (one on and four west of the Douglas property) would have been placed on the map by Pemberton during the spring to early summer of 1851 by which time he had finished most of the Victoria harbour area work. On August 5, 1851, Douglas reported to Archibald Barclay that “Mr. Pemberton is actively employed, in the survey of the Fur trade Reserve, and the Victoria District generally. The day after tomorrow he will proceed toward Esquimalt.…He expects to complete the Victoria District in about 3 weeks hence, when he will forward a pretty complete sketch.” (Fort Victoria Letters 1846-1851. Publications of Hudson’s Bay Record Society XXXII, Editor Hartwell Bowsfield, Hudson’s Bay record Society, 1979, p.206) Pemberton’s report, dated September 11, was sent by Douglas with an accompanying map on October 6, 1851 (Bowsfield 1979:218).

    The original map could not be located in the HBC archives (see Bowsfield 1979, footnote 2, p. 218). Ruggles, in his detailed study of all the Hudson’s bay Company maps, concludes that a map in the Land Title & Survey Authority of British Columbia “is likely the original manuscript topographic map.” This map, titled “Victoria District & Part of Esquimalt,” is located in Maps and Plans Vault L, Locker 5, given numbers 108577 and 108578. The map does not show houses on the property west of the Douglas Property. 

    Ruggles considers the Pemberton 1851 map—“Victoria & Puget Sound Districts Sheet No.1, HBC map G.1/131, N8362 (that shows the above mentioned buildings marked in red)—and two others (G.1/132 & G.1/133) to be “tracings or copies” of this original. (Ruggles, Richard I. A Country so Interesting: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Two Centuries of Mapping, 1670-1870. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991, pp. 100; footnote 12, p. 284)

    If G.1/131 is a tracing of the original, it would appear that the one square building structure on the Douglas property and the four structures on the adjacent property were added from information collected in the spring or early summer of 1851. Four of the houses are gone by the end of 1851. Pemberton’s 1852 map (HBCA G1/258a) shows only one red square on Douglas’s property and none on the adjacent property to the west.

    By the end of 1851 when Douglas’s house was nearly complete these five houses appear to have been gone – and therefore not marked by Pemberton’s detailed 1852 map of the local area. (A Plan of the town of Victoria Shewing Proposed Improvements, HBCA Map Collection, G.2/38 [T13107] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives Provincial Archives of Manitoba)

    The ground survey for the 1852 town of Victoria map would have been started in the late fall of 1851. Douglas reports to Barclay on December 9 of 1851 that Pemberton is “now completing the survey and preparing a plan of the town site of Victoria.” (Bowsfield p. 239)

    The row of five buildings marked in red are not shown on any maps predating 1851. They are not marked on the 1850 “Map of the Victoria District, Vancouver’s Island” by Walter Colquhoun Grant (HBC Archives Map Collection, G.1/256) or on any of the earlier Admiralty Surveys of the Victoria Harbour area.

    It was noted on September 11,1855,  that “Mr. Douglas has built a house and taken 20 acres of land in the most desirable spot and has reserved for purchase 200 acres more adjoining it.” (H.W. Bruce [at sea on HMS Monarch] to Ralph Osborne, GR332, Vol. 2: 248.)

    Much later, Edgar Fawcett, in his reminiscences (1912:86-87), observed:

    “Before the road opposite the Government grounds, which is now Belleville Street, was reclaimed from the sea, [*this was only the area of the slight bay near the N.E. corner of the legislature grounds] there was an Indian trail which ran through the woods, From Laing’s Ways, [*today known as Fisherman’s Wharf area] in the direction of town along the water-front, around the head of the bay to Humboldt Street. I might say that the plat [*plot] of ground on which the Government buildings were built in 1859 was bought from a French-Canadian who came overland form Montreal, and although in the service of the Hudson’s Bay company for years either could not or would not speak a word of English other than ‘yes’ and ‘no’. He built his house here and lived here until he sold out to the Government, the house being afterwards used as a Government tool house.

    Mr. Harry Glide, from whom I got these particulars, is a pioneer of 1856, and lived near the outer wharf. He married a daughter of Mr. Laing. He says all James Bay from the bridge to the mouth of the harbour was covered with pine trees, [this would be true of the southern half of what is now the community of James Bay, where the dominant species was Douglas fir. Garry Oak communities and open parklands and swampy areas existed to the north] and all this land, together with that facing Dallas Road up to Beacon Hill, was called Beckly Farm. The greater part of all these trees were cut down for Kavaunah [*died in Victoria on November 21, 1891 at age 60. Registration number 1891-09-007565], a man whom many will remember as having a woodyard about where the James Bay Athletic Association now stands.” (*See B.C. Archives G-02827 and C-09028)  

    Appendix 1

    On August 26, 1854, James Douglas sent a letter to Archibald Barclay of the Hudson’s Bay Company: 

    “I herewith transmit a letter from Mr. Pemberton, with a tracing of an Indian Reserve, which has been accidentally omitted in Lot No. 24, Section XVIII, though reserved to them, on the general sale of their lands; they have since offered it to me for sale, but as the cost may be considerable, and I do not want the land for my own use, I declined their offer though I should have no objections to purchase it in part, if the company will take the remainder of the lot. I will probably make some arrangement with the Indians if they dispose of it, on reasonable terms, particularly if any other party should be tampering for the purchase of their rights.”

    Although the treaty of 1850 for this area was made with the Swengwhung family of the Lekwungen people, there is no mention by Douglas of which Indigenous peoples he talked to regarding the land. But we can conclude that it was obviously “reserved” for some or all Lekwungen people “on the general sale of their lands.” (Douglas to Barclay A/C/20/Vi2A, P. 222)

    Appendix 2

    Archaeological Observations in the Legislative Building Precinct and Along the Adjacent Waterfront 1972–2019

    For 48 years, my office windows at the Royal BC Museum overlooked the legislative precinct. In examining the question of whether there was once a village or season camp site on the location of the present legislative buildings, I have, over this period of 48 years, observed and examined numerous trenches and holes being dug on and all around the Legislative property.

    This has included such activities as water, sewer and gas pipe installation and repair along Belleville, Government and Menzies Streets; the excavations in the repair and rebuilding of the sidewalk and walls along the waterfront on the north side of Belleville in front of the legislative grounds; the installing of the underground sprinkler system in the legislative lawns; and underground repairs related to the driveway, sidewalks, fountain and War Memorial on the legislative property. I also observed many smaller hole excavations involving tree removal and planting and the installation of the totem pole.  

    I have looked carefully for any evidence that the location was once the site of a village or seasonal camp site, as I have done in many other parts of the city. Archaeological shellmiddens are common on bays and inlets in greater Victoria. These locations always have some evidence of discarded shellfish remains, fire-altered rocks, bones, charcoal rich soil and other materials. Even where serious damage has occurred to many shellmiddens around Victoria there is always evidence of fragmentary scattered remains. None of this material evidence has ever been observed around the Legislative precinct. I can only conclude that this location was never occupied as a village or seasonal camp site.

    The fact that the area near the old shoreline along Belleville Street was built up with soil rather than having soil removed would make it more likely than shellmidden material from any old village site should be easier to find in modern excavations in the area. When the original legislative buildings were constructed and Belleville Street was being constructed, a wooden wall (see photograph) was built at the edge of the bank and large amounts of fill brought for the road construction.

    The location of the legislative buildings would not be a favourable location for a village site, as it lies on what was once (and still is in some locations) a very rocky shoreline, not conducive to the easy in-and-out movement of canoes. Exceptions are locations that could serve as defensive locations, these being best placed on a high peninsula that can be fortified from enemy attack and from which one can see enemies approaching. 

    The three known ancient sites in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, which starts at Shoal Point, are all on steeper rock bluffs. One of these, DcRu-123, located at Lime Point on the north side of the harbour, is a known defensive site that once had a trench embankment across its back end. The others, DcRu-33 and DcRu-116 are located on Raymurs Point near Fisherman’s Wharf and on the bedrock bluffs around the Capital Iron building near the intersection of Store and Chatham Streets.

    Further, there are no water sources on the legislative property. Villages are usually adjacent to a freshwater stream.

    Excavations around the Steamship building From March 14, 2017, to February 18, 2018.
    Keddie photographs.


    Excavations  along the south side of the Blackball Ferry terminal, February 2016.
    Keddie photographs.

    Excavations along shoreline, February 2016 to June 2018.
    Keddie photographs.

    Excavations along Government Street and near Belleville Street.
    Keddie photographs.

    Excavation of legislative grounds driveway.
    Keddie photographs.


    Appendix 3

    The Location of the Historic Village of the Xwsepsum and Klallam

    James Teit, working with Klallam Nation consultants of Washington State in 1907-10, was told there was “a village of them formerly in Victoria” and that “they were closely related to the Songhish” (Teit 1910).  Henry Charles, the Beecher Bay Klallam consultant of anthropologist Wayne Suttles, told him in the 1950s that “Scaqe’nam, a chief from Port Angeles, moved over to Victoria when the whites came, in order to make shingles and plant potatoes for them.” (Suttles 1974:11) This community would be the “Clallam Village” referred to by the editor of the Weekly Victoria Gazette on August 28, 1858. It was located in the community of James Bay, west of the legislative buildings and just to the east of Laurel Point. It was occupied about 1847 to 1855.

    Figure 1. Modern location of mid nineteenth century Klallam/Xwsepsum village along the shore near the centre of this photograph.

    Figure 2. Looking across the narrowing in Victoria’s Inner Harbour to the enlarged Laurel Point at the centre.

    Laurel Point was half its current width in the nineteenth century. The location of the historic Xwsepsum/Klallam village is on the far upper left to the east of Laurel Point. Songhees Point is at the centre in the foreground and was once part of the Old Songhees Reserve.  Grant Keddie photograph.

    This village included Klallam people from the Olympic Peninsula, and some of the Sapsom or Kosampson (Xwesepsum) people of the 1850 Douglas Treaties. The Klallam may have lived here by right of intermarriage with the Xwesepsum, or, after the Klallam moved here from the Port Angeles area, the Xwesepsum may have joined them at the locality from a village in Esquimalt harbour.  This was a short-term historic village. There is no evidence of a village site being here before the late 1840s. There were no occupied village sites observed in Victoria’s Inner Harbour until after the building of Fort Victoria in 1843. For further information on the context of this article see Keddie (2003).

    Figure 3. Rectangular outlines of what are most likely abandoned plank houses or long houses can be seen on this portion of an 1855 map (AGBC640445). The insides of the outlines are blackened for visibility. This location is east of Laurel Point and west of Oswego Street in the community of James Bay.

    In 1905, anthropologist Charles Hill-Tout collected information from Lekwungen people (the Songhees and Esquimalt of the Victoria region) who lived on or had close family ties to the Esquimalt Reserve located in Esquimalt Harbour. Hill-Tout’s interpretation of the information indicated that James Douglas had “also transplanted the village of the Qsapsem [Kosampson], who dwelt near the spot where the Parliament Buildings now stand.”

    One of the people that Hill-Tout received his information from was “the wife of Tom James.” She was called Sitlamitza, or Mary Anne James. She was a part of at least one family of Xwesepsum people that lived in the “Clallam” village on the shore to the west of the legislative buildings. Sitlamitza was born in this village around 1847 to 1850. But as she left when only one or two years old, she would not have any personal memory of this location. She would have had the place of her birth explained to her by others, years later. 

    In 1912, William Roberts, a Songhees Band councillor, stated that Mary Anne James “belongs to Saanich Arm [Upper Gorge] and is of the Sapsam [Xwesepsum] tribe, which is not Songhees” [i.e., not among the people that made up the Songhees Reserve]. A response came from Reverend C. M. Tate, who had worked among the Lekwungen since 1873, and was an advocate for the James family who went to his church:

    “The home of the Sapsams was Victoria harbor, and their village stood in front of where the parliament buildings now stand. The home of the Songhees was at Albert Head, from which place they moved to Victoria harbor when the Hudson’s Bay Company built their fort.”  This is a very oversimplified version of Lekwungen history (see Duff 1969). 

    A notarized statement by Mary Anne James was dated January 10, 1912. It is not know who assisted her in writing this, but it was likely Reverend Tate. It stated in part:

    “That my Indian name is Sitlamitza. That I was born in my father’s house in front of where the present parliament buildings now stand. That my mother died in giving birth to me, and my father was killed when I was a baby. That my uncle, Chief Seesinak [“Say-sinaka” was the 5th person on the Kosampson treaty list of 1850; his grandson Joe Sinopen, born 1863, and his son Edward Joe, born 1885, were both former chiefs of the Esquimalt band], adopted me.  That when Sir James Douglas moved the Indians to the reserve across the bay, my uncle asked for a place at Esquimalt. That my younger days were spent between Victoria, with my aunt, Seesinak’s sister, and Esquimalt.”

    It is uncertain if this comment about the movement “to the reserve across the bay” refers to the 1844 movement of peoples camped in the Johnson Street Ravine area or that some of the people living in the historic village near Laurel Point moved across to the Old Songhees Reserve. If it does refer to the former, James Douglas did not move the Songhees to the Old Songhees Reserve, as he did not take charge of the Fort until he moved here in 1849.  Roderick Finlayson was the person who arranged for some of the Songhees to move to the west side of Victoria Harbour from their temporary camps.  

    Mary Anne James indicates that she later lived on both the Old Songhees Reserve in Victoria harbour and the Esquimalt Reserve in Esquimalt Harbour. It is likely that Mary Anne’s mother’s family, father’s family, or both, originally came from Esquimalt harbour to join the Klallam village after the founding of Fort Victoria. This may have been a result of previous marriage relations with the Klallam: Mary Anne’s nephew Chief Edward Joe of the Esquimalt Reserve had a grandfather named Skekanim who was from Port Angeles. Later, when treaty negotiations began in 1850, Mary Anne’s uncle “Say-sinaka” may have asked at that time for a reserve in one of their old Xwesepsum village sites back in Esquimalt harbour. It is likely that the family had maintained a seasonal occupation of the upper Esquimalt Harbour area during their stay at the “Klallam” village or stayed with relatives who continued to live there. 

    Hill-Tout himself says that before the fort was built, the Xwesepsum lived “on the Gorge.” James Deans, who came to the Craigflower area in 1852, was told that their village was on the Gorge at what is now Kosampson Park.

    Outlines of the location of four houses at the site of the Klallam/Xwesepsum village can be seen in Figure 3. The map shows new surveyed lots several blocks west of the 10 acre “Indian Reserve” land that was to become the site of the Legislative buildings. The map shows four elongated houses with lot boundaries cutting through two of them, suggesting they were abandoned by this time. Three houses span Lots 513-15, and one house spans lots 516-17. This location today is along the waterfront in the area of Oswego and Pendray Streets at the S.E. corner of Laurel Point. 

    Figure 4. I placed stars on this later map opposite the lots with the house outlines in the 1855 map. This shows the location of the lots in figure 3, in relation to existing streets and the Legislative buildings at right.

    The Klallam village was located “near” the parliament buildings, according to Charles Hill-Tout. It appears that Reverend Tate changed the story to “in front of” the legislative buildings. 

    The subject of which Lekwungen families occupied the area around Victoria Harbour and whether there was a village at the site of the legislative buildings is a subject of debate (see Kennedy and Bouchard  2006:57-64). 

    Figure 5. Modern location of the old shoreline where the historic Klallam/Xwesepsum village was located off Belleville Street on the south side of Victoria Harbour. Grant Keddie photograph.

    Figure 6. The historic Xwesepsum/Klallam village location from across the harbor. It is to the left of Laurel Point which is located on the right of the photograph. Grant Keddie photograph.

    Figure 7. The historic village was located along the shore on the left half of this image. July 13, 2017. Grant Keddie photograph.

    Appendix 4

    Lekwungen Winter Villages and Seasonal Movements

    Songhees band members Jimmy Fraser, Sophie Misheal and Ned Williams identified Swengwhung as the people who formerly lived along the Gorge above the Tillicum Road Bridge (Duff 1969:35). This group had houses at the bay inside Gorge-Kinsmen Park. This is the known location of a shellmidden, archaeological site DcRu-5. Jimmy Fraser noted that one woman remained alive whose mother had lived in this village. If the living women was about 80 years old in 1950, we can speculate that there was at least one house that her mother lived in at this location before about 1870. Fraser indicated that most houses were located just west of the bridge at locations recorded as archaeological shellmidden sites DcRu-112 and DcRu-7. The former contains only a light scatter or shellmidden and was likely only occupied for a short time. The latter is a large shellmidden dating back at least 1,500 years based on the artifacts found there and radiocarbon dating (around 1,000 years).

    Edward Joe of Esquimalt, and his father Chief Joe Sinopen before him, considered the Swengwhung peoples to be part of the general migration of Songhees into the Inner Harbour after the founding of Fort Victoria (Duff 1996:35; Hill-Tout 1907:307). Edward Joe said that the Xwesepsum owned the entire Gorge and Inner Harbour (Duff 1969:35).

    Hill-Tout recorded that the Xwesepsum village before the time of the fort was on the Gorge. This was located at Kosampson Park at the location of the old Criagflower school house. This is a large shellmidden recorded as archaeological site DcRu-4. James Deans also noted that the Esquimalt came from this location in the not-too-distant past (Macfie, 1865). 

    Anthropologist Dorothy Kennedy pointed out that Suttles discussions with Cecelia Joe at the Esquimalt Indian Reserve in 1952 had raised the idea that some of Hill-Tout’s villages might not be winter villages, but rather sites that were occupied at other seasons, a practice common among the Coast Salish. (Kennedy 2006:31). Kennedy indicates that

    “The ethnographic literature presents several scenarios of how Lekwungen local groups may have occupied southern Vancouver Island. According to Cecelia Joe, …the Lekwungen winter villages were all situated around Victoria Harbour. This included the sc̉áηcs people, otherwise found near Albert Head, and certainly the village of Mrs. Joe’s husband’s people, the Kosapsum (the “Kosampsom” of the 1850 treaty), who reportedly spent the winter where the Parliament Buildings now stands, and according to Mrs. Joe, owned the Gorge and Esquimalt Harbour. Mrs. Joe also reported that the Lekwungen people of Cadboro Bay had a winter location at Parson’s Bridge, in Esquimalt Harbour, and that the Discovery Island people had a winter site at Rose Bank (inside Dunns Nook on Esquimalt Harbour’s west shore). …Still, in the winter, according to Cecelia Joe, the Lekwungen could be found in Victoria Harbour where, out of the wind, they built dance houses for their winter ceremonials and, in nice weather, fished the winter runs of spring salmon found offshore.” (Kennedy 2006:32)

    Not all Lekwungen consultants agreed with Cecelia Joe’s designation of Victoria Harbour as the Lekwungen’s winter quarters. David Latess (also spelled Latesse, who was of Lekwungen ancestry) told anthropologist Diamond Jenness that the old summer home of the main body of the Songhees was at Xthapsin [xwsέpscm, anglicised as “Kosapsum” or “Kosampsom”], just above the Gorge, and that their winter home was at Cadboro Bay. While it is unclear what is meant by the main body of the tribe, Latesse’s account clearly recognizes that the same people (the Songhees) used both a site on the Gorge and in Cadboro Bay, areas sometimes named in association with specific Lekwungen local groups, …Moreover, Sophie Misheal and Ned Williams divided the Gorge, not Victoria’s inner harbour, into sites occupied by distinct local groups, noting with respect to the “lck’wcŋcn”  they come in here during winter, with reference to the area from Gorge Bridge to Songhees Point, while the Swengwhung and Kosapsum people, according to them, wintered at sites farther up the Gorge. Though the notes are cryptic, they do indicate more movement within the Lekwungen territory than reflected by the rigid divisions of land ownership set out in the treaties. These above-noted aboriginal elders offered different perspectives on the season of occupation and the precise local group’s association with sites located on the protected waters – Victoria and Esquimalt harbours and the Gorge—yet there was a recognition that named groups of people used a variety of sites associated with the general Lekwungen territory”. (Kennedy 2006:33)

    Wilson Duff, based on his interviews with these Songhees Band members, along with accounts he received from Edward and Cecelia Joe of Esquimalt, suggested that both the Xwesepsum and Swengwhung groups formerly wintered up the Gorge, and that both groups were living in the Inner Harbour area at the time of the treaties in 1850, the Xwesepsum likely on the James Bay Reserve site and the Swengwhung at the new Songhees Point village across from the fort. (Kennedy 2006:35)

    My opinion would be that Cecelia Joe, who had no personal experience on the Old Songhees, could have been making reference to the early historic activities on the Old Songhees first occupied in 1844 and these activities did not pertain to pre-contact practices.  An alternate explanation could be confusion regarding the perception of the term “Victoria Harbour,” which may have included what today we call the Gorge Waterway. The winter villages referred to by Cecelia Joe were likely further up the Gorge waterway, which was included in the term “Victoria Harbour”.


    Bowsfield,  Hartwell (ed).  1979. Fort Victoria Letters 1846-1851. Publications of Hudson’s Bay Record Society XXXII, Hudson’s Bay record Society, 1979, p.206).
    Douglas to Barclay. Royal B.C. Museum Archives A/C/20/Vi2A, P. 222
    Fawcett, Edgar.  1912. Some Reminiscences of Old Victoria. Toronto. William Brigs.
    Finlayson,  Roderick. (c.1891). Autobiography of Roderick Finlayson, ms, PABC.
    Hill-Tout, Charles.  1907. Report on the ethnology of the southeastern tribes of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. vol. 37: 306-374.
    Keddie, Grant. 2003. Songhees Pictorial. A History of the Songhees People as seen by Outsiders, 1790-1912. Royal B.C. Museum, Victoria.
    Kennedy, Dorothy.  2006. ABORIGINAL AFFILIATION OF THE JAMES BAY RESERVE. Final Report. Prepared for: Greg McDade, Q.C., Ratcliff & Co. North Vancouver, BC. Counsel for the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations. Prepared by: Dorothy Kennedy, M.A., D.Phil. Bouchard & Kennedy Research Consultants. Victoria, BC, April 17th, 2006.
    Kennedy, Dorothy and Randy Bouchard. 1995. An Examination of Esquimalt History and Territory: A Discussion Paper. Prepared for: the Esquimalt Nation. B.C. Indian Language Project, Victoria, B.C., July 29th, 1995.
    Rich, E.E. (ed)  1956. Letter to Archibald Barclay, Secretary to the H.B. Co. Governor and Committee. Eden Colville’s Letters. 1849-52. The Publications of the Hudson’s Bay Record Society XIX.
    Rich, E.E.  1960. The Hudson’s Bay Company 1670-1870. McCllelland and Stewart, Toronto, Vol. 3:763.
    Ruggles, Richard I.  1991. A Country So Interesting: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Two Centuries of Mapping, 1670-1870. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
    Suttles, Wayne.  1974. Coast Salish and Western Washington Indians 1. The Economic Life of the Coast Salish of Haro and Rosario Straits. Garland Publishing Inc. New York.
    Teit, James A. 1910. Salish Tribal Names and Distribution. June 10, 1910. Unpublished Manuscript in the Files of Franz Boas. American Philisophical Library. (Film 372, Roll 15) [RBCM Archives Additional Manuscript 1425, Reel A 246].
    Tolmie, William J.  Letter of June 24, 1865; HBCA A.11/80 f.148-169d.



    Apostenus ducati sp. nov. is described from montane areas in or adjacent to the Columbia River Basin of southeastern British Columbia in Canada and northern Washington and northwestern Montana in the United States. This is the second Nearctic species of this primarily Palaearctic genus. Unlike most liocranids, A. ducati apparently is restricted to open rocky habitats, such as talus and scree slopes, and on mountain peaks. Throughout most of its range, specimens occur in low numbers and populations are patchily distributed. Also, populations appear to be concentrated in the upper regions of the Flathead River watershed in British Columbia, an area of significant and competing ecological and economic values. Because of these factors, A. ducati is potentially a species of conservation concern.


    Spiders, taxonomy, Flathead, conservation, Columbia River Basin

    See full article 

    When a trawl net goes down to the sea floor, you have no idea what will appear when the net is hauled to the surface. Some fish are caught as the net descends, others as the net ascends, but most are caught at the target depth. One thing is for certain, trawl nets sample very specific habitat – open smooth substrates where the net is unlikely to snag.

    Since we don’t drag nets over rocky habitat, that habitat is poorly known. You’d think that in the dark depths, substrate wouldn’t matter – but apparently it does. And you’d think we’d already know whether a fish the size of a coffee table inhabited our waters. Not so. Since 2005, we have discovered three new skates in BC, and you guessed it, one was the size of a coffee table. The first Angel Shark for British Columbia was discovered in 2016, and captured on camera, not a net.

    The Pacific White Skate (Bathyraja spinosissima) was caught in a trawl net by accident. From footage from submersibles, we know this species cruises about 1 m above rocky habitat. The single specimen caught in 2005 had strayed over net friendly habitat. When this skate was caught, we were unable to assign it to species. Its DNA suggested it was a species from the Atlantic. After a careful measurements, we determined it was a Pacific White Skate, and its discovery was published by Orr et al. (2019).

    Bathyraja spinosissima (Pacific White Skate) – this specimen was the first to be included in DNA barcoding which gave us strange results when the tissues were originally sequenced. This large male is the first adult male in museum collections, a first from BC, and extended the known range north from Oregon.

    Orr et al. (2019) also listed a second new skate species for BC, the Five-spined Skate (Bathyraja microtrachys). Five males were collected west of Tofino, off Vancouver Island in 2005. These are the only adult males known for this species.

    Bathyraja microtrachys (Five-spined Skate) – originally thought to range from Washington south to San Diego, we now known they range into Canadian waters.

    In 2009, a third skate species was discovered, the Commander Skate (Bathyraja lindberi), and was published by King et al. (2019). This is a northern skate, and the discovery in British Columbia extends the species’ range south about 600 km.

    Bathyraja lindberi (Commander Skate) – appeared in 2009, and now is known from the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, south to Queen Charlotte Sound.

    Finally, in 2016, a Pacific Angel Shark (Squatina californica) was spotted and photographed by Mark Cantwell while diving off Clover Point, Victoria. The photograph was proof enough of the species’ presence (King and Surry 2016). Since this species was known from a single specimen in Alaska, one from Puget Sound in Washington, and exists south to the Gulf of California, its discovery in British Columbia was only a matter of time. More details on the Angel Shark can be found in Pietsch and Orr’s (2019) magnum opus on Fishes of the Salish Sea.

    Squatina californica (Pacific Angel Shark) – was is known from one specimen in Puget Sound, Washington and an old record from Alaska, and finally has been confirmed for British Columbia. Photograph by Mark Cantwell, April 30, 2016 off Clover Point, Victoria, Vancouver Island.

    For more details on all cartilaginous fishes in British Columbia, buy the latest RBCM handbook by King and McFarlane due out May 2020.

    Non-game fishes receive little attention and of these, the deep sea anglerfishes (Families Oneirodidae, Melanocetidae and Ceratiidae), are among the poorest known. Deep sea anglers live at extreme depths and few people study them.

    Alive they are quite elegant with black-brown skin, flowing fins and globular bodies. But when hauled to the ocean surface and preserved in museum collections they tend to resemble shrivelled hockey pucks – with teeth. Most of what we know about these fishes is based on the females. Males are minute but have enlarged olfactory chambers. Males have one goal – to find and latch onto a female. Once attached, males draw nutrition from the female’s bloodstream. Sometimes more than one male attaches to a female, and they are in place ready to mate whenever a female is ready to release eggs. Some have said this relationship is parasitic, and while males do derive nourishment from the female, they fertilize a female’s eggs. In contrast, a parasitic relationships is one-sided. Perhaps the only time the relationship is parasitic is when a male attaches to a female of a different species – he draws nourishment, but provides no genetic contribution.

    Because these fishes rarely reach the surface in good shape (trawl nets are not forgiving to soft-skinned fishes), many deep sea anglers are difficult to identify. Identification often is based on the structure and shape of tip of the lure – a structure called the esca – which sits at the tip of the first ray of the dorsal fin. If that delicate structure is lost, identification can be difficult without DNA barcoding. With DNA barcoding, we can identify species based on unique genetic sequences taken from tissue samples. One of the fishes photographed in this article, Oneirodes thompsoni, had been sampled for DNA barcoding to get a representative sequence for this species. The white tag with a code number is attached to the fish so that the fish and its genetic sequences can be matched later.

    Until the paper by Weil et al. 2015, only three species, had officially been recorded from BC waters. Specimens of the large Krøyer’s deep sea angler fish (Ceratias holboelli) had been preserved, but no one had detailed where the species had been found. Several other dreamerfish had been misidentified in museum collections. The review of species known to exist here was prompted by the identification of a specimen of Melanocetus johnsonii in the RBCM collection, and the discovery of Oneirodes acanthias and Cryptopsaras couesii in 2006. The other species deemed new to BC, or representing significant range extensions, were discovered during the preparation of the paper by Weil et al. and his review of the RBCM collection.

    Below is the list of anglerfish species known to exist in British Columbia (as of March 2020):

    Order: Lophiiformes
                                        Oneirodes thompsoni
                                        Oneirodes bulbosus
                                        Oneirodes eschrichtii
                                        Oneirodes acanthias
                                        Chaenophryne melanorhabdus
                                        Chaenophryne longiceps

                                        Melanocetus johnsonii

                                        Ceratias holboelli
                                        Cryptopsaras couesii


    Oneirodes thompsoni, RBCM 010-00196-009, 10.9 cm Standard Length (above); and O. bulbosus, RBCM 004-00005-001, 8.8 cm Standard Length (below), are the most commonly caught dreamers along the entire BC coast. Photo by G. Hanke.


    Oneirodes eschrichtii, RBCM 998-00323-002, 8.3 cm Standard Length, represents the first of its species in BC and a northward range extension of 1700 km in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Photo by G. Hanke.


    Oneirodes acanthias, RBCM 010-00197-004, 10.5 cm Standard Length, represents the first specimen from BC, and a range extension of 600 km north of the species previously known range off Oregon. Photo by G. Hanke.


    Chaenophryne melanorhabdus, RBCM 999-00107-002, 8.9 cm Standard Length, is another commonly caught dreamer, but we have no records north of Vancouver Island. Photo by G. Hanke.


    Chaenophryne longiceps, RBCM 998-00344-001, 9.8 cm Standard Length, is one of three specimens now known from BC, roughly 600 km north of the species previously known range off Oregon. Photo by G. Hanke.


    Melanocetus johnsonii, RBCM 01400308-001, 9.8 cm Standard Length, is the only specimen known from BC waters and is the first record north of Oregon on this side of the Pacific. Photo by G. Hanke.


    Ceratias holboelli, RBCM 999-00081-001, 42.0 cm Standard Length, is our largest deep sea anglerfish, distinctive with its thick elongate fin rays and cover of large thorny denticles. Photo by G. Hanke.


    Cryptopsarus couesii, RBCM 014-00309-001, 14.2 cm Standard Length, was caught as bycatch from the commercial fishery and since it was so strange, was kept for identification. It represents the northern most record for the species in the eastern North Pacific Ocean and a first for BC. Photo by G. Hanke.

    Spring has sprung, and it is great time to get going on a garden. There are a ton of things you can grow at home to supplement your diet and reduce your dependence on grocery stores. My wife and I have jokingly named our property UF1510 (Urban Farm 1510). Our street address obviously is 1510, and our garden is the only one on this street fully devoted to food production.

    Planting seeds for this summer.

    When we bought the house over 10 years ago, the front yard had a small patch of St. John’s Wort, a spindly ornamental shrub, a sizable Laurel tree, an isolated Camelia bush and a dodgy coniferous tree. But the majority of the front yard was a flat expanse of lawn. Everything but the Laurel was removed quickly, and over the years, the lawn has been eliminated. We have dedicated a third of the front yard to bare ground for potatoes, beans, carrots and a few other crops. The remaining two-thirds is a “food forest.” We planted blueberries, sour cherries, apple trees, hazelnut bushes, asparagus and a range of flowering plants to attract pollinators. Don’t forget the bees—if you want tomatoes, berries, cucumbers, squash—you need pollinators.

    Alexanders (left) and Salad Burnet (right) are available in winter as a supplement to salads.

    The back yard also was a monoculture of grass when we moved in. It now is changed to a series of raised beds and we grow many varieties of tomatoes, kale, chard, onions, leeks, chives, cucumbers, squash, blackberries (a thornless variety) and raspberries—to name just a few of our home-grown food items. Many of our plants self-seed and effectively are edible weeds (cilantro, salad burnet, alexanders, arugula, kale, leeks and chives are weeds in our garden). I also eat dandelion leaves.


    The back yard with its raised beds just waking up from the winter. Oregano, chives, raspberry canes and leeks are going strong—we will have to wait for the raspberries of course.

    This change in gardening practice took us from a flat lawn which needed to be mowed regularly (wasted energy, in my opinion) to a garden we can walk around and pick fresh produce for our daily meals. Even in winter (because we live on southern Vancouver Island), there is food available in the garden. We also leave the deadfall from the previous summer in place all winter. Why leave the deadfall in place?

    1) I am lazy.

    2) it is habitat, shelter and a source of food for overwintering birds.

    Our garden is chemical-free so there also are insects—but thanks to our local birds (and the invading wall lizards), we get free pest control, entertainment and a dash of colour as they flit about.

    Rhubarb, kale, chard, rosemary, and winter cress seem to look after themselves.

    This year I am going to post a series of blog articles to show the progress in the garden—this early in the spring it looks messy—weeds have grown, and last summer’s deadfall has yet to be cleared away. But the garden is full of life—birds are everywhere. Lizards skitter around on the warmer days (they invaded in 2019 from a small population to the north of us). We welcome spiders, but we do draw the line at rabbits and deer – they are not permitted.


    Strawberries, a potted peach tree and some early flowers.

    This month, we will clear out the dead stems and weeds. The dead stems go into the compost—they form the dry brown material that alternates with wet kitchen scraps. We don’t eat meat, so everything from the kitchen goes into the compost. And in the kitchen we have light stands to start seeds. Once the risk of frost is gone, the seedlings will be planted.

    This summer’s tomatoes will be started indoors.

    I hope this series inspires people to change their gardening practices and replace lawns with food plants. Even a deck or apartment balcony can provide a small mountain of food. You can even grow your own sprouts in your kitchen to add some home-grown greenery to a sandwich. Our garden is a green security blanket, a source of exercise, entertainment and also nourishes us with food and a sense of pride.

    Tonight, we are having homemade soup which will have diced leaves of home grown kale, chard and alexanders. To kick the series off, here is the recipe for the soup.

    2 chopped carrots

    1 chopped medium sized yellow onion

    2 chopped celery stalks

    3 cups of vegetable broth plus 3 ½ cups of water

    1 pack of simulated shredded chicken

    about 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning (I never measure exactly, this is cooking not chemistry)

    about a 1 cup of pasta or 1/3 of a package of spaghetti or linguini

    1 cup or so of frozen peas

    We sauté the carrots, celery and onions in a large pot on medium heat for 5 or so minutes. Then we add the broth, the 3 ½ cups of water, fake chicken, and seasoning and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes – maybe more – until the veggies are cooked. Then toss in the pasta and peas and simmer until the pasta is to your liking, and then we add a handful of chopped kale, alexanders, and chard at the end. Season with salt, pepper to taste. I also add a few drops of a decent hot sauce to my bowl.

    Thank you garden.

    When is a whale not a whale? When taxonomy conflicts with everyday language.

    According to the author of a recent article on the internet, “Although they’re called killer whales, orcas are not actually whales; they belong to the oceanic dolphin family, of which they are the largest members.”

    That statement is both correct in that orcas are in the family Delphinidae, and also incorrect at a higher level—and such statements are ubiquitous on the internet. Using this logic, a goldfish is not a fish because it is a member of the carp family. You are not a placental mammal because you are in the family Hominidae. And roses are not plants because they are in the Rosaceae.

    Carp are fish. Minnows are fish. Goldfish are fish. Placing species in family groups in manmade taxonomic schemes does not eliminate the larger more inclusive groups defining types of organisms. A goldfish is a cyprinid, cyprinids are a type of fish, and therefore, goldfish are fish.

    Orcas presently are in the family Delphinidae. The family Delphinidae is one of many cetacean (whale) families. So by the transitive relations: orcas are whales.

    Whales ultimately evolved from a group of terrestrial mammals, derived from synapsid reptiles, which evolved from amphibians, which evolved from lobe-finned fishes. So mammals, including whales, also are a subset of fishes, if we take this to a crazy extreme. I take great delight in being a fish and a Pisces—not that the present alignment of stars is an indicator of anything.


    In 2017, the BC Archives acquired an Emily Carr watercolour of a woodland scene (PDP10276, Fig. 1). The work is an example of Carr’s early interest in the landscape of British Columbia. Recently, the work made its way back to the Paper Conservation Lab to receive the treatment that was recommended at the time of acquisition.

    When this work arrived at the Royal BC Museum,  a few condition issues  were apparent.  There was some evidence of fading, a small stain in the upper left corner and some microscopic cracking of the paint layer (Fig. 2), but these issues are irreversible and— now that the painting is entering a stable, museum storage environment—not particularly worrying.  There was, however, one big (and unsightly) problem: the painting had been adhered to a low-quality, acidic cardboard support at some point in its history, and that support layer had been partially torn away (Fig. 3).


    Why is this a big problem?


    • A partial backing means that the painting is not supported evenly, which often leads to folds, creases and other types of damage if the work is not handled very carefully
    • Differential support can also lead to deformations in the paper because some areas of the sheet are constricted from movement (with environmental fluctuations) and some aren’t, leading to a build-up of internal stresses
    • The poor-quality cardboard was also very brittle and likely to crack or snap. If a snap in the cardboard were to happen, this would inevitably translate into bends, creases or even breaks in the painting as well.



    • Acidic components of the poor quality wood pulp cardboard (as well as acidic components that appear to have been absorbed from another source, visible as brown lines across the cardboard backing) will leach into the painting causing the paper to degrade and become brittle and discoloured. This could eventually affect the paint as well.


    The solution was clear: this partial backing had to be fully removed.

    Removal of a backing usually happens in stages. The backing board attached to this painting was rigid and thick. Trying to remove something thick from something thinner all at once will usually result in tears, delamination and/or creasing in the thinner, more flexible object—in this case, the painting. To avoid this, the thick backing is removed in thin layers. The backing is reduced, layer by layer, until we reach the final layer, which is attached to the painting. This final layer is the one carrying the adhesive, which makes it the trickiest layer to remove and the layer that needs to be removed most delicately.

    The initial layers were removed using a thin, slightly dull blade. Upon reaching the final layers, it was apparent that there were many areas, particularly towards the outer edges, that were not directly adhered to the back of the painting. These areas lifted up easily without the blade.

    The remaining, adhered portion was tested with a small amount of distilled water under the microscope and fortunately, the adhesive was discovered to be water-soluble. To be sure that the application of water on the back would not solubilize the media on the front, the media on the front was tested under the microscope with small drops of water (Fig 4). Each different colour was tested in discrete areas. Fortunately, only one colour was partially affected by the water. Given the thickness of the paper and the sensitivity level of the paint, it seemed unlikely that the water used for the backing removal would cause damage, and therefore a small, controlled application of water, administered under the microscope, was used to remove the final layer of the backing.

    Following the backing removal, a small tear along the left side of the work became unsupported and therefore, unstable. To prevent this tear from growing bigger, it was repaired by pasting a thin piece of Japanese tissue over the tear on the back (Fig 5). The Japanese tissue is made of long natural fibres, which makes it very strong and supportive, despite how thin and translucent it appears after application.


    Now that the work is physically and chemically stable, it is ready to be mounted so that it can be made accessible for research and exhibit (Figs. 6 and 7). Once the work is matted and framed, the change from “before” to “after” won’t be detectable to most viewers, but this work is essential for the long-term stability of the painting. It is an invisible gift that this generation bequeaths to the next.

    Prior to 2010, the eels of British Columbia had been poorly studied and only 6 species of eels and eel-like fishes were known from our coastal waters. Two species of cutthroat eel (Histiobranchus bathybius and Synaphobranchus affinis) were expected to appear here because they range from the west coast of the contiguous United States to Alaska, but as of February 2020, neither species has been discovered in British Columbia.
    Kamikawa and Stevenson (2010) led the charge with the publication of range records for Aldrovandia oleosa, including those from British Columbia. Their new records from 819-2014 m off California and British Columbia represent a range extension of 11,000 km from the nearest historic records in the western central Pacific Ocean.

    Hanke and Roias (2012) announced the discovery of two duck-billed eel species in British Columbia. As of January 2020, only one specimen of Venefica ocella has been found in BC waters, off the southern end of Haida Gwaii at 1669 m. Five specimens of V. tentaculata have been found at depths of 1757 to 1869 m, from northwest of Haida Gwaii to Vancouver Island. These specimens extend the range of the genus at least 900 km north in the eastern North Pacific Ocean and suggest these eels also range north into Alaska.

    Hanke et al. (2014) added another 4 new species to the fish fauna of British Columbia, and updated the known ranges of another 4 species. The Snub-nosed Spiny Eel, Notacanthus chemnitzii, had been caught repeatedly in British Columbia, and had been noted in several checklists (Gillespie 1993, Love et al. 2005), but details of the species’ range, and the depths it inhabits (1480 to 2400 m) along our entire coastline went unpublished until 2014. The first specimen of Synaphobranchus brevidorsalis for British Columbia was caught in 2006 at 1751 m off the north end of Vancouver Island and is significant as the first record for the North Pacific. Nemichthys larseni, the Pale Snipe Eel, was caught roughly 18.5 km inside the Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone at a maximum depth of 300 m, and to date is the only specimen from British Columbia. Hanke et al. (2014) also extended the range of Cyema atrum (the Bobtail Eel) north from Oregon to British Columbia with the 2006 collection of a single specimen from 1890 m off the north end of Vancouver Island.

    There have been no other eel species discovered in British Columbia waters since 2014, and below is the list of 13 spiny eel, gulper eel and true eel species known to exist off here (as of February 2020):

    Order: Albuliformes
    Halosauridae: Aldrovandia oleosa
    Notacanthidae: Notacanthus chemnitzii
    Polyacanthocephalus challengeri
    Order: Anguilliformes
    Colocongridae: Thalassenchelys coheni
    Congridae: Xenomystax atrarius
    Serrivomeridae: Serrivomer jesperseni
    Synaphobranchiidae: Synaphobranchus brevidorsalis


    Avocettina infans
    Nemichthys larseni
    Nemichthys scolopaceus
    Nettastomatidae: Venefica ocella
    Venefica tentaculata
    Order: Saccopharyngiformes
    Cyematidae: Cyema atrum


    Most new fishes found in the last two decades were caught during deep water surveys and are adapted to cold water – they probably are not new, just newly discovered. However, marine life is known to stray north during el Niño years, and with the warm water “blob” events in the last decade, unusual northward range records were expected. But northward strays are not a new phenomenon, with historic records of smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena) off Vancouver Island (Carl 1954, McFarlane et al. 2010), and a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) and finescale triggerfishes (Balistes polylepis) as far north as Alaska (Mecklenburg et al. 2002).

    Only a few of the new range records in BC likely are attributable to warmer surface waters, including the appearance of the North Pacific argentine (Argentina sialis), which historically was known north to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon (Love and others 2005). In 2011, a single North Pacific argentine was caught west of Clayquot Sound from 118 m, and represents the first record of the species in British Columbia.

    Three years later, during the height of the 2013-2015 warm blob event, a finescale triggerfish (Balistes polylepis), was caught alive and well off the west side of Vancouver Island, and a fresh louvar (Luvarus imperialis), was found on the beach near Massett. The louvar and finescale triggerfish represent significant strays north of Baja. With its body evolved for open water cruising, it is easy to see how the louvar made its way this far north, but even triggerfishes which swim at a leisurely pace, have strayed into southern Alaska during el Niño events.

    Jump forward 5 years, and a spotted porcupinefish (Diodon hystrix) was found dead at low tide, Jordan River, southern Vancouver Island. The specimen was fairly fresh and had not been scavenged. A second porcupinefish was seen on that same stretch of beach on September 26th (Jerrett Taylor pers. comm.). The second fish was not recovered. Following the coastline, the fishes found at Jordan River are about 2100 km north of their previous range limit off San Diego. It seems unlikely they swam along the coast against the California Current, where upwelling keeps the water cold, but instead took an offshore route in water 2-3°C warmer than normal. Open water excursions are possible given that spotted porcupinefish have crossed open ocean to reach Hawaii, Pitcairn, Easter, and the Galapagos islands. Spotted porcupinefishes have an long larval phase in open water and according to Leis (1978), this is ample time for dispersal.

    Were these the first porcupine fishes in BC? Yes. But a relative of the porcupinefish, a burrfish (Chilomycterus affinis; RBCM 610), was found in BC in July 1939, along Dallas Road in Victoria. The specimen looks like an inflated curio from a tourist trap and Carl and Wilby (1945) were suspicious and did not put the burrfish on the list of fishes known to inhabit our waters.

    Cusk-eels and brotulas of British Columbia have been poorly studied, and until recently, only two species were known from our waters – Spectrunculus grandis and Brosmophycis marginata. However, deep-sea survey samples from 2002-2006, and the commercial fishery provided six new species, with a seventh revealed during re-examination of museum specimens.

    One specimen of Cherublemma emmelas was identified from commercial fishery bycatch in July 2006. It was in a trawl haul from 1097 m in Kyuquot Canyon, west of Vancouver Island, and extends the species’ range roughly 2890 km into British Columbia.

    Shrimp survey samples, and the commercial fishery in the southern Strait of Georgia, British Columbia revealed an additional cusk-eel species (Chilara taylori) at depths of 78 to 109 m. These two fishes have since been joined by others added to the collection, and represent a modest extension of the species’ range north of Willapa Bay, Washington.

    A single specimen of Acanthonus armatus was taken during deep-sea research collections from near Triangle Island at 1778 m and is the first record for the eastern North Pacific Ocean as well as Canada. The announcement of this fish’s presence here netted some unexpected attention because of its common name, the Bony-eared Assfish. The rest of the new cusk eels failed to draw the same level of attention.

    Four specimens of Bassozetus zenkevitchi were collected from depths of 1909 to 2125 m west of Vancouver and Graham islands, show the species ranges along our entire coast. It is likely that others were caught years ago, but were mistakenly identified as Arrowtail, Melanonus zugmayeri, and discarded.

    A single specimen of Cataetyx rubrirostris taken from 2000 m, roughly 18 km east of the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts in Queen Charlotte Sound, represents the first record in British Columbia and a 750 km northward extension from the previous known occurrence west of Nehalem Bank, Oregon. And as of January 2020, only one specimen of Porogadus promelas is known from BC waters, taken roughly 22 km east of the Tuzo Wilson Seamounts in Queen Charlotte Sound. This fish extends the species’ range into the eastern North Pacific, and also represents the northern-most record of the genus in the Pacific Ocean. The genus Porogadus presently is being revised, and since the RBCM specimen is in such good shape, it is being studied by experts in Copenhagen

    During the preparation of the manuscript detailing these new records, I re-examined cusk eels in the Royal BC Museum collection. In the process, a single specimen of Spectrunculus crassus was identified from among the few S. grandis preserved at the Museum. Spectrunculus crassus had been split from S. grandis in 2008, and to date, is the most recent addition to our cusk-eel diversity.

    Because of increased sampling effort since 1999 and re-examination of museum specimens, we now know that 9 species of cusk-eel live in our region.

    Cusk Eels


    During the yuletide season of 2014, Rhapsody was found dead. Her unborn daughter had died days earlier. Rhapsody was unable to expel her calf and died from the decay and infection. Her calf was examined at the pathology labs in Abbotsford, then returned to Vancouver Island so that we could prepare her skeleton. She sat in a freezer while we debated the best way to prepare so delicate a skeleton.

    In the spring of 2019, Mike deRoos of Cetacea Inc. decided we should immerse the calf’s remains in a tank of warm water which was oxygenated with an airstone, and let bacteria do the work for us. Once the tank was ready, I drove to Saltspring Island with a fragrant tub in the back of my car.

    Months later, the bones were ready for pickup. My car is nicknamed Tydirium – after the shuttle from the Return of the Jedi – it still smells new inside. Fortunately, the car still smells ok after shuttling a foetal orca back and forth from Saltspring Island.

    Now I have the task of sorting out all the disarticulated bones and putting them back in order. Rhapsody and her calf will be displayed alongside each other in our Orcas exhibit opening May 2020.

    Like humans, bones of a newborn are still growing – and skull bones are not solidly sutured together. The skull bones from Rhapsody’s calf came apart. Vertebrae are not fully formed either – the neural arches, lateral processes, centra and cookies are all separate. What a puzzle! Ribs, sternal ribs – all of these need to be sorted out. And then there are the finger bones in the flippers – I was not looking forward to sorting these out.

    But here is where Mike deRoos saved the day – he arranged to have the calf’s flipper x-rayed, and the image printed at full size is better than an IKEA or LEGO instruction booklet to guide reconstruction of both left and right flippers.

    The three carpals and a few of the distal phalanges are not formed – and the metacarpals and phalanges are widely separated by cartilage. But the size and shape of each bone is so distinctive, that I was able to place each bone where it should go in minutes. Two phalanges from the fingertips of the right flipper were lost during preparation – but overall the flippers look great.

    Ribs are next.


    The BC Archives is currently finishing up a project to arrange, describe and digitize a collection of photographic holdings from Ernest Crocker, a notable nineteenth century photographer. Part of this effort has involved some conservation work to repair some of the elements of these collections that have not made it through the ravages of time in one piece. In this particular example, the image identified as J-02623, there were a great many pieces. The following is a description of how it was repaired.

    Background and terminology

    Glass plates were used as a support for photographic negatives early on in the history of photography and continued to be used well into the first half of the twentieth century. The negative is composed of two layers: the glass support and the photographic emulsion that holds the image (Fig 2). In the case of this example, the emulsion layer was made from gelatin.

    Figure 3. Diagram of the physical structure of a glass-plate negative.

    Condition issues

    When J-02623 arrived in the conservation lab, it was in many pieces and was resting on a second, intact plate. The fractures radiated from a central point near the upper right corner, suggesting that the negative had been struck by something blunt at some point in its history. In some of the areas around the cracks, the glass had been reduced to dust, which meant that there would likely be small losses once the dust was cleared. Its fragmented and fragile condition meant that it could not be removed from the supporting negative underneath it, which meant that the archivist could not see or identify either image and absolutely couldn’t digitize them.

    These condition issues posed a few interesting problems in terms of developing a conservation treatment:

    1. Broken plate cannot be stabilized as it is

    Cracks in glass plate negatives are not uncommon. In many instances, simple solutions such as custom storage enclosures or pressure mounts are sufficient for long-term stability. Pressure mounts—two new pieces of glass put on either side of the broken original and taped together—were used on several other broken plates within this collection. The benefit of this method is that the new glass provides the necessary support for the plate to be handled again and the treatment is completely reversible, allowing for reconsideration of treatment alternatives in the future if desired. In the case of J-02623, however, this would not be feasible—the negative was too fragmented and would not be adequately supported by a pressure mount alone.

    2. Broken plate cannot be moved as one piece

    Before methods for consolidation and long-term storage could be considered, the issue of simply removing the broken plate from the intact plate beneath it had to be addressed. As previously mentioned, areas around the cracks had disintegrated into dust. This meant that sliding the broken negative off of the supporting plate and onto a new piece of support glass would be impossible. Some of this sharp, glass dust was likely to be under the broken shards of the negative. If sliding was attempted, the glass dust would act as sandpaper, abrading the delicate emulsion on the underside of the broken negative, leading to partial losses of the image. It would also likely scratch the glass side of the other negative as well.

    3. Reassembly after any disassembly would be very tricky

    If the broken pieces couldn’t be slid onto a new support or work surface, they would have to be lifted. But this solution posed its own problems: how do you replace so many tiny pieces back in proper alignment once they’ve been disassembled?

    4. How to stabilize for the long-term

    Once a plan to remove and reassemble the broken plate is achieved, how do you stabilize it for gentle handling and digitization? If a pressure-mount system is not enough, the only other option is to adhere all of the shards back together; however, this is easier said than done. How do you apply adhesive to glass shards without it oozing out around the edges? What adhesive will provide a strong enough bond while also having good aging properties as well as being reversible/adjustable?


    Figure 6. Paper conservator Lauren Buttle applying adhesive to glass side of J-02623 using Silpat® method. A respirator mask was required for this treatment because of the use of solvents.

    A carefully considered treatment plan was required to answer so many questions.
    To achieve the first task of moving the broken plate to a new working surface, the damage was first mapped (traced) onto a clear sheet of plastic with permanent marker and photocopied onto paper. This map was used as the basis for recording the location of each of the tiny shards that would have to be replaced afterwards. Tiny shards that were big enough to carry part of the emulsion were removed one-by-one, placed in a numbered bag and their shape and location was noted on the map (Figs. 4 and 5).

    Before the shards were reassembled, the edges of each one were swabbed with acetone to clean away any dirt or oil that might impede adhesion. The shards were reassembled, emulsion-side down, on an inclined surface against a Silpat® mat (a reusable silicone-covered textile designed for baking). This mat provides a non-stick surface that is not completely flat. The texture in the textile provides a series of small bumps that raise the glass slightly off of the rest of the surface. The adhesive is delivered to the cracks on the glass side and capillary action draws the adhesive through the crack. Because there is no consistent contact with a flat surface on the emulsion side, the capillary action stops at the emulsion side, keeping the edges of the cracks on that side nice and neat. All of the pieces were assembled dry first. After all pieces were aligned, adhesive was administered.

    After the adhesive in the cracks was dry, the glass-side surface was cleaned gently with solvents to remove any adhesive residue from the edge of the cracks.

    The adhesive used for this repair was Acryloid B-72, a non-proprietary acrylic adhesive with known aging properties and good long-term stability. Acryloid B-72 can be dissolved in many different organic solvents. In this case, toluene was used, because it has a relatively slower drying time, which allows more time for the solvated adhesive to flow into the cracks before drying. Various concentrations were tested until full penetration of a crack in a test piece of glass was achieved (Fig. 7).

    Figure 7. Test glass with different concentrations of Acryloid B-72 in toluene applied to a crack. When light is shown over the crack, the areas where the adhesive has been drawn in begin to disappear.

    After all the pieces had been assembled and adhered in place, the plate could be lifted and handled gently. But due to the larger size of the plate and the amount of cracking, additional support would be needed for long-term care and access. Also, there were small losses in areas in the center of the cracking, which left jagged edges exposed. For these two reasons, it was decided that a pressuremount would be the best way to protect the plate and the patron.

    Two new sheets of glass, cut to the same dimensions as the negative, were cleaned and placed on either side of the repaired plate. All four edges were taped to seal the package and allow for easy handling. The plate will be transferred to a member of our Preservation team for digitization with the rest of the collection.

    For more information on this collection, see the Ernest Crocker Fonds (PR-1348) on the BC Archives website.


    The techniques for repair discussed in this blog were based on the methods conveyed by Katherine Whitman, conservator of photographs for the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) at a workshop hosted by the AGO in October 2018. My attendance at that workshop was generously sponsored by the Koerner Conservation Initiatives Fund through the AGO and the Royal BC Museum. I am also grateful for the ongoing communications with Katherine Whitman in devising a treatment for this plate.

    Thank you to Joel Blaicher, exhibits fabricator for the Royal BC Museum, for building the support that was used in this treatment. Thanks also to Rob Anderson, lighting and AV specialist for the Royal BC Museum, for his assistance in creating a time-lapse video of this treatment.

    Tom Bown, Volunteer Archaeology Research Associate.

    The first artifacts to arrive at the Royal British Columbia Museum from the Esquimalt Harbour Remediations dredging project (Esquimalt Harbour Remediation 2019) were a pair of pop or mineral water bottles from Charles Mumby, Portsmouth and Gosport.

    This establishes a direct link between the Royal Navy Base in Portsmouth and Esquimalt.

    As many of the Royal Navy ships would have been resupplied at Esquimalt, bottles and other artifacts from British Columbia companies will likely be found in Portsmouth.



    Fig. 1 C. Mumby glass bottle from Esquimalt Harbour, DcRu-1278:125

     (photo by author)

    The first of these two bottles, is a short squat, amber coloured, cylindrical, bottle with a hand finished blob top.  It is 15.5 cm. in height and 7.7 cm in diameter.  Remarkably the cork is still in the neck and the bottle might still have the original contents.  The front is embossed C. MUMBY & Co with a double circle embossed TRADE MARK P & G and a fouled anchor in the center.  A bottle such as this would likely date between 1884 and 1910.  Hannon and Hannon (1976) state the term trade mark on Mumby’s bottles post dates 1884.




    Fig 2a C. Mumby “torpedo” bottle from Esquimalt Harbour DcRu-1278:36 (front). Photo by author

    Fig 2b C. Mumby bottle from Esquimalt Harbour (reverse side). Photo by author

    The second, is a “torpedo” shaped bottle also known as a Hamilt on style named after the inventor.  In aqua coloured glass, it has a hand finished blob top. It is 19.0 cm in length and 6.1 cm at its widest diameter.  On the front it has a double circle with TRADE MARK at the top and P&G at the bottom with the fouled anchor in the center the same as the one in figure 1.  Above the circle only the last two letters are legible as ER the phrase was likely SODA WATER MAKERS and below the circle TO HER MAGESTY THE QUEEN.  On one side it’s embossed C MUMBY & Co PORTSMOUTH AND GOSPORT on the opposite side.  This bottle likely dates between 1884 and passing of Queen Victoria in 1901.

    The torpedo style bottle was initially designed to withhold the pressure of the carbonation as well as keeping it from standing up right allowing the cork to dry and the carbonation to escape. They were used extensively in the mid 19th century and a few companies kept the design until the start of the 20th century.  In British Columbia, there are no known bottlers that ordered torpedo style bottles embossed with company names.

    Fig. 3 Colonel Charles Mumby. Photo with permission of David Moore, Historic Gosport

    Starting on the mid-19th century, both the Royal Navy and British Army were recognizing alcohol as a serious problem.   Lloyd and Coulter (1963:96) state: “Heavy drinking especially on shore, diminished towards the end of the century when tea and coffee were fast supplanting grog…”   Increased levels of technology required higher levels of training that had little tolerance for drunkenness.   In addition, the temperance moment was having an influence.  As a result, many of the Royal Navy Clubs and regimental canteens were supplying their own soft drink bottles with club names and regimental crests (Bown 2015).  A second advantage of these products was the carbonation which acted as a preservative keeping the contents for long sea voyages.

    It would appear Charles Mumby saw an opportunity and was close at hand to supply the Royal Navy with a good supply of non-alcoholic beverages.   Even his choice of logo with the fouled anchor was likely designed to appeal to the Navy.

    Like many prominent businessmen in the Victoria era, Mumby was an officer in the local militia.  This may have given him the necessary status and connections to supply the Royal Navy.  The following was provided by David Moore at Historic Gosport (2019):

    “Charles Mumby set up business in Gosport in 1849 as a chemist and manufacturer of mineral waters.  His shop was at 47/48 High Street.  His supply of water was a large bore hole in the yard at the back of the shop, which had rear access from North Street.  At 345 feet he hit natural water in the chalk subsoil.  He installed machinery to increase the production of natural ice.  He produced famous soda water, ginger beer and lemonade, selling across the south of England.  He supplied the Army and the Navy, receiving a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria.  The manufacture of mineral waters continued at his original premises in the High Street, and an office was opened up at Portsmouth, first at 71 St George’s Square, then, from the late 1870s, at 34 The Hard.  Charles Mumby was a Poor Law Guardian, a magistrate, a County Councillor for Hampshire, and sat on innumerable public and social committees.  Charles retired in 1885 leaving the business to his son Everitt.” It was floated as a company in 1898.”

    WikiTree (2019) also states Mumby and Company was awarded a Royal Warrant to supply King Edward VII and the company continued to supply the Royal Navy until about 1970.




    Fig. 4  A Photo of Mumby’s Shop, Photo with permission of David Moore, Historic Gosport


    Located at 47/48 High Street sometime after the reign of Queen Victoria as the banner states TABLE WATER MAKERS TO HM THE KING. His business in Gosport was conveniently located within a kilometer of the Royal Navy base at Portsmouth across the harbour.







    Bown, T. and C. Addams, 2015. Glass and Pottery of the Royal Navy and British Military: Historic and Archaeological Finds form the 18th, 19th and 20th Century. First Choice Books Victoria B.C.
    Esquimalt Harbour Remediation 2019.  Accessed July, 2019.
    Hannon T., and Hannon A., 1976.  Bottles Found in St Thomas, Virgin Island Waters. Journal of the Virgin Islands Archaeology Society, Volume. 3, 1976, pp. 29-46.
    Historic Gosport, 2019. David Moore Webmaster. Accessed July, 2019.
    Lloyd C., and Coulter J. L. S., 1963. Medicine and the Navy 1200-1900, Vol IV 1815-1900. E. & S. Livingstone Ltd. Edinburgh and London.
    WikiTree 2019. Accessed July, 2019.





    Historic Objects from the Esquimalt Remediation Dredging Project

    by Tom Bown, Volunteer Associate in Archaeology

    We rely heavily on technology – integration – connectivity. This was the downfall of the newer generation of Battlestars when the Cylons attacked. Today the government network was down. But it was still possible to connect my phone and a memory stick and write something. And today I am writing about an integrated, connected global network for biological information which at the moment, is inaccessible to me.

    For a few years now I have been collecting lizard range records in a spreadsheet to support a research paper on rapid range expansion in the Common Wall Lizard. That paper now is in-press and will be printed this autumn. Now that we don’t need to be so secretive with our data, we have changed strategies and are encouraging people to report lizard sightings directly to iNaturalist.

    iNaturalist is a global initiative where anyone can sign up, and then report the species they find. A global network of experts help make sure identifications are accurate, and the combined efforts of thousands of observers creates incredible maps for each species. Obviously the species reports are biased – the maps detail where humans go, and microscopic life and invertebrates are underrepresented because they are really hard to ID from a simple photo. But fungi, larger insects, plants, vertebrates – all are mapped in amazing detail.

    These location records now are available to people around the world to track species ranges and how species ranges may change in the future – climate change, habitat loss – you name it – the data is out there to study.

    To enter a record, first you need to get a photograph –you can make a report without a photo – but it is impossible for others to verify what species you found. Photos need to be as good as you can get – a fuzzy blur is not much help. You also can report a sound recording (bird calls for example, or maybe sound files from bat detectors).

    This weekend my wife and I were walking around Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, and the organism I found – no surprise – is a Common Wall Lizard. In the case I detail below, I have iNaturalist on my phone, and this series of images depict the process of discovery to creation of iNaturalist record. The process takes seconds.

    You take the photos – and this can be tricky – some animals are skittish. I get a basic shot and then slowly close in to get better photos until the subject runs away (botanists and mycologists don’t have this problem). Even a fairly bad photo like the one below is good enough in some obvious cases- but better photos makes identification easier.

    Link the photo(s) to the record.


    Then you specify what species you think you have found – or you can leave it to genus, family, or blank.


    Then you specify the location and date – you can do this manually, or the software draws the location and date from metadata in your photographs.

    Then click on the submit record button – and the record now is live for others to view.

    If your identification is correct, the global community will also ID the organism as you did, and the record goes to a status known as ‘research grade’.

    If you are wrong, people suggest other identifications. You can choose to agree or let the global community of experts come to consensus. Several of my spider and insect identifications have been corrected by experts – and that is the power of this network. We help each other refine the accuracy of these data.

    When I take off with my phone to make iNaturalist records, I say I am Nattering. May has well have a fun name for this activity. It is kind of like trophy hunting – but you create a digital record for the world to see rather than a stuffed animal, or pressed plant, or pinned insect. It’s also highly educational – I have no idea of the identity of many of the insects I photograph, but the software and global community really helps teach what is living right in my own neighbourhood.

    It costs nothing to load and use the software and for my wife and I, we use it as a fun activity we can share while enjoying hikes on this Pacific island, or while our car charges during road trips.

    Why not join the team and photograph what ever you want – starting with Common Wall Lizards and plot their locations in this software. It is fun and you’d be contributing to science.

    Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project Community Event

    Museums across the world are going through paradigm shifts – a shift that calls for a transition of power and authority, and a transition from exclusions to more holistic models of inclusion. The Royal BC Museum has been working towards such shift through community history projects based on community engagement.

    In this type of community-based heritage work, the goal is to work closely with previously marginalized groups for exploring, preserving and sharing self-identified communities’ heritage defined in their terms. Our hope is to facilitate the sharing of the self-identified communities’ diverse stories and heritage in our galleries and beyond from community perspectives and in community voices.

    The Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project (PCLP), a partnership project between the Royal BC Museum and the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley, is one of the museum’s attempts toward this goal. Six years ago in the summer of 2013, the initial discussion that eventually led to the creation of the PCLP took place in the Fraser Valley. Almost four years ago in 2015, the PCLP Advisory Committee met for the first time, where Mo Dhaliwal initiated a call for a revolution to break traditional institutional boundaries. It led to the community gallery intervention event. At this time, Punjabi Canadian communities took over the museum space and inserted their stories and presence.

    Years later, community members gathered at the Royal BC Museum again on May 4, 2019, to view the cumulative result of the long-term work – the bilingual Pocket Gallery exhibit Haq & History: Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project a Quest for Community Voices, and the kiosk featuring community voices in the Logging area in the Modern History gallery. The kiosk was installed based on community feedback from the intervention event, sharing family, union and industry stories in the sawmill industry, an industry that have woven the Punjabi Canadian stories in BC together.

    Leading this community gathering in the museum, Mo Dhaliwal, on behalf of the PCLP Advisory Committee, started with the land acknowledgement, and thanked all ancestors, matriarchs, and all living things for getting us to where we were. Ravi Kahlon, then Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism, acknowledged all the PCLP advisors and community participants. The most moving part of the event was when people saw their stories and images, interwoven into the community stories under the five themes. The five themes were identified by the communities around the province as the most significant to Punjabi Canadian history in BC – trans-Pacific journeys, families and homes, community celebrations and commemorations, sawmill experiences and community activism for rights and justice.

    This exhibit marked a historic moment for the underrepresented Punjabi Canadian stories in BC to be collectively preserved and shared. ‘Haq’ means rights, and the PCLP is about putting community voices and history in their rightful places. Next to the kiosk in the gallery, Mo ended the event by leading three calls of ‘Inquilab Zindabad!’ – ‘Long live the revolution!’ (in Punjabi) – calling for continuous work to move beyond traditional boundaries and create new paradigms for heritage work.

    The Haq & History exhibit, pending funding, will later travel to the communities who helped shape this work.

    Event Images:

    The kiosk in the Logging area in the museum permanent gallery.

    The Haq & History Pocket Gallery display

    In science fiction, FTL means Faster Than Light. But today I am changing the acronym to suit my needs – Fast Tiny Lizard. On June 19th, 2019, Cathy Judd caught a lizard in an industrial area of Vancouver,  and reported to Ashlea Veldhoen (Habitat Acquisition Trust) for identification. I got an email from Ashlea stating that a small green coloured lizard had been caught in Vancouver. I could hear Captain Piccard bellowing Red Alert in my nerdy mind, and I replied with questions and an urgent plea: “PLEASE DO NOT LET IT LOOSE.”

    Then I asked for pictures.

    I was expecting to see a photo of a Common Wall Lizard in any reply – but nope – to my delight and horror, the lizard in the photograph had two well defined stripes and a pale belly with no dark blotches – it was obviously not a Common Wall Lizard.

    This little lacertid was an Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus) – a species known from scattered locations in the United States including a population on Orcas Island, Washington. They apparently have existed on Orcas island for about 12 years now, but had only been reported in 2018.

    Dorsal view of the female Podarcis siculus (RBCM 2187, TL = 143 mm, SVL = 59 mm) from Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Ventral view of the female Podarcis siculus (RBCM 2187) from Vancouver, British Columbia.

    This lizard, a female, based on its light build and weakly developed femoral pores (males have well developed pores along their thighs) is a first for BC, and possibly also for Canada.

    This lizard could have carried a clutch of 5 or more eggs. But no others have been seen in the area, so I assume this Italian immigrant was a lone stow-away. How it got here is a complete mystery. Was it a dumped pet? Did it stow away in camping gear used on Orcas Island? Or was it hiding in shipping materials from Italy or one of the colonized locations in the USA? We may never know. Perhaps some enterprising student will want to examine its DNA and see if there is a match for a source population.

    Since Italian Wall Lizards are established on Orcas Island in the same climatic zone as southern Vancouver Island and Vancouver, is successful in cooler climates elsewhere in North America, and known to prey on animals as large as shrews, it represents a high risk invader. At least this one is safely preserved in the RBCM collection, and won’t be the matriarch of a second invading Podarcis species.

    The Haida were among the many Indigenous northern visitors to Victoria after 1853. Many came to work to get trade goods or wages to purchase European commodities. The Haida visitors brought carvings they made on Haida Gwaii. Many of these were made of argillite, a stone unique to Haida Gwaii (see appendix 1, What is Argillite). Argillite was used primarily after 1810, there are only a few examples of argillite being used for labrets in ancient times (Keddie 1981).

    Argillite plates, platters, mugs, goblets, knives and forks became popular as the Haida copied the European-style tableware used by the settlers. The citizens of Fort Victoria enthusiastically purchased these.

    On July 21, 1859 the Victoria Gazette reports that the Haida “brought with them a large number of curiosities in the shape of carvings on wood and slate {argillite], and ingenious plaited works in straw, etc. A carving on wood of a steamship, displays great ingenuity, …It is supposed to be designed from a Russian steamer, which occasionally visits the island to trade, and of which the Indians have before brought reports. The carving is about nine inches long and four thick, and is out of a piece of solid oak, with pieces of bone for the masts, bowsprit, guards and fancy work on the sides. On the bow is carved in the wood the double-headed Russian eagle, with Crowns of bone; the carving is very good.”

    The paper goes on to describe the moving parts on this artifact which “is intended as an ornament pipe, the smoke stack being the bowl”. The paper describes an argillite plate with an image of the San Francisco Herald carved on the inside.


    Figure 1 and 1a. Argillite carving of what is probably Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken.

    Figure 2 and 2a. Two photographs show Helmcken about 1859 and in later years.

    Although the Haida brought carvings with them to Victoria, they also made them while staying in Victoria and left behind the waste material from their manufacture. Some Haida argillite carvers were known to take consignments to carve figures to resemble known people, such as that in figure 1. There is no document saying who this figure represents.

    I would suggest that this figure is intended to be a characterization of Dr. John Sebastion Helmcken. Helmcken had a distinct flop of hair on one side of the top of his head and always wore a ribbon-like bow tie and a buttoned vest under a formal jacket – like that of the carving. The early photographs of Helmcken resemble the carved figure. In his later years his flop of hair was on his right side, but in early photographs it was, like that on the argillite figure, on the left side. Figure 2 shows the young Helmcken about 1859 and figure 2a shows him in later years.

    The Haida often stayed in the Victoria region for long periods of time, acquiring goods and money by working on the local farms clearing land and assisting in building roads (Keddie 2003). A number of Haida worked on the Craigflower farm after 1853. This may be the source of the broken pieces of argillite found in the refuse from the farm. The Haida visitors to Victoria initially camped in the Rock Bay area but were assigned a temporary place on the south end of the Old Songhees reserve for which they were to pay rent for its use. The waste material from argillite carving has been found at the latter location.

    Figure 3. At top is the broken argillite pipe from Haida Gwaai (after Fladmark 1973). Figure 3a shows a similar style broken pipe (RBCM14810).

    The Archaeological Finds

    When excavating an early 19th Century Haida House at the Richardson Ranch site on Haida Gwaii, Knut Fladmark uncovered an early style broken argillite pipe (fig.3). This is similar to an example in the Royal B.C. Museum collection, RBCM14810 (fig. 3a). No provenience was recorded for this figure, but it matches the description of a pipe in the old Tolmie collection that is recorded as being found on the Old Songhees reserve.

    The Haida did not take up smoking tobacco in pipes until it was introduced by Europeans. They did grow tobacco but mixed it with burnt abalone shell and sucked on a ball of it placed under their lip (Keddie 2016).

    Other archaeological work in the 1970s resulted in the detailed examination of argillite fragments from the historic Village of Kiusta on Haida Gwaai (Gessler and Gessler 1976). These are similar to some of the plate fragments found in Victoria and to the complete plates found in the Royal B.C. Museum Indigenous collections.

    Argillite Finds in Victoria Region

    Fragments of worked argillite and unfinished artifacts, broken during manufacture, were found on the southern end of the Old Songhees Reserve (Archaeological site DcRu-25) on the west side of the inner most portion of Victoria harbour.

    During the massive alterations to the landscape in this area in the 1980s, Museum associate Tom Bown and the author found several pieces of argillite in the old area of the Haida camp and Tom Bown reported that another person (private collection) had found a cluster of argillite manufacturing waste on the south slope of the Hill behind the latter area.

    Recent excavations by I. R. Wilson and Golder consultants recovered argillite pieces in the same general area west of Songhees Point. All of this material was recovered from deposits highly disturbed by previous industrial developments and all were mixed with European manufactured goods.

    Figure 4. Both sides of an unfinished and broken human figure similar to those on large argillite pipes

    Figure 4a. Waste argillite material from the Old Songhees reserve archaeological site DcRu-25.

    Figure 4, shows two views of an unfinished broken human figure resembling finished ones seen on large decorated pipes in the Royal B.C. Museum collection. Figure 4a, shows in addition, a corner of an argillite picture frame (DcRu-25:1546) and tiny (DcRu-25:1591) and large (DcRu-25:1539) sawn discarded pieces. Figure 5, shows three views of a discarded sawn piece of argillite (DcRu-25:5763) and Figure 6, shows three more discarded pieces from the Old Songhees reserve.

    Figure 5. Three views of a discarded piece of sawn argillite.

    Figure 6. Two views of discarded argillite pieces (DcRu-25:445 & 251) and another piece (DcRu-245:5733).

    Round plates decorated with floral, circular and sunburst designs, often on both sides, were the most popular. Figure 7, shows a piece of argillite plate from the surface of site DcRu-123, which has a historic surface area component that is part of the historic Old Songhees Reserve site DcRu-25. The pattern on the fragment (DcRu-123:57) matches the design on the bottom of the same plate (fig. 7a)whose top designs match the pieces from the Craigflower Farm site.

    Five pieces of a plate were found by Tom Bown in a systematic beach survey of old washed out garbage deposits at Craigflower farm (figure 8). The figure shows five pieces (two fit together) of the same argillite plate.

    Figure 7 and 7a. Piece of argillite plate, RBCM DcRu-123:57, from the Old Songhees Reserve area that matches the bottom design of plate RBCM15709 in the Royal B.C. Museum collection. The top of the same plate matches pieces from the old Craigflower Farm.

    Figure 8.  Pieces of the same argillite plate from the old Craigflower Farm in View Royal.

    Figure 8a. Close-up of design patterns on argillite plate in the RBCM collection that has similar patterns as the pieces found at the Craigflower farm (RBCM15709).

    Appendix 1. What is Argillite?

    Argillite is variable in content. The particular dense black carbonaceous material used by the Haida from their Tllgaduu Creek reserve site is different than other argillites found on the Islands. The Tllgaduu argillite is basically composed of silt-sized fragments of kaolite (a fine clay) present in a fine carbonaceous clay matrix. Because of folding and heating of these deposites caused by an ancient nearby volcanic eruption, these argillite deposits have unique properties that enable it to be easily carved. It ranges from, gray to black and has a hardness of 2.5. Argillite contains some moisture when quarried and needs to be dried out to prevent cracking – but the moisture content does not have any effect on the hardness of the material.


    Macnair, Peter L. and Alan L. Hoover. 2002. The Magic Leaves. A History of Haida Argillite Carving. Photgraphs by Andrew Nieman and Burt Storey. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, B.C.

    Barbeau, M.C. 1953. Haida Myths Illustrated in Argillite Carvings. Bulletin 127, Anmthropology Series 32. Ottawa. National museum of Canada.

    Barbeau, M.C. 1957. Haida Carvings in Argillite. Bulletin 139, Anthropology Series 38. Ottawa National Museum of Canada.

    Fladmark, Knut R. 1973. The Richardson Ranch Site: A 19th Century Haida House. In: Historical Archaeology in Northwest North America, edited by R.M. Getty and K.R. Fladmark. University of Calgary Publication,Calgary.

    Gessler Nicholas and Trisha Gessler. 1976. A Comparative analysis of argillite from Kiusta. Syesis 9:13-18.

    Keddie, Grant R. 2016. Aboriginal Use and Context of Pipes, Tobacco, and Smoking in Northwestern North America. In: Elizabeth A. Bollwerk and Shannon Tushingham (Editors). Perspectives on the Archaeology of Pipes, Tobacco and other Smoke Plants in the Ancient Americas. 157-181. Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology. Springer International Publications Switzerland.

    Keddie, Grant R. 1981, The use and distribution of labrets on the North Pacific Rim. Syesis 14:59-80.

    After the building of Fort Victoria some of the Lekwungen peoples from outside winter villages moved into the inner harbor. In 1844, they became established at a new location on the west side of Victoria’s inner harbor. This village became what is now known as the Old Songhees Reserve (Keddie 2003).

    By the mid-1840s a surface burial ground was established by the Lekwungen on the northern tip of Laurel Point across from the new village.

    The burial ground was composed of several burial sheds covered with tuli reed mats and associated with prominent carved wooden burial figures that represented the dead who were buried there. The first Image of this location (fig. 1) was drawn by William McMurtrie a draughtsman in the hydrographic party surveying the American coast. He made a brief visit Victoria in July of 1850 (Monroe 1960).

    Figure 1. Drawing of Laurel Point burials by William McMurtrie, July 1850. Museum of Fine Arts Boston. C18868, Acc #59.153.

    In the 19th century, Laurel Point, earlier called Deadman’s Point, was a long thin rocky peninsula (Fig. 2). The burial ground was a feature seen by everyone coming into the narrow portion of the inner harbour. Drawings of the location with human figures in front of the wooden shed-like structures, and one figure wearing a European style top-hat, were the subject of several other artists and at least one photographer over the next nine years until they disappeared.  Only a lithograph of the photograph has been located to date. Drawings and water colours were done on two occasions by marine surveyor James Alden during visits of the American steam frigate Active.  A day after the ship arrival on September 16, 1854, Alden drew a close-up version of the wooden figures (Fig. 3). Alden did other drawings in the area and returned in 1857 to do another water colour of Laurel Point and burial sites at the Coffin and Deadman (Halkett) Islands. He drew his ship USS Active in Esquimalt Harbour on June 29, 1857.

    James Anderson (the son of Alexander C. Anderson of the Hudson’s Bay Company) saw the burial sites in 1850, and commented: “the wooden effigies marking the place where some notable was laid to rest in his canoe or wooden sepulchre surrounded by many of the personal belongings.”

    Figure 2. Long thin Laurel Point about 1868. Burials were once on the end of the point. RBCM Archives A-02660.

    Figure 3. “Indian graves Laurel Pt Victoria Harbor” James Alden September 17, 1854. Washington State Historical Society (1932.93.7(1)-2).


    The Gazette Story

    A drawing of the burial ground by Charles Chistian Nahl was being made into a lithograph engraving in 1858, but did not get published in the Gazette until October 16, 1859. The location was described on October 15, 1858, in the Victoria Gazette:

    “The Burying Ground of the Songhish Chieftains, at Dead Man’s Point. The burying ground …of the chiefs of the Songhish tribe is located on Deadman’s Point, nearly west of Victoria …Subsequent to the migrations of whites hither in 1848-9, this burying ground has not been used … Since that period none of the deceased have been considered worthy of interment there. The four figures placed on the spot are rude carvings of wood, as large as life, each one representing the chief against whose grave it is placed. They are arranged in line, and are about two feet apart, facing the entrance of the harbour, and formerly struck the eye of the stranger …as a body of military sentinels on duty, guarding the inner harbour.

    At one time they were very conspicuous, being painted in bright colors and with much taste, vermilion, black, &c, being the predominant hues. The old Laurel [arbutus] trees were well chosen by the Indians to shade their great dead.

    One of the figures holds between his hands the skull of a dead enemy and rival chief, whom he killed in deadly fight, …He in his life was a warrior of renown, and the tradition with his deeds …in the memories of his descendants of the present generation, would make him a Songish Caractus.

    The next to him was …a celebrated warrior; but more particularly famed as a spokesman, sagacious advisor, seer and statesman. He is represented as addressing the tribe, in an attitude of imperative command. The two others were renowned hunters revered in the oral annals of the tribe for daring feats in slaying the black bear, panther and wolf, …One is represented as holding in each hand a live wolf, rampant, the other is also grasping in either hand a wolf inverted”.

    Figure 4. A lithograph engraved from a drawing by Charles Chistian Nahl. Published October 16, 1859, in the Victoria Gazette. RBCM PDP03722.

    Water colours were drawn in three views by Tyrwhitt Drake in August of 1859’ Drake painted and described these figures as “sentinels over a large grave, of the family vault” – in one he saw an “old gentleman …doubled up into a sitting position, a bit of reed matting put over him & then he is built in with post logs of wood & a few stones to keep all snug” (King, 1999:153).

    Figure 5. Three Paintings of the grave figures by Montague Tyrwhitt-Drake. August 1859.

    Lithographs in Richard Mayne and John Keast Lord Publications

    Richard Mayne, a Naval officer on board the Plumper (1857-60) and Hecate (1861), first visited Vancouver Island in 1849. He had a lithograph (illustration 18, opposite page 271) done from a photograph for his 1862 publication, Four Years in British Columbia, showing the burial ground on Laurel Point (Mayne 1962).  The present location of the photograph is unknown.  We can only speculate that the original photograph was taken by one of the two Royal Engineers trained in photography brought over in 1859. We can give a suggested date of late 1859 or early 1860 for the photograph from which the lithograph was made (Fig. 6).

    In this lithograph the animal figures and arms have been broken off the wooden grave figures. This same lithograph, but in reverse, is found in John Keast Lord’s vol. II of his The Naturalist in Vancouver Island and British Columbia  published in 1866 (Fig. 7).

    Lord added drawings of artifacts not at the site and of three skulls, also not related to the burial site. These skulls have nothing to do with this burial – they have been drawn in this lithograph to represent the two dominant types of artificial head shaping – The northern Vancouver Island style on the left and the southern Island type on the right, compared to the unshaped skull in the middle.

    Figure 6. Lithograph of Laurel Point burial ground. The arms and animals have been broken off from the human figures. From Mayne 1862.

    Figure 7. Lithograph with addition of skulls shown in J.K. Lord’s publication. The reverse of the Mayne lithograph. From Lord 1866.

    Lord describes the burials and the objects that were added to the drawing that were not in the original photograph:

    “ The Indian burial ground was drawn from a photograph. The huge figures, carved from solid trees, are placed round the boxes in order to keep away evil spirits; small tin vessels, pieces of coloured cloth, the skins of small animals, and all kinds of odds and ends, are hung by the relatives of the dead on the boxes containing the body. One thing they never fail to do – that is, to bore the bottom of the tin cups or vessels full of holes: thus rendering useless no one will steal them.

    Scattered on the ground are flint implements, once used by the Indians, and  the three skulls spoken of. The one to the left is that of the chief, brought from Fort Rupert (vide trip to Fort Rupert, Vol. I), showing the effect of circular pressure; the middle one is an unaltered head from the middle Columbia; whilst that on the left shows the effect of flattening of the forehead” (Lord 1866 (2):260-261).

    Lord mentions the location of the middle skull dug out of a gravel bank: “The place from whence I obtained these singular relics was a gravel-bank, near Fort Colville, whilst digging out the nests of land-martins” Lord 1866 (2):103).

    The Laurel Point peninsula has undergone a great deal of development and has been greatly expanded by land fill over the last 60 years (Fig. 8 & 9).  It was only short lived, starting after 1844 and no longer being used by 1858. What happen to the ancestral remains is unknown. They may have been transferred over to the burial ground on Halkett Island.

    Figure 8. Looking south to Laurel Point across Songhees Point at the centre. Grant Keddie Photograph 2008.

    Figure 9. Laurel Point on left showing the extent of landfilling. Grant Keddie photo 2007.


    Anderson, James Robert. RBCM Archives Additional Manuscript 1912.

    Ayers, Jr. Darien. Drawing of Laurel Point in “1857”. Collection of the Washington State Historical Society, Plate 23, p.70 [mislabelled as “Departure Bay”]. Tacoma Washington; (NW 759.13 A358)

    Drake, Tyrwhitt. 1859. Paintings and commentary of Tyrwhitt Drake. British Museum. Department of Ethnology.  Document 1310. Letter: Am.BR56-TWR

    Keddie, Grant. 2003. Songhees Pictorial. A History of the Songhees People as Seen by Outsiders, 1790-1911. Royal B.C. Museum, Victoria, British Columbia.

    King, Jonathon 1999. First Peoples, First Contacts. Native Peoples of North America. London: British Museum Press.

    Lord, John Keast Lord. 1866. The Naturalist in Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Vol. 1&2. Richard Bently, New Burlington Street, Published in Ordinary to the Majesty, London.

    Mayne, Richard Charles. 1862. Four Years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island. An account of Their Forests, Rivers, Coasts, Gold Fields, and Resources for Colonization. John Murray, Albermarle Street, London.

    Monroe, Robert D. Two Early Views of Vancouver Island. Beaver. Summer 1960:12-14. The image used is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, C18868, Acc.# 59.153, Titled: Graves at Laurel Point.

    Stenzel, Franz. James M. Alden. “Indian Graves Laurel Point, Sept 17, 1854” (Plate 9, p.33). Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Albert W. Ayers, Jr.

    Victoria Gazette. 1858.  The Burying Ground of the Songhish Chieftains, at Dead Man’s Point. Oct. 15, Vol. 1, No.67.

    Victoria Gazette. 1858. The Weekly Gazette, Oct. 16 “Contains a View of the Songhish Indian Burial Ground, At Deadman’s Point [Laurel Point], opposite Victoria”, Notice in Victoria Gazette of Oct. 22, p. 3.

    Victoria Gazette. 1859. A lithograph engraved from a drawing by Charles Chistian Nahl. October 16. 1859. (Archives, PDP03722).

    Lord, John Keast.  1866.  The Naturalist in Vancouver Island and British Columbia, Vol. II, p. 103, Richard Bentley, London.

    Gilmore, Berenice.  1980.  Artists Overland. A Visual Record of British Columbia 1793-1886, Burnaby Art Gallery, Century Park, September 10 to October 18, 1980. Provincial Archives of British Columbia, Victoria. November 3, 1980 to January 9, 1981. p. 44 [Mistakenly shows drawing as “Departure bay”].

    Some people get angry when they miss a bus. This morning as I crossed Bowker Creek, and saw my bus heading south. It was a cool morning. It had rained overnight. The air smelled of spring. Birds were everywhere. Missing the bus was a good thing.

    Even along suburbian streets, you can do a bit of bird watching when you miss a bus. Regulars along my street include: Northern Flicker, Common Raven, Northwestern Crow, American Robin, Bewick’s Wren, Merlin, Spotted Towhee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Anna’s Hummingbird.

    A nesting Anna’s Hummingbird – our neighbour’s Holly bush makes pretty safe nesting habitat.

    Overhead you can see a range of gulls, Great Blue Herons, Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, and Bald Eagles. Mallards and Canada Geese fly over on their way to and from the local golf course water traps, and a pair of Mallards have taken up residence on the neighbour’s lawn.

    And it is no surprise we have exotics like the California Quail, House Sparrow, and European Starling.

    Violet-green Swallow – always fun to see them overhead.

    In summer we get Violet-green Swallows, Barn Swallows, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, White-crowned Sparrow, Purple Finches, and the occasional Western Tanager, Wilson’s Snipe and Common Nighthawk. A few years ago over 30 nighthawks cruised the neighbourhood – that was neat. Steller’s Jay, Varied Thrush, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco are more common in winter.

    Missing from this list is owls – there have to be suburban owls in my neighbourhood – especially Barred Owls – I just haven’t seen any.

    Great Horned Owl – not in my garden though (the jesses give it away).

    This morning I walked smack into the middle of an irruption of Bushtits, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets. It’s hard to be mad at missing a bus when you are surrounded by those tiny energetic birds, each searching for a morning meal. Then an Anna’s Hummingbird chased one crow away, and while another crow flew by with nesting material in its beak. Seconds later, the bus arrived to ruin the fun – everyone on board staring at their smartphones.

    I wonder if any of the passengers were checking a birding app? Were they on iBird?  Ebird? Or adding a sighting to iNaturalist? I wonder how many know that a smartphone can be used for more than playing Angry Birds.

    The diversity of wildlife apps is increasing at a time when global biodiversity is in peril. Some apps like the Sibley’s bird guide on my phone are more for simple identification and to log your life list. Others feed into bigger networks that help science and feed into wildlife management decisions.

    Not sure which app is right for you? Read this review of 5 top birding apps.

    If you aren’t interested in slogging through a birding app in a phone or tablet, maybe this would be for you – a project proposed for Google Glass – Glass Birds – as for this YouTube video though – anyone can ID a Western Tanager.


    I wonder if Glass Birds is refined to ID birds like this Rock Wren? I need the Google Glasses for gulls, some sparrows, fall warblers, flycatchers, and shorebirds, and best of all, I would be a taxonomic cyborg!

    We hear on the news about our armed forces personnel helping people overseas during peacekeeping missions. This year we saw our forces helping flood victims and airlifting communities threatened by forest fires here in Canada. But military presence also can help wildlife – yes, wildlife can flourish even on live fire ranges where tanks range far and wide.

    A frame from Sebastian Koerner‘s film footage of a wolf pup and a Marten (Marder) in the Munster-Military training area Lüneburger Heide, Germany.

    A recent article in the NewScientist detailed how military ranges are benefitting wolves in Europe. Large carnivores tend to fare poorly when in close contact with our species – we shoot them, our highways and industry fragment and destroy their habitat, and we can thank our automotive industry and its infrastructure for the term Road Kill.

    On military ranges, the gun fire is routine and predictable and animals get accustomed to the episodic timing of activity. The range itself and the area nearby generally is devoid of people – except for the short periods during training exercises – and the military presence is a huge deterrent for poachers. I took a Wildlife Management course years ago, and the professor said, “Wildlife management is not about controlling wildlife, it is about controlling people.”

    Regulation of human activity in military training areas is so effective, wolves seem to prefer testing ranges in Germany – they are more abundant in military training areas than in nearby wildlife management areas. In addition, roads in testing ranges make convenient thoroughfares for large carnivores and have far less traffic compared to highways near parks.

    While reading this NewScientist article I had a flashback to my M.Sc. supervisor, Ken Stewart and his recollection of a misty morning searching for snakes around the Canadian Forces Base in Shilo, Manitoba. The testing range near CFB Shilo is adjacent to the Sprucewoods region and what was once Lake Agassiz beachfront, is now undulating terrain and perfect for training against hidden targets. For tank crews, this sandy, gravelly substrate reduces the risk of ricochets during live-fire exercises and makes it easier to retrieve ordnance. This same sandy habitat also is home to some rarely encountered animals and plants in that province.

    The Plains Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus); photo by Dean Hester.

    Ken described his morning, bushwhacking through a forested area adjacent to the base and how the conifers reminded him of the Ardennes Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. He imagined he morning’s sub-silence shattered by the clanking tracks and diesel engine of a Tiger Tank, and said, “All I needed was Lili Marlène playing on an old turntable to complete the scene.” But when Ken was there, it would have been a Leopard, not a Tiger ensuring that all but the most intrepid herpetologists were kept well-clear.

    Leopard 1 Main Battle Tank; photo by Sergeant Dennis Power, Army News-Shilo. ©2008 DND/MDN Canada

    Essentially, this pocket of land within the ranges of the Northern Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis) and Plains Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus) is protected by our armed forces and right next door to Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Ken’s story dates back years before he and I met – and so the concept of military ranges as critical shelter for wildlife is certainly not new. CFB Shilo, recently saluted for its work on wildlife conservation, has a Base Biologist who oversees natural resource management, gives tours of the sand dunes, and facilitates research in this restricted area. Other bases like CFB Suffield  provide grassland habitat for  a myriad of species including Burrowing Owls, Sprague’s Pipit, Pronghorn and Ord’s Kangaroo Rat. CFB Gagetown is working to protect one of nature’s tanks – the endangered Wood Turtle.

    Sandy blow-out areas and mixed woods habitat protected by CFB Shilo, image courtesy of the Manitoba Association of Plant Biologists.

    Since the concept of military ranges as shelter for wildlife is not new, the NewScientist story on wolves serves to reinforce the fact that human activity now is the primary factor influencing nature – as also stated in Bill McKibben’s book, The End of Nature. If we restrict human activity, nature thrives. Since wolves in BC capitalize on human activity and use pipelines, roads and seismic lines cut during oil and gas exploration, and well-packed snowmobile trails as easy avenues to track Caribou, you can bet BC’s wolves also could adapt to military ranges as their relatives do in Germany.  The list of species protected on Department of National Defense (DND) land is extensive and it is good to see that in areas where soldiers practice and you’d expect disruption and devastation – the opposite is true – human activity is restricted, and life adapts to, and is protected by our armed forces.


    There are many different sizes of bird bone artifacts found in archaeological sites in British Columbia. The function of many of these remains unknown.  There is often no comparable artifact type in the ethnographic record. They are sometimes ascribed functions by archaeologists for which there is no evidence. Some of the long bird bone tubes referred to  as “drinking tubes” are in fact, what I am calling bird bone snare guards – devices on snares which prevent marmots and ground squirrels from biting through the noose cord and escaping.

    Figure 1. Modern bird bone noose tube. Made by Grant Keddie.

    Figure 1. Modern bird bone noose tube. Made by Grant Keddie.

    Figure 2. Complete and broken bone noose guards. Bottom to top: DhRx-16:963, 966, 961, 965, 964, 959, 960. DgRr-2:2535.





    Here I present the evidence of how I determined, from my own observations and technology experiments, that some of the unidentified bird bone tub artifacts are snare guards. I also examine why split quills are superior material for making nooses.

    When I was seven years old I assisted my 12 year old brother in snaring rabbits with copper wire. This was his spending money, as he received a dollar and twenty five cents for the skin and five cents for each foot. At the time the feet, with small attached chains, were sold in the stores as key chains and called “lucky rabbit feet”.  This was not so lucky for the rabbits. Fortunately, I have partly absolved myself of this wasteful practice by being involved in the creation of new parkland habitats.

    One of the things I leaned in setting snares is that rabbits and other small animals can easily turn their heads and free themselves by biting through snare nooses made of rawhide or plant fibres, especially when they still have their four legs on the ground.

    Experimentation and Observations

    I have undertaken many experiments in making bone tools, which has included cutting off the ends of bird bones to make hollow tube shaped artifacts. The tube artifacts are usually made from the leg and wing bones of larger birds such as great blue herons and eagles. The easiest way to cut through the bone is with a series of small serrated edged stone flakes (figure 3). I practiced to produce cut marks similar to those seen on the cut ends of ancient bird bones.  If I am working quickly in removing the ends of a bird bone, I produce unintentional cut marks but these are usually alongside and parallel to the main intentional cut (figure 4).

    Figure 3. Sectioning of bird bone with stone flake used in sawing motion.

    Figure 4. Modern unintentional stone flake cut marks next to deeper sectioning cut.

    Figure 5. Sawn off ends of bird bones used in making snare tubes.









    When I observed sharp cut marks across old bird bone tube artifacts in the museum collection, especially those at an angle across the bone, the origin of many did not make sense as being a product of either butchering the bird or of cutting the bone in sections. Rodent chew or scrap marks seemed a better explanation for some of the marks. Examining the sectioned ends of the bird bones showed a minimum of cut marks next to the cut hole, if at all (figure 5). Cut marks seemed to occur mostly on bone tubes that had an elongate hole cut near one end that was distinct from the cuts made in sectioning the bone.  These slots cut above one end of the bone would be for attaching a string cord. These slot holes are often heavily worn from having a string rubbing the hole.

    Figure 6. The marmot whale bone trap stake on the left still has the bird bone guard as a component of the noose. Chilkat Tlingit (AMNHCatalogue No. 19/568).

    I have observed thousands of bones of all sizes that show cut marks from human butchering, as well as bones that have been chewed by rodents as a source of calcium. Human induced cut marks and rodent marks can usually be distinguished from each other.  By measuring the width of two parallel cuts representing the front incisors of a rodent we can sometimes identify which species of animal did the chewing. There is a difference between deep controlled chew marks and what on trap noose guards one might call quick panic scrap marks. In desperation to escape the rodent chews quickly at the bone tube covering the noose.

    There is no mention of these noose guards in the ethnographic literature but I did find one of these bird bone tubes still attached to a snare in the collection of the American Museum of Natural History (figure 6). The marmot stake on the left of figure 6 shows the bird bone tube attached to the snare which is still attached to the whalebone stake. It was collected between 1869 and 1890. It is from the Chilkat of Haines Borough Alaska (AMNHCatalogue No. 19/568. Length 27cm; Maximum width 4cm).  The stake on the right, without a bone tube, was collected in same time period by Lt. George T. Emmons from the Tlingit Aak’w clan (AMNH Catalogue No. 19/562; Length 28.2cm; carved end 3.3×2.3cm).

    It became clear that one end of the snare string was tied into the cut hole near the end of the bone and the string was then passed through the tube.  When the animal was caught the noose was pulled tight around its neck with the bird bone tube protecting the snare cord from being chewed.

    How the bird bone tube slider works.

    Figure 7. Bird bone noose guard pulled to neck of model animal.

    (1) The string noose extends through the bird bone tube.

    (2) The end of this noose is tied through a hole or around a groove at the lower end of the tube.

    (3) The string is looped out of the bottom of the tube to form a noose.

    (4) When the animal is caught and pulls on the noose the bone tube is pulled down to the animal’s neck.

    (5) The animal cannot bit the string because it is covered by the bone tube.

    (6) The bottom of the tube, where it is tied, gets tucked into the neck of the animal in a position that is difficult to reach.

    (7) The animal tries to bite at the bone tube creating evidence of teeth marks that are mostly near the bottom end above the cut hole and at a slight angle to the hole. Biting further up the tube creates more angular teeth marks.

    (8) The roundness and flopping around of the bone tube makes it difficult to bit through and break

    The cut marks

    One would predict that the gouge marks made from a marmot biting on a bird bone tube would include a series of close cuts across the surface of the turning tube or scrape marks randomly at angles across mid portions of the tube as the desperate animal dried to escape in a hurry.

    A Bird Quill Noose

    In reading that split bird quills were sometimes used as trap cords, I experimented to see how well quills lasted compared to other kinds of strings. I knew from previously splitting of bird quills to put feathers on arrows that they split longitudinally without breaking across the string.  If rodents bit into a quill from the side they might cause it to split over and over without breaking across the string. A quill string split many times lengthwise maintained much of it strength.  I surmised that if animals tended to bite a cord from the side rather than cut across the quill cord the noose would keep splitting into more strands and not break without a lot of persistent chewing.

    In order to test this I caught six invasive grey squirrels and four rats in two old Mink cages set in my back yard.  I tied the trap doors tightly closed with a long strip of 3mm wide quill string from peafowl feathers (birds I had previously raised). If the animal bit the cord through, they could push the door open. Two of the squirrels and two of the rats bit the cord through and escaped. The other six animals had chewed the cords splitting them into long partial strips but the cord held in place, even when some of the longer stands had been severed.  This demonstrated the probable preference for Indigenous peoples using quills as snare string. The other advantage was the slipperiness of the quills which will not catch on things like a plant fibre or rawhide cord. Some snares had special slip triggers made by setting a quill trigger in a quill noose.

    Figure 1. Ink Drawing of Vancouver Island Marmot. (Grant Keddie)

    Figure 1. Ink Drawing of Vancouver Island Marmot. (Grant Keddie)


    Marmots were hunted in many parts of British Columbia for their furs and their fat content. Both Coastal and Interior peoples went into the mountains every fall to hunt them. Some First Nations continue to hunt marmots. See Appendix 1, First Peoples and Marmots of British Columbia, for a detailed regional overview of the role of marmots in Indigenous societies.

    Deadfall traps and snares of various sizes were used for catching most species of mammals as well as birds.  There are several types and sizes of artifacts in this general category of trap devices that were used by the Tlingit and their inland relatives for trapping mainly marmots and ground squirrels.

    Small deadfall trap assemblages have ended up in museums, but it is the carved trigger mechanism of this mainly wooden trap device, especially those made of whale bone, that have been acquired for museum collections in the past. These are generally called marmot trigger sticks (Figure 2). The larger type would more appropriately be called marmot snare stakes. These are composed of a stake or peg pounded into the ground near a marmot den with an attached quill or leather noose. The latter are assumed to be larger than trigger sticks.

    Figure 2. Ethnology Collection. Whale Bone Marmot Trap Trigger Sticks: #’s 4127; 18156 and 18157.

    There is often confusion in the ethnographic and historic literature as to which type is being referred to. If they are called “trap sticks” it is not clear if they were the trigger mechanism of a deadfall trap or a stake with a noose stuck in the ground near a marmot hole.  Both trap triggers and trap stakes were often carved from whale bone and had a carved design at one end.

    A large number of those in North American Museums were collected by one person, Lt. George T. Emmons, from 1869-1894.  Of the twenty examples in the American Museum of Natural History, all range in length from 24.3 to 30.3cm with one exception at 13.3cm (Cat. No. E/324 from Wrangell Island). The three examples from the RBCM collection range in length from c. 19.3 to 23.5cm.  I am referring to these as trap triggers. There is no clear size separation in the broader museum examples between what can be called trap triggers and trap stakes. Museum specimens that still have a noose attached to them can be assumed to be trap stakes for sticking in the ground and not trap triggers. A 13cm whalebone stick would be a trigger, as it would not be long enough to hold firmly in the ground for catching small rodents.

    Trigger Designs and their Purpose

    Both deadfall trigger sticks and trap stakes have similar animal designs on one end. Both are curved down to a pointed end. Designs in museum collections include whole marmots; human heads with hats, marmot helmets, or below a wolf head; humans with fish or marmots on their heads; birds of prey eating small mammals; a fish on the top of a bird head or marmot head; a bird coming out of the mouth of a fish or a pair of small mammal heads.

    Some of the symbolism may be related to traditions of the hunting families. The theme of the large predator bird eating a rodent is a common one. Thunderbird is frequently seen on wooden poles on the northern coast. On the poles of the family of Kweeyaiht at Kispiox, there is a depiction of a “Thunderbird holding a ground hog in his claws”. The Thunderbird or Mountain eagle frequently appears as a crest among members of the Sky clan (Barbeau 1929:88-91).  Some family stories indicate that they had close associations with marmots as told in the story of The Man Who Became a Marmot (Teit 1921).

    The designs on the stakes and triggers were used to entice the marmots based on the belief that they had special powers. Among the Tlingit: “Each boy was expected to learn the story of Kayak, the hero hunter, who did so much to free the world from monsters, and who also taught the people how to make carved halibut hooks, carved salmon spears and carved traps for catching game. He taught just how to carve so that some spiritual power would come and inhabit the hook or trap and thus make it more effective to attract the game to it” (Corser 1920:53).  Anthropologist Fredericka de Laguna noted that for marmots the “magically effective designs or figures” used were “not considered necessary in trapping other animals” (de Laguna 1991:136).

    The Ethnology collection

    In the ethnology collection of the Royal B.C. Museum we have three carved whale bone trap triggers (Figure 2). These triggers are all made of whale bone. The carved ends depict (bottom) a predator bird eating a small animal; a bird coming out of the mouth of a fish (top); and two animal heads (one broken) which represent marmots (middle).

    RBCM #4127.  Whale bone. The carved top has a 6cm long figure of a bird coming out of a fish head. The total length of the artifact is 12cm, but a large portion of the bottom is missing The broken lower portion is only 6cm long, but its estimated original length is 20cm based on having similar proportions to stake #18157. The top of the long round bottom portion below the carved figure is 1.3cm in diameter. This Tlingit artifact was originally in the collection of William Tolmie of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The on old paper tag attached had, “Carved bone from Juneau S. E. Alaska” –  “382”, written on it. It was on a for sale list produced by his daughter in 1927 as #49. “Carved bone (382) birds – part of Marmot trap. Juneau Al.”.  It was likely collected by Tolmie in the late 19th century.

    RBCM #18156.  Whale bone. The carved 5.2cm x 3.5cm top has two marmot heads, one above the other.  The total length of the artifact is 18.5cm, but a portion of the bottom is missing. The round top of the bottom portion below the carved figure is 1.3cm in diameter. The broken bottom portion is (13.3 cm) long. Its estimated original length is 19.3-20.3cm. The bottom portion shows extensive rodent chewing on one side. This, as well as artifact RBCM #18157, were both purchased in 1983. They once: “Belonged to Ernest V. Steele a blacksmith in the Omineca area in the early 1900’s. His brother William was a trapper in the same area”.

    RBCM # 18157.  Whale bone. The 5cm x 4cm carved top is of a predatory bird eating a small animal. The total length of the artifact is (23.5cm). The nearly complete bottom portion is (19.5cm), with the original length being c. 21cm. The top of the oval shaped bottom portion below the carved figure is 1.2cm X1.7cm (see information on RBCM #18156).

    Figure 5. Close up of the carved end of Artifact RBCM 18157.

    Figure 3. Close up of marmot head design on artifact #18156.

    Figure 4. Close up of the carved end of Artifact # RBCM 4127. Bird head sticking out of fish mouth.

    How did the Trap Triggers work?

    These triggers helped to support a central post which held up heavy logs. The point of the trigger was delicately set into a notch. A trip wire of twisted rawhide looped between the trigger and the support post. When the marmot tripped on the rawhide cord the trigger was released causing the post to collapse and drop the heavy logs on to the marmot.

    Figure 6. Drawing showing the use of the Deadfall Trap Trigger stick


    1. Most of the weight of the deadfall logs “E” is supported by the Fall stick “D” which rests on and holds down the Trigger stick “C’.
    2. The upper end of the Spring stick “B” is tied with a lope of rawhide “F” to the Fall stick “D”. By having the tip of the Spring stick “B” secured in a notch near the end of the Trigger Stick “C”, the load of the deadfall is kept in balance.
    3. The marmot comes out of its hole between the Fall stick “D” and the Spring stick “B”.
    4. The marmot steps on the rawhide trip cord “A” – which pulls on the Spring stick “B”. This pulling causes the tip of the Spring stick to slip out of the notch near the end of the trigger stick “C”.
    5. When the Spring stick “B” is no longer held by the trigger stick “C”, the fall stick “D” is thrown off balance, causing the deadfall logs to fall on the marmot.

    An Account of Trap Stakes in Action

    Schwatka provided a firsthand account of marmot hunting in Tagish territory in the Narns-Bennet Lake area of northern B.C. while they were camped near a lake caribou crossing:

    “Ouite a number of marmots were seen by our Indians, and the hillsides were dotted with their holes. The Indians catch them for fur and food … by means of running nooses over their holes, which choke the little animal to death as he tries to quit his underground home. A finely split raven quill, running the whole length of the feather, is used for the noose proper and the instant this is sprung it closes by its own flexibility. The rest is a sinew string tied to a bush near the hole if one be convenient, otherwise to a peg driven in the ground. Sometimes they employ a little of the large amount of leisure time they have on their hands in cutting these pegs into fanciful and totemic designs, although the Sticks .. are usually much inferior to the Chilkats in these displays, and the illustrations give on page 112 are characteristic rather of the latter tribe that the former.  Nearly all the blankets of this Tahk-heesh [Tagish] tribe of Indians are made from these marmot skins, and they are exceedingly light considering their warmth“ (Schwatka 1894).

    The drawing from Schwatka is reproduced here in figure 7. These are trap stakes and not trap triggers – as they have nooses attached to them. The trap stake on the right with the marmot carving on top is now in the Metropolitan Museum as No. 1979.206.899.  It is 26.2cm long. A very similar one is now in the American Museum of Natural History as Catalogue No. 19/562 recorded as “Tlingit Auk”. It is 28.2cm long.  It was collected by Lt. George T. Emmons somewhere in the period from 1869-1890.  Emmons collected most of the marmot trap triggers and stakes in North American Museums. The stake on the left side of Schwatka’s drawing was in a private collection and is currently being sold in an auction in the United Kingdom with the incorrect function listed as “salmon trap stake or trigger” (see figure 7a).

    A study of the sizes and context of all museum artifacts referred to as marmot trap triggers and marmot trap stakes needs to be undertaken to see if it can be determined if there is a distinct size difference between the two items.  Those artifacts with nooses attached near the top are clearly trap stakes, as in the examples of Schwatka.  Where trap stakes have lost their nooses or they have become detached and catalogued separately in Museum collections it will be difficult to classify them except on the bases of size. Whatever they may be, the trap devices and their designs demonstrate an interesting relationship between marmots and humans as perceived by Indigenous peoples.

    Figure 7 . Chilkat Style Trap stakes. (After Schwatka 1894:112).

    Figure 7a. Modern Photograph of the trap stick shown in Schwatka’s 1894 drawing.
















    Barbeau, Marius. 1929. Totem Poles of the Gitksan, Upper Skeena River, British Columbia. National Museum of Canada. Canada Department of Mines. Bulletin No. 61. King’s Printer, Ottawa.

    Corser, H. P. 1920. Totem Lore and the Land of the Totem. Including Totem Lore Seventh Edition and Through the Ten Thousand Islands of Alaska. Third Edition. The Nugget Shop, Juneau, Alaska.

    de Laguna, Frederica. (Ed)  1991.  The Tlingit Indians. George Thornton Emmons. Edited with additions by Frederica de Laguna, Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver.

    Emmons, George Thornton. 1991. The Tlingit Indians. Edited with additions by Frederica de Laguna and a biography by Jean Low. Douglas & MacIntrye, Vancovuer/Toronto. American Museum of Natural History, New York. 134-136.

    Schwatka, Frederick. 1894. A Summer in Alaska. A Popular Account of the Travels of an Alaska Exploring Expedition Along the Great Yukon River, From Its Source to its Mouth, in the British Northwest Territory, and in the Territory of Alaska, St. Louis, MO, J, W. Henry.

    Teit, James. 1921. Tahltan Tales. No. 65. The Man who became a Marmot, pp. 343-345. In: The Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 34, Oct.-Dec. No. 134.

    Appendix 1.


    Figure 8. Vancouver Island Marmot photographed along the trail up Green Mountain. Grant Keddie August 7, 1995.



    During the visits of fur trader John Meares to the Northwest coast of America between 1786 and 1788, he observed that the skins of marmots occurred in “great quantities” (Meares 1790:2).

    Ethnographer Philip Drucker, in speaking of the Northwest coast in general, notes that: “The marmot… furnished a light but finely furred pelt, prized throughout the area for clothing. In days before European blankets, these hides were one of the chief articles used in potlatches. Marmots were plentiful in many localities in the higher mountains. The grounds were usually privately owned, and huts or cabins were built on them. The hunters with their families went up in the fall when the fur had set but before time for the marmot to hibernate. The season was a short but rich one, for the animals were easy to catch, and the hunting parties came out with quantities of valuable furs.” (Drucker 1950:246)

    Regional Overview

     I provide here an overview of select sources to give the bigger picture of the role of marmots in the Indigenous Cultures of British Columbia.


    On the northern coast wealth was directly measured in marmot skins among the Tlingit and the Gitksan of the upper Skeena River (Drucker 1950:233). Drucker notes that the: “Skins of the whistling marmot were regarded as very valuable, particularly among Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and the northern Kwakiutl divisions. It seems that anciently a robe made by sewing together many of the small soft-furred hides was about equal in value to the sea-otter robe (Drucker 1955:39).”

    Along the Skeena River area before European trade blankets were introduced, “caribou and groundhog skins were the standards by which the values of other articles were compared. Bundles of forty caribou skins, and later blankets, were used for the larger potlatch gifts” (Garfield, 1939:329). It would appear that the large number of marmot skins allowed their use as a kind of small change in the trade economy. One large caribou skin exchanged for 40 marmot skins or a small caribou skin for 30 marmot skins. Forty marmot skins were traded for one large box of olachen grease; ten skins for one large hemlock bark cake or a box of pressed seaweed cakes. In comparison, only one seaweed cake could be obtained for a martin or beaver skin (Garfield, 1939:329-30).

    In 1822 the chief trader William Brown observed that the Carrier of Babine Lake gave the visiting Gitksan traders marmot skin robes and dressed skins when their other furs did not equal the value of the coastal goods brought by the Gitksan (Brown 1822).

    Marmot skins were distributed by wealthy families at important events. To announce the birth of a child of a chief, marmot skins were “distributed to every lineage head in the village” and when a chief died marmot skins were “carried by relatives to every dwelling in the tribe to which the deceased belonged. One was given to everyone, man, women or child” (Garfield, 1939:221, 239).

    Among the Gitksan of the upper Skeena River area a secondary crest was a “white groundhog”. This was a headress made of the whole skin with head and paws of the marmot or a headress and a robe. Among the coast Tsimshian, of the Lower Skeena river area, was a crest known as “garment of groundhogs” used as a robe (Beynon n.d.:432, 452).

    The significance of marmots is reflected in the naming of moons. The Yakutat Tlingit of Southern Alaska refer to September as the “digging moon” when marmots “put up food for the winter” (de Laguna 1972:801).

    To the Kispiox Gitksan, September is the “marmot hunting moon” when marmots were hunted on the upper Skeena river (Drucker 1950:271). Today marmots are not present in most of the traditional territory of the Nishga, Coast Tsimshian and Southern Tsimshian and are not found on Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands).

    It is therefore of interest that the Kitkatla or Hartley bay Tsimshian of Dolphin Island and the Gilutsau and Kitsumkalum Tsimshian speakers of the lower Skeena River are reported to have hunted marmot (Drucker:174; McDonald, 1985). These people either moved long distances up the Skeena River to hunt with relatives in other groups or marmots were eliminated from some of their traditional territory during the fur trade period.

    At Kitselas Canyon, 120km up the Skeena River, marmot remains were recovered from the Gitaus site in the Gitaus phase dating between 4300 B.P. and 3600 B.P. (Allaire 1979).


    The Tsetsaut in the upper Portland Canal region had territory once stretching from the southern headwaters of the Stikine to the headwaters of the Nass. One of these groups displaced from the large flat area at the headwaters of the Nass River – that was heavily populated by marmots – were the “Tse etseta ‘people of the adult marmot headgear’”(Duff 1981:444-5). A Tsetsaut Levi Dandjalee told Boas that:

    “before our times the country was inhabited first by the ts’ak’e’, who wore marmot-skins; later on, by the futvud’ie’, who wore bear-skins”, but these people spoke the Tsetsaut language (Duff, 1981:455).  ”Their principal food was the marmot, though they also relied on mountain goat, bear, and porcupine. …For both sexes traditional clothing consisted of pants of cured skins and thigh-high marmot skin ‘boots’ (probably the Athapaskan all-in-one moccasin legging). Mittens, jackets, short coats, robes, and belts, all of skins, complete the costume … For taking marmots, deadfalls were commonly used” (Duff 1981:456).


    The Russian trader Khlebnikov, writing in 1820 about the marmot pelts the Tlingit supplied to the Russian trade, mentions the: “tsukli, the familiar pelts of marmots from the Charlotte Islands, which are very much liked by the native inhabitants of North America. The Kolosh [Tlingit] receive about 30 rubles per 100 of these pelts.” (Dmytrshyn and Crownhart-Vaughan 1976:70).

    There is no evidence, at present, that marmots were once present on Haida Gwaaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands), it is most likely that this statement of Khlebnikov indicates that the Haida were the middlemen in trading marmot skins obtained from other groups on the mainland.


    On the central coast, in Bella Coola territory, marmot skin blankets are mentioned in traditional stories as being given as a reward for assistance and as being used by the hero of an event (McIlwraith 1948:1:305; Vol. 2:487). Mackenzie reports the taking of marmot furs on July 17, 1793:

    “we descended into a beautiful valley, watered by a small river [Kohasganko River]. …we came to the termination of it, …and began to ascend. We now perceived many ground hogs, and heard them whistle in every direction. The Indians went in pursuit of them, and soon joined us with a female and her litter, almost grown to their full size. They stripped off their skins, and gave the carcases to my people”. [Rainbow range between Dean and Bella Coola River]. (Lamb 1957:211).

    The Oowekeeno, Bella Bella, Haihais, Haisla and Bella Coola, all hunted marmot with deadfalls (Drucker 1950:174).


    On the southern coast Peter Puget documented the use of Marmot in 1792. While visiting a village on Eld Inlet, Northwest of Olympia Washington, Puget mentions that: “The Natives had but two sea otter skins which were purchased & a variety of marmot, rabbit, racoon, deer & bear skins were also procured” (Bern, 1939:27). On April 8th, 1825 while at Baker’s Bay near the Columbia River John Scouler noted the existence of “a robe made of the skins of a species of marmot” (Blackwood, 1826:378). These first documents are probably in reference to Marmots of the Olympic peninsula. On the west side of the Olympic peninsula the Quinault and Qeets hunted marmot from June to September (Singh 1966:67).

    Ethnologist Ronald Olsen was told by Quinault elders, on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, that of all the furs sewn to make robes, the marmot was the favorite (Olsen 1936:57). The Marmot or kwukwu’k were “usually sought during the season of elk hunting in the mountains. They were easy to kill. Their skins were much used in the manufacture of bed blankets. Small shoulder robes of four to six skins of the animal were sometimes made. A single skin made a handy seat when one had to sit in a cold or damp spot. The flesh of the marmot was regarded as excellent and well-flavoured meat because they eat grass” (Olsen 1936:43). The Quinault Bob Pope (born c. 1835) and others “had pet marmots, but people grew tired of their infernal and eternal whistling so let them go” (Olsen 1936:137).

    In referring to the natives of Puget Sound in the 1880s Myron Eells records that they made robes of “the skins of the deer, elk, bear, whistling marmot, and wild cat” (Castile 1985:122). A Chinook story is recorded which includes the trading of twined willow bark rope from Shoalwater Bay to Chehalis to “exchange it for ground-hog blankets” (Boas 1894:220).

    In 1826 David Douglas refers to “The ground rat, or a species of Arctomys, the skin of which the Chenooks and other tribes of Indians near the coast make their robes, I have been unable to procure. They are plentiful in the upper parts of the Cow-a-lidsk River” (Douglas 1914:156).

    Among the Twana a man named “Tyee Charley” got his medicine power in the 1840’s when encountering a marmot on a spirit quest to Mt. Elinor on the east side of the Olympic peninsula (Elmendorf 1992:212). In July of 1858, Mrs. Manson, while camped on Manson’s Mountain near Hope, reported that their cook “went out hunting and brought back two marmots” (Lugrin 1928:113).


    The Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)is recognised by Alexander C. Anderson of the Hudson’s Bay Company in his notes written between 1834 and 1867: “The skins of the marmot sewed together make a light warm robe. The rocky mountain marmot of the mainland are generally grey in colour whilst the marmot of Vancouver Island and some of the Northern mountains are black or very dark brown. Robes made of alternate grey and black skins are very effective and valued accordingly” (Anderson 1920). While in Kyuquot territory at Nootka Sound in 1786, Alexander Walker observed marmot skins, but these may not necessarily be products of Vancouver Island. Furs of mainland animals such as fox and rabbits were also observed (Fisher 1982).

    Anderson talks in general about aboriginal peoples in winter digging up the “mountain marmot”.  He mentions that: “From fifteen to twenty occupying a lair and being in good condition both as regards the flesh and fur are quite a prize” (Anderson 1920). It is uncertain which species Anderson is talking about but it is not likely that he is referring to Vancouver Island marmot. In 1867 he refers to the “Rocky Mountain Marmot” which he notes “resembles closely in its habits the Alpine variety, but is larger” (Anderson, 1867:81).


    George Louie, of the Ahousat First Nation, provided me with the anglicised version of the local southern Nuu-chah-nulth name for the marmot, which is Shee-shee teelth. The literal interpretation has not been ascertained but it is clear that the Shee-shee part is an onomatopoeia for one of the calls made by these marmots – namely the chirping sound that is repeated at intervals.

    George Hamilton reported to ethnologist Philip Drucker that the Opetchesaht of the Port Alberni area hunted marmots with deadfalls (Drucker 1950:211). Luke Swan of Hotspring Cove and Ahousat, who was born in 1893, recorded information in his native language on the ownership of resources in Manhousat territory. The Manhousat lived to the north and west of the Ahousat before merging with them in historic times. George Louie translated a tape which notes that only one chief owned the high forested areas along the mountains which included the homes of the fur bearing animals such as the wolf, bear, and elk but implied that “no one” had ownership rights over the Marmots. This statement shows recognition of the presents of Marmots but may reflect knowledge from a time period in which marmots were no longer hunted.

    Philip Drucker mentions that the Gold River Muchalat were one of the smaller groups of Nuu-chah-nulth who depended more on land based resources. They alone of the northern groups ate grouse and also beaver and “an animal that sounds, from modern vague descriptions, like marmot.”(Drucker 1951,p.36; p.61).

    Marmot furs were not traded on the northern and central coast at Hudson’s Bay Company forts from 1828 to 1855. A change occurred in 1856 when 575 marmot furs were taken at Fort Simpson and another 1337 the following year. The steamer Beaver trading along the coast collected 1032 marmot furs in 1856 and 2188 marmot furs the next year. At Fort Rupert on the N.E. coast of Vancouver Island 166 marmot furs were acquired in 1857. This represents a total of 5298 marmots taken in a two-year period. No marmot furs were acquired in these years at Fort McLoughlin or Fort Victoria.


    The best information regarding the hunting of the Vancouver Island marmot is in the archaeological record. Marmot remains were found at the old native village now known as the Shoemaker bay site (DhSe2) in the upper Alberni Inlet (McMillan and St. Claire 1975a, 1975b, 1982; Field and Laqueur 1975; Calvert and Crockford 1982). In the upper part of the Shoemaker site, which dates from about 500 A.D., 24 marmot bone elements were found distributed both horizontally and vertically within the deposits. This would indicate that marmots were utilised at least sporadically throughout the last 1400 years.


    Four marmot-hunting sites have been located in high mountain areas where the Vancouver Island marmot is now extinct.

    In 1987, a collection of about 300 marmot bones representing a minimum of 13

    animals was found in a cave in Sutton pass on the Clayoquot Plateau at an elevation of 1220m (Nagorsen 1989). These were dated to between B.C. 807 to B.C. 600 (Beukens 1987, 1989). Many of the remains show evidence of butcher marks and are clear proof of aboriginal use of this resource in the Clayoquot area about 2500 years ago.

    In 1992, a cave containing large concentrations of the bones of a minimum of 81 marmots (as well as small numbers of deer, bear, martin and blue grouse) were found at an elevation of about 1220m on Mariner Mountain at the south end of Strathcona Park (Keddie and Nagorson 1993). This location is above the headwaters of the Bedwell River in the historic territory of the Owinmitisaht group of Nu-chan-nulth people who eventually amalgamated with the Ahousat.

    Many of the bones show skinning and butchering cut marks. It appears that the marmots were skinned for their furs and the bulk of their body fat taken away attached to the backbone and ribs – most of which are missing from the sample.

    The bones were associated with four artifacts. Fragments of a Mytilus californianus shell were possibly part of a knife used in the process of removing or scraping the hides. A green stone flake with a sharp edge was likely used to skin and butcher the animals. However, many of the cut marks are made by a very thin and sharp blade. There is an overhang of bone on one side of many cuts. This is suggestive of the use of a finely sharpened iron blade. A sandstone abrading stone may have been used for sharpening knives made of different raw materials. A tree branch knot was burnt at one end suggesting use as a torch.

    Six bone samples from five separate bone concentration areas provided radiocarbon estimates with a time range of 1022 A.D. to 1211 A.D. (971 to 782 years ago), or representing a maximum period of 189 years. This strongly suggests a relatively short time span during which the marmots were hunted and deposited in this cave.

    A second site in Strathcona Provincial Park on the S.E. side of the Golden Hind Mountain is indicated by the presents of marmot bones from 4 individuals in a rock shelter. One bone that exhibited evidence of cut marks dated to 1225 A.D.

    In 1993, a marmot hunting rock shelter was located at the 1185m level on the north side of Limestone Mountain which is located between central Alberni Inlet and the headwaters of the Nitinat River. A bone sample recovered from an alcove in the shelter included remains from a minimum of 52 marmots along with some bear, deer, two martin and a blue grouse. The site was used for a short period of time judging from the dates of 990 A.D. and 1015 A.D. on bones from the bottom and top of the litter mat – which contained them.


    The Vancouver Island marmot was used as a source of furs and food by at least some native groups at intervals over the last 2600 years. The distribution of the species in prehistoric times was far beyond that of its present habitat. The effect of hunting on the distribution of this species over long periods in prehistoric times and the possible effects of intensified hunting for pelts to be exchanged in the European trade system in historic times remains to be determined by archaeological evidence and a more detailed examination of fur trade records.

    The fur trade records show that as the Hudson Bay Company became more established in local areas the furs of a greater variety of species were traded. The scale of harvesting of smaller species of animals was greatly increased when animals began to be hunted more for their exchange value in European trade goods (Hammond 1988). If this was the case with the Vancouver Island marmot its numbers may have been reduced to a critical point where overhunted areas were no longer re-colonised as they may once have been with larger populations and more closely spaced colonies.

    Another likely cause for the elimination of the marmot from some areas of the island may have been a result of more recent hunting by prospectors or minors using the animals as a food source or the shooting for “sport” by hunters. The answer to the later question may yet be determined by interviews with long term residents of the region and archaeological examination of bullet cartridge distribution and bones in areas where marmots are know to have disappeared in more recent times.

    The effect of changing environments undoubtedly had a broad effect on the distribution of marmots over time and possible a serious effect in some areas during short periods of more dramatic local change. The marmots at three of these sites were hunted in the warm period before the Little Ice Age that began about 1300 A.D. If marmot-hunting sites are not found after 1300 A.D. in some areas this would strongly suggest that the cooling climate may have been responsible for eliminating Marmot habitat. Further recovery of archaeological and paleontological remains of marmots will undoubtedly show a more complex picture of marmot history than we can now imagine.


    In September, the middle Taku River Inland Tlingit: “after several weeks of berrying, and upland hunts for ground squirrels, groundhogs, and big game, began to gather in settlements near their supplies of stored salmon” (McClellan, 1981:472).

    The Tagish living on the headwaters of the Liard River in the Yukon and N. B.C. – “By late summer, families began to move upland in groups of two or three households to hunt groundhogs (woodchucks, Marmota monax), caribou, moose, and sheep. They cached the dried meat in convenient spots to which the younger men could return for supplies in winter or to which the families themselves could move”(McClellan, 1981:483).

    Kaska Honigmann used the term’s “ground hog” and “gopher (marmot)” (1954:14;146). Sinew thread for traps is from the backbone of caribou or in emergencies tendons of Mt. Sheep and goats (p. 29). In (Honigmann 1981:444) he uses ‘gophers’ and ‘groundhogs’(marmots)”as some of the animals that were hunted “in late summer, when game fattened, hunters and their families moved into the mountains to hunt goats, sheep, woodland caribou, and…” (above)

    “Sleepers lay covered by robes of woven rabbit or ground-hog skins or blankets containing a number of beaver and marten pelts sewn together.” (Upper Liard Kaska) (Honigmann, 1954:60). “People lived on a carpet of spruce brush and at night covered themselves with robes of sewn marten and ground-hog pelts or plaited rabbbit-skin.” (Dease River Kaska) (Honigmann, 1954:62). “During cold weather fur robes supplemented tanned-skin garments. These had been tanned by women workers or else been plaited from strips of rabbit, ground-hog, and gopher skins without the aid of a frame.” (Upper Liard Kaska) (Honigmann, 1954:63). “Ground-hog skin sewn to the front of a man’s winter parka probably served both for warmth and adornment”. (U. L. Kaska, Honigmann, 1954:65). “In winter men and women added coats of ground-hog, fox, sheep, and other skins to the previously mentioned garments. People avoided fur when traveling because they feared perspiration and dangerous chilling. Woven-skin clothes originated from the pelts of ground-hogs and squirrels, the lines cut from the skins of those animals exceeding the strength of rabbit fur.” (Ibid p 67). “The simp[lest type of headgear for both sexes consisted of an approximately triangular piece of tanned skin that was lined with muskrat or ground hog fur. In wearing these the fur rested next to the head. The lower edges tied beneath the wearer’s chin this covering the ears and cheeks.” (Dease River Kaska, Honigmann, 1954:68). “Hunters knew specific, and presumably lucky, moose, ground hog, caribou, and beaver songs. All chants were generally wordless and in essence consisted of a few syllables repeated over and over in a minor key.” Dease River Kaska, Honigmann, 1954:73).

    Upper Liard Kaska – quoting (Field, Unpublished manuscript [1913]) – Pelley River people – moved into ‘a good game country about the end of August when all game is fat, to put up a cache of dry meat for the winter months.’ In fall women busied themselves drying groundhog and gopher.”  (H. p. 46). Tselona Kaska – animals eaten “ground hog”. “Ground hog, the informant pointed out, furnished a far more important source of food in the aboriginal period than did the rabbit. Women preserved a large number of ground hog from the fall for winter consumption.” (H. p. 45).

    Upper Liard Kaska – “Taku people used to meet the Kaska at a Groundhog Lake near the headwaters of the Rancheria River. Here the Kaska went in autumn to hunt groundhog.” (H. p. 22).

    Upper Liard Kaska – The translation of the name of the Kaska name – “?ustelisa” for October is “female ground hog moon” (Honigmann 1954:32). Ground hog snares featured a rock toggle and required two-strand twisted babiche. The family provided itself with a number of six- or seven-foot long forked poles in the fall and packed these above the timberline. The trapper firmly planted one such pole for each snare in a rock cairn near a ground hog den. On either side of the pole ran a small fence about a foot high. After forming the snare loop between these fences, the snare line was bent and knotted around a small trigger stick [see his fig. 3. p.34] before continuing through the fork of the pole. Halfway below the fork the line was weighted with a 20-pound rock. The trigger stick was fitted under a convenient knob or protuberance on the upright pole, the toggle’s weight serving to keep it fixed until an animal entered the snare and dislodged the stick, whereupon the rock fell to the ground. The weight of the falling toggle lifted the animal off the earth. In timbered areas lifting-pole snares like those frequently used for rabbits were also set for ground hog. In fact, the rock toggle appears to represent an adaptation of the lifting-pole principle to treeless country. Men, boys, and women built ground hog snares.” (Honigmann 1954:33). “ground hog were also hunted with deadfalls”.. “Ground-hog deadfalls also followed the platform pattern, the 14-inch Samson post consisting of a bent alder limb or crooked spruce root”. (H. p.34).

    “After gutting a gopher, a person placed a stick reaching from the head to the hind quarter in the body cavity and allowed the carcass to dry in the sun. A light pounding softened dehydrated meat [meat in general here] before it was stored in a skin bag. From dried meat came pemmican, the flesh being heavily pounded and mixed with fresh berries on a sheet of babiche. After adding melted grease the product was stored in untanned groundhog skins or in a casing of cleaned intestines.” (H. p. 40).

    Sekani – In cold weather they wore “a rectangular robe of marmot or hare skins, fastened on one shoulder and cinched with a belt”(Denniston, 1981:437) “The hunter who killed an animal useful for food would not even retain its hide, but presented it so some other man in the camp, lest he should be accused of unsociability and niggardliness. The only exception was the skin of the groundhog, because it had little or no value”(Jenness, 1937:44). A baby was “wrapped in a bag of groundhog or rabbit fur, was carried on its mothers back”. (Jenness, 1937:54-5). Up until the 1880s coffins carved out of a large spruce and set in tree branches sometimes had a lid cover of “groundhog robes” instead of a board (Jenness, 1937:59).

    Among the Sekani peoples the hoary marmot was also killed with “sticks, after smoking them out of their holes or flooding them out by diverting a stream; and if the ground hogs retreated into crannies among the rocks they twisted long sticks in their fur and pulled them out into the open” (Jenness 1937).

    “Their dress consists of robes made of the skins of the beaver, the ground hog, and the reindeer, dressed in the hair, and of the mooseskin without it. All of them are ornamented with a fringe, while some of them have tassels hanging down the seams; those of the ground hog are decorated on the fur side with the tails of the animals, which they do not separate from them. Their garments they tie over the shoulders, and fasten them around the middle with a belt of green skin, which is as stiff as horn”. (MacKenzie, June 10, 1793:122).

    Observed in cache at Portage lake between Parsnip River and James creek above MacGregor river – “a kind of wooden trap, in which, as our guide informed me, the ground hog is taken.” (MacKenzie, June 12, 1793:130)

    “In cold weather both sexes threw over the shirt a rectangular robe (tsede’) of groundhog or woven rabbit skins, fastening it over one shoulder and drawing it in at the waist with a belt. Some of the best hunters had robes of marten fur, but they disappeared as soon as marten fur became commercially valuable. The groundhog robe, though no longer worn on the person, survives as a sleeping robe or covering for a bed. An average specimen 5 feet by 6 feet … contains about twenty-four skins arranged in parallel rows, trimmed to fit and sometimes roughly matched for colour.” … “In winter both sexes wore round caps (tsa”) of various furs, beaver, marten, fisher, groundhog, etc.” (Jenness 1937:30).


    In the early 1800s, Daniel Williams Harmon reports “There is a small animal found only on the Rocky Mountain, denominated, by the Natives, Quis-qui-su, or whistlers, from the noise which they frequently make”. (Lamb, 1957:266).

    The Nak’azdli Carrier chief named Kwah, from the Stuart Lake area offered “a marmot robe and a beautiful necklace of dentalium shells” as an appeasement gift (Morice 1904:28). In an 1836 food provisions list from New Caledonia, Peter Ogden noted “8 marmots” (Morice 1904:173). In 1870, when Father McGuckin went to visit the Sekanais of Bear Lake, he “crossed over the snow-capped mountains which lie between the Skeena and Fort Connolly, living on marmot and dried salmon” (Morice 1904:333).

    Simon Fraser’s trip to the confluence of the Stuart and Nechaco Rivers in June 1806 where they met 30 men “arrayed in robes of beaver, lynx, and marmot skins.” (Morice 1904:60).

    On June 12, 1793 Alexander MacKenzie, while on Portage Lake between Parsnip River and James Creek above McGregor River, saw an aboriginal cache with “a kind of wooden trap, in which, as our guide informed me, the ground hog is taken.” (Lamb, 1960:130).

    Driftwood Valley Mountains – Stanwell-Fletcher report that Marmota monax petrensis was rare during 1937-41 but was told by aboriginal informants that they were common previous to this time. The Marmota caligata oxytona was reported as common during the former period.


    On June 18, 1808 while at a Nlaka’pumux village on the Fraser River – one mile north of the Stein River where there were a mixture of Lillooet and Thompson peoples – Simon Fraser and his men were given a marmot to eat (Lamb 1960:86).

    In regard to the trading region around Fort Alexandria in the central interior of B.C. – “The marmot …affords an exquisite repast and excellent covering made into Robes” (McGillivray 1827).

    Okanagon (Teit 1930)- “Every one had one or more robes to wear, as conditions required, and to sleep in. Probably the most common robes were those made of skins of deer, fawn, antelope, buffalo, beaver, otter, marmot, coyote, and lynx, all dressed in the hair. Robes of twisted strips of rabbit skin were made and worn by all the tribes. …Most cloaks and capes were made of skins of small animals …marmot”. …The principal smaller kinds of game hunted for food were rabbits, marmots, and beaver.” (Teit 1930:230-31).

    Tete Jaune Cache to Jasper area – At Tete Jaune Cache July 17, 1863 – “From these Indians also, Milton, …obtained a couple of marmot robes” (Milton and Cheadle 1865:267). “They were clothed merely in a shirt and marmot robe, their legs and feet being naked, …These Shushwaps of the Rocky Mountains inhabit the country in the neighbourhood of Jasper House, and as far as Tete Jaune Cache on the western slope. They are a branch of the great Shuswap nation, who dwell near the Shuswap Lake and grand fork of the Thompson River in British Columbia. Separated from the main body of their tribe by 300 or 400 miles of almost impenetrable forest, they hold but little communication with them. Occasionally a Rocky Mountain Shuswap makes the long and difficult journey to Kamloops on the Thompson, to seek a wife. Of those we met, only one had ever seen this place. This was an old woman of Tete Jaune Cache, a native of Kamloops, who had married a Shuswap of the mountains, and she had never re-visited the home of her youth.

    When first discovered by the pioneers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the only clothing used by this singular people was a small robe of the skin of the mountain marmot.” (Milton and Cheadle 1865:241) They sleep at night “wrapped in a marmot robe” …”They live by hunting the bighorns, mountain goats, and marmots”… The Shuswaps of Jasper House formerly numbered about thirty families, but are now reduced to as many individuals.” (Milton and Cheadle 1865:242).

    The Stein River was a ‘noted hunting area where mountain goat, deer, bear and marmots (“groundhogs”) could be found. …Whistlers, also called hoary marmots, but commonly referred to as ‘groundhogs’, were shot at Mount Roach and Akasik Mountain [according to Andrew Johnny] where they live in burrows in sandy sidehills [according to Louis Philips]”. [S. of Stein River. Mount Roach is S. E. of Stryen Creek and Akasik Mountain between Earl Creek and Stryen Creek].


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    Singh, Ram Raj Prasad  1966.  Aboriginal Economic System of the Olympic Peninsula Indians, Western Washington, Sacramento Anthropological Society, Paper 4, Sacramento, California.

    Sproat, Gilbert Malcolm. Scenes and Studies of Savage Life. London: Smith, Elder and Co.

    Swanton, John R.  1909.  N. 39. Origin of the Fern Root and The Ground Hog. In: Tlingit Myths and Texts. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 39, Washington, p. 180.

    Teit, James.  1921. No.31. Story of Dca’ndui. In: Tahltan Tales, Journal of American Folk-lore, vol. 34, No. 133. July-Sept., pp. 224-5.

    Teit, James.  1921. No. 65. The Man Who Became A Marmot. In: Tahltan Tales, Journal of American Folk-lore, vol. 34, No. 134,pp. 341-5.

    Teit, James.   1930. The Salishan Tribes of the Western Plateaus. In: Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. To the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1927-1928. Grant Keddie Notes April 15, 1996

    There is a type of artifact found in British Columbia that I suspect archaeologists have been missing during the process of excavation. Some have a minimum of grinding on the ends and are difficult to identify if they are not carefully examined. These are artifacts made from the tubular shaped shell or tunnel cast of the Teredo mullosc, the common shipworm.

    These Toredo tube shells have been used in historic times as hat ornaments (figures 1-3) and as smaller beads (figure 4-5) in ancient times.

    Figure 1. Bella Coola woven hat with Toredo shell ornaments. RBCM 18655.

    Figure 1. Bella Coola woven hat with Toredo shell ornaments. RBCM 18655.

    Figure 2. Close up of three pieces of Toredo cast tubes from hat. RBCM 18655.

    Figure 2. Close up of three pieces of Toredo cast tubes from hat. RBCM 18655.

    Figure 3. Close up of ground end of Mullosc tube on hat. RBCM 18655.

    Figure 3. Close up of ground end of Mullosc tube on hat. RBCM 18655.








    The Teredos are intertidal species of salt water clams famous for eating holes in ships and other wooden objects.  It is the wood tunnel lined with calcareous material extruded by the mollusc that creates a round sectioned tube. This tube was used by Indigenous people for making body adornment artifacts such as the beads and hat ornaments shown here. The tubes can be up to 600mm long and often range from 4-12mm in thickness (figure 4).


    Figure 4. Natural Teredo shell tubes on left. Right: Tube beads - DeRv-107:56 on the bottom and DeRt-9:230 on top.

    Figure 4. Natural Teredo shell tubes on left. Right: Tube beads – DeRv-107:56 on the bottom and DeRt-9:230 on top.


    There are six shell tubes strung on leather cords that can be seen as ornamental design on the Bella Coola hat (figure 1). Their length ranges from 40 to 62mm. Only a few of the tubes show evidence of grinding on the ends.  This hat was collected in Bella Coola in 1893.

    The larger of the two tube beads (figure 4-5) is from archaeological site DeRv-107 in the Maple Bay area of Vancouver Island. It is 21mm long by 13mm wide and has been ground on the ends. The small bead from site DeRt-9 at Lyall Harbour on Saturna Island is 8mm long by 7mm wide. It has been ground on the ends as well as the sides. The ground ends of the two beads can be seen in figure 5.


    Figure 5. Tube beads showing ground ends. Left: DeRv-107:56. Right: DeRt-9:230.

    Figure 5. Tube beads showing ground ends. Left: DeRv-107:56. Right: DeRt-9:230.

    In 2006, the “Spirit bear” was adopted as the provincial mammal of British Columbia.

    The term “Spirit Bear” has to a large extent been overused as a media hype word. It has often been misinterpreted as a direct aboriginal name of a unique type or species of bear. The circular movement of information between indigenous peoples and popular writers, have created some modern myths such as comments that white bears, also referred to as “ghost bears” were not traditionally hunted. Today they are referred to as a subspecies of black bear called Ursus americanus kermodei.

    The environmental movement of the western world has over-simplified the portrayal of all white coloured black bears by using them as a symbol of political opposition to the destruction of our valuable ecosystems. In a positive way this has produced an expanded awareness of the role of bears in the forest eco-systems of British Columbia and resulted in the protection of some of our valuable habitats. However, we must see the protection of habitats and the genetic diversity of all plants and animals as important.  Discussions need to expand beyond what we call “endangered species” to what we think of as “common animals” that have, and continue to be, extirpated from many parts of our Province.  Caribou (which are reindeer) once expanded over large areas of the Interior of the Province. It should not be necessary to find ones with red noses to justify saving their habitat.

    Figure 1a. Black bear (Ursus Americanus). Grant Keddie photograph 2010.

    Figure 1a. Black bear (Ursus Americanus). Grant Keddie photograph 2010.

    The Strategic Plan for our planets biodiversity developed by participants to the 2010 Convention on Biological diversity adopted 20 targets. Target 11 involves making 17% of land and inland waters and 10% of coastal and marine areas into conservation areas (Piero et al 2019). By world standards British Columbia is a leader in developing conservation areas like the Great Bear Rain Forest. However, as Piero and colleges emphasize, we cannot use square kilometers as a measure of success but need to document the biodiversity impacts of conservation areas. By placing a focus on protecting white coloured black bears we need to understand what effect are we having on the bigger long term picture of the genetic diversity of black bears.

    What makes a White Coloured Bear

    The white fur coloration in bears is caused by a single recessive gene called Mc1r, a melanocortin 1 receptor which is involved in melanin production. Melanin is primarily responsible for the pigmentation of the skin, hair and eyes of humans and other animals. The chemistry involved here is called melanogenesis. The Mc1r gene produces enzymes such as tyrosinase which play an important role in melanin synthesis. The same chemical process is used today in making tooth whiteners, where chemicals are used to suppress the tyrosinase enzyme and stop the production of colouration (see Reimchen and Klinka 2017; Hedrick and Ritland 2011; Klinka and Reimchen 2009; Marshall and Ritland 2002; Ritland et. al. 2001).

    The chemistry produced by this gene causes some bears fur to be white or black. If both a female and male have the recessive Mc1r gene, one of their four offspring will have white hair and two of them will have recessive genes for white hair. A white furred bear mating with a bear with the recessive gene will have two white bears and two with the recessive gene. There are other genes related to thyroid hormone production that create combinations of white and black fur colours in bears (see Crockford 2006; 2003).


    Figure 2a. Two white furred black bear cubs in pre-1906 Provincial Museum exhibit (RBCM 020317 and RBCM 120318).

    Figure 2b. “Kermode’s bear exhibit” in 1909, at the Provincial Museum. A new exhibit case with the addition of two adults and a juvenile (RBCM F-07368).










    There is currently discussion as to how one uses genetics (with or without obviously physical morphology) to define an animal subspecies. It is likely there are genes with currently unrecognized functions that are far more important for the survival of black bears than genes that affect hair colour. Today we could target and edit out the single gene that produces the tyrosinase enzyme that affects pigmentation, and make all black bears white albinos if we choose to. Responsible people, of course, would not do this, but it emphasizes how such minute genetic differences can affect cultural attitudes and land use policies that affect species diversity and the future of animal and human survival.

    The flogging of the name “spirit bear” stems out of activities of the early 1900s when there was an over-abundance of new species and sub-species of bears named on the bases of sometimes flimsy physical evidence (see Merriman 1918; Holzworth 1930). In 1905, we saw the naming and promotion of black bears with the recessive genes for white fur being mistakenly given status as a separate species, Ursus kermodei – after the Provincial Museum director Francis (Frank) Kermode.

    White Coloured Bears and the Collection of Specimens

    White coloured bears were documented in Northwestern North America as early as 1805, during the Louis and Clark expedition.  In the 19th century British Columbia Indigenous people were known to bring in white bear skins to fur traders. Mayor Findlay of Vancouver wrote about his observations of white bear skins: “I have in my possession a skin which I secured in 1896. In Bella Bella in the store of John Clay, five skins at one time, brought there by the Bella Bella Indians of Princes Royal Island. I have at other times seen skins of this bear in Robert Cunningham’s store at Port Essington, as well as one or two in cannery stores in Rivers Inlet” (Daily Colonist Nov. 23, 1912, p. 6).

    It was Robert Cunningham, of Port Essington, who previous to 1904, provided Francis Kermode of the Provincial Museum with the first white furred bear specimens which included a mother and two cubs. These were mounted at different times in two museum display cases seen in figure 2a&b. It was reported that Kermode was “at a loss to classify it” and sent the skin of a female bear to Dr. W.T. Hornady, the director of the New York Zoo. Hornaday was in Victoria in 1900, where he “was led to believe that such a white bear existed by the discovery of a skin at the premises of J. Boscowitz” (Daily Colonist 1905; 1925). The mother bear and cubs were mounted specimens that were not catalogued into the Museum collection at the time they were received. The Provincial Museum’s 1909 Natural History & Ethnology Catalogue, in referring to the Ursus Kermodei (Hornaday) notes that: “now the species is represented by a group of five specimens” (1909:18). This reference seems to refer only to those five mounted bears shown in the display case in the same publication. At this time only four specimens had received catalogue numbers, which did not seem to include one or two of these mounted bears. The two cubs shown in the exhibit case were later given catalogue numbers RBCM 020317 and RBCM 020318.

    The Museum received a male partial skull and white skin of a bear from Gribbell Island in May of 1904 (RBCM 001369). This became the type specimen for what was later seen as a species and then a sub-species. Other specimens of white coloured black bears in the Royal B.C. Museum collection include another two from Gribbell Island. One was the skull of an immature bear (RBCM 001371) collected May 22, 1906 and the other a mandible of a young bear (001638) collected May 28, 1907. Two specimens were later collected from Princess Royal Island, an adult skull (001367) collected on June 1, 1908 and an adult male skull and skin (001370) collected May 22, 1910. Future DNA analysis will be needed to match a few of the skins with the other catalogued remains.

    In 1911, “One whole specimen Kermode’s white bear” was shipped to Vienna Austria for an exhibit at the international Sportman’s Show which was reported on by B.C. hunter Warburton Pike (Daily Colonist 1911). This resulted in an international interest in acquiring specimens of the white bear. In 1912, the Victoria Daily Colonist reported that Dr. French of Washington was willing to pay $250 for a live white bear (Daily Colonist 1912b).

    The First Live Bear Captured

    Figure 3. Black bear with recessive white fur gene in Beacon Hill Park. The bear lived in the Park from 1924 until it died in 1948 (RBCM Archives (j-00051_142).

    A live six month old white colored black bear was captured on Prince Royal Island in 1924, by Indigenous people and brought to Ocean Falls where it was sold to a Virginian, O.W. Flowers for $60. Flowers brought the bear to Powel River and then to Vancouver. It was seized by the Game Commission in Vancouver and sent to Kermode in Victoria. It was put into a cage in Beacon Hill Park on July 31, 1924 (figure 3). It remained in the Park until it died in December 1948. The skull and skin where put in the Provincial Museum collection on December 5, 1924 (RBCM 005526).

    Much later two specimens came to the RBCM from the Terrace area, an immature male skin and skeleton collected in September 1, 1974 (RBCM 009047) and a skin, skull and hyoid bones collected in May 1985 (RBCM 016007). A specimen from the Penticton Game Farm that died at the age of 19 years was acquired on January 26 1990 (018558).

    Current Subspecies Designations

    More recent summaries based on morphological studies have defined five subspecies of black bears in British Columbia: ursus americanus altifrontalis, ursus americanus carlottae, ursus americanus cinnamonum, ursus americanus kermodei and ursus americanus vancourveri (Hatler et. al. 2008). Ongoing DNA studies have, so far, identified three subcontinental clusters (lineages or haplogroups), which are further divided into nine geographic regions. The Western genetic population cluster included the region from western Alaska along the Pacific Coast to the American Southwest (Puckett et. al. 2015). More extensive whole genome research will be needed to gain a better understanding of the range of genetic diversity and the extent of the various recessive genes found in black bears in British Columbia.

    Traditional Indigenous Beliefs

    In traditional societies, indigenous people were very aware of the complex physical and behavioral diversity of animals. The term “Spirit bear” is a little more complex in its meaning than what is generally presented in the media. Indigenous peoples knew that this was a variation of the black bear. If we were to go back in time and observe Indigenous bear hunters we would probably label them all – to use the modern jargon – as “bear whisperers”. Before the introduction of the rifle, bears were hunted in their winter dens and caught in dead fall traps (see appendix 2. Bear Traps and Indigenous Laws Pertaining to Bear Hunting). Detailed knowledge of bear behavior was crucial for survival.  First or second hand observations about bears by Indigenous peoples are scattered through the ethnographic and historic literature. A selection will be presented here that make reference to the complexity of bear fur colours and the in depth relationship of Indigenous peoples with all bears.

    The term Moksgm’ol (different ways of writing it) which can be interpreted as “spirit bear” is used in a Tsimshian Raven creation story. Various Tsimshian and Niska families have held family crests with names translated as  “white bear”; “white grizzly”; “robe of white bear”; “hat of white bear”; “grizzly of winter”; “robe of white breast [of bear]”. There are both grizzly and black bears with various degrees of white as well as albino bears (Sapir 1915). Figure 4, shows a person dressed in a bear costume in a theatrical ceremony that demonstrates the alliance of the Fort Wrangell Tlingit chief Shakes with the bear family from whom he traces his descent (Niblack 1888).

    Figure 4. Bear ceremonial for Chief Shakes. (After Niblack 1888).

    Tlingit and Tsimshian stories mention bears with unusual white markings. The “Story of the White-faced Bear”, is about a bear that was once a human who had killed too many bears. As a bear he had killed many humans. He was considered invincible: “Each time that he kills a man he tears him, and examines him carefully, as if he is searching for some marks on his body. He is unlike other bears, in that his head and feet are white” (Golder 1907).

    Some of these stories are told as more recent historic events and others in the context of a man marrying a bear-woman or a woman marrying a bear-man in the distant past. A Tsimshian story relates how their clan is descended from the survivors of a great flood – a woman and a bear with white fur. A Tlingit hunter killed a bear with a “white furred belly”, which after he skinned it, turned into a woman who helped him (Swanton 1908:228-229). Stories of bears transforming themselves into humans and marring humans are common – such as the story told by Tsimshian, Henry Tate (Maud 1993) or the story told by indigenous peoples of Hartley Bay of a marriage to a female bear with a “very white belly’ (Cove and McDonald 1987).

    Figure 5. Leo Taku Jack of Atlin on the Nakina River. Bear skin with light coloured markings. About 1935. (RBCM PN009693).

    Figure 5. Leo Taku Jack of Atlin on the Nakina River. Bear skin with light coloured markings. About 1935. (RBCM PN009693).

    In 1972, I had discussions with the late Leo Taku Jack (1909-1979) of Atlin, who told me about the variations in white markings on the belly, sides and necks of black bears that he hunted along the Nakina and Taku rivers in the 1930s to 1950s period (see figure 5).

    Indigenous bear hunters were good observers and aware that black bears came in variations of browns and various degrees of creamy white, as well as the white of albinos. When I talked to the Bella Coola bear hunter, Clayton Mack in 1969, he would specify white markings on grizzly bears when telling stories of hunting episodes.  This seemed to be a way of remembering events surrounding individual bears.

    Individual bears might be noted in stories because of their distinct colour patterns – but they were all recognized as being black bears (Ursus americanus) or grizzly bears (Ursus horribilis) and noted as such in the various indigenous languages. Because of genetic variation there is a greater propensity for certain colour variations to be located in specific regions. Pale blue-grey, coloured individuals of a black bear litter were more common near glaciers in the area from Mount Saint Elias to the Skeena River. Hunters often called these “glacial bears”. George Emmons recorded observations of Tlingit hunters in the 1890s. The Tlingit called all black bears “tseek” but recognized colour phases. They called glacier bears “klate-utardy-seek or klate-ukth-tseek” meaning “snow like black bear” or “tseek noon” meaning “grey black bear” (Emmons 1991:133).

    Figure 6. Kitsumkalem bear hunters. Grant Keddie collection. Early 20th century.

    Based on hunter’s accounts and fur trade records, the all white black bears were once more widely distributed along the mountains of the mainland coast from the Skeena River to the Bella Coola regions but have since been extirpated from much of the area. White bear skins were rarer and therefore more highly valued. Cultural selection in the past may have played a role in reducing the gene pool that allowed for the recessive genes to take affect and produce more white furred bears in some areas.

    It appears from early written accounts that there were a greater occurrence of regional colour and or size variants of both black and grizzly bears (see appendix I). Over hunting in the last one hundred and fifty years may have exterminated some of these regional genetic variants. In 1909, Richard Pocock presents the state of knowledge of non-indigenous peoples about bears of the northern coast forests:

    “The White bear (Ursus Kermodei), a few specimens of which have been shot at points along the extreme northern coast, are confined to a very limited area; but a similar variety, ranging in colour from almost pure white to a dirty grey, are seem or shot occasionally in the Western Cascades from Bella Coola north to Taku River, including the lower reaches of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers. These bears are small in size, and called by the various names of white bear, rock bear, white rock bear, blue bear, glacier bear and ice bear” (Pocock 1909).

    Pike notes in referring to “Ursus Kermoda” in 1910, that: “this little white bear has so far been found only in that part of the coast range of mountains which lies immediately South of the Skeena River and on the adjacent islands known as Gribbell and Princess Royal Islands, and perhaps a dozen specimens in all are to be seen in the museums of North America. It has lately been classified by American naturalists as an entirely distinct species of bear; but there is still no record of any white man having seen this animal in the flesh, although now and then an Indian brings in a skin to one of the small trading posts of the mouth of the Skeena.” (Pike 1910)..

    Holzworth, while on Admiralty Island in 1928, noted that an elderly Indigenous person told him of “a very peculiar type of bear, a dark brown with a yellow stripe which runs all the way down its sides from the shoulders to the rump, about four inches either side of the back bone. He saw two or three hides himself, all from the same locality on Admiralty Island. They were killed by Anderson a white man about fifteen years ago, who found them in the interior of the northern section of the island. An Indian had killed two or three similar ones on Chichagof Isle” (Holzworth 1930:73-74).

    It was generally believed by indigenous peoples that the spirit of a bear (as with other animals) could be acquired as a guardian spirit. Bear spirits were considered one of the more powerful spirits. Clan crests, with social and economic rights, are linked to these early encounters between humans and bears.

    Figure 7. Bear Hunters from Kincolith. Walter Haldane (c.1855-1932) on left Barber Brothers postcard photo. c. 1912-16. Grant Keddie Collection.

    The bear hunter had to purify himself by bathing and fasting. It was important for the hunter to refrain from announcing that he was going bear hunting for it was believed that a bear could hear and understand everything that humans said and be forewarned of its approaching death. When a man killed a bear he and those with him painted their faces and sang a bear song or prayed to the bear as a way of appeasing or thanking it for allowing itself to be killed. When being butchered it was believed that the bear could sing through the body of the hunter. Sometimes certain parts of the black bear would be ritually burned during a prayer ceremony (see Swanton 1908:228-229; Swanton 1905:94-95).

    In 1970, I was told by the late Jack Koster of Canoe Creek a story of an experience of his father in the 1920s when he went hunting with an Indigenous uncle who was an old bear hunter from the Canoe Creek Reserve. After the bear was killed, the old hunter chanted a prayer and “cut off the tip of the nose and tongue and took out the bear’s eyes and eardrums to bury together. They believed that a bear’s spirit would return in the form of a bad man to seek revenge. This was necessary to eliminate the senses so the bear – as the Indians said – ‘will not find me again’.”


    The importance of bears in the cultures of Siberia and their similarity to those of cultures of the New World was brought to the forefront of academic discourse by the publication of A.I. Hallowell on Bear Ceremonialism in the Northern Hemisphere (Hallowell 1926).

    On the Eastern Pacific Coast bear imagery can be seen on everything from monumental poles and house screens, to boxes, rattles and combs. These physical objects are a manifestation of a complex way of life that involves Indigenous beliefs and practices. Bears have played a role in the ceremonialism and magico-religous practices of human cultures across the northern forests of the world for thousands of years.

    Indigenous traditions suggest that bears are the shamans of the animal world.  Skinned bears resemble humans. On the northern coast bears are considered ancestors due to the earlier encounters, and sometimes resulting marriages, between transforming bears and humans.  Clan crests, with social and economic rights, are linked to these early encounters between humans and bears (for example see: Swanton 1908:228-229; Swanton 1905:94-95) .

    On the west coast of Vancouver Island, the butchered remains of bears are commonly found in cave and rock shelter sites. One recorded site, that was briefly visited, is reported to have contained 22 bear skulls in four piles. Bears appear to have been, at least, partially butchered in these more remote locations away from village sites (Keddie 1994). There are still stories to be told about human-bear relationships waiting to be revealed by archaeology.

    Black bears with the genetic variants that produce white or partly white furred bears are believed by indigenous peoples to have special spirit powers – but so do all bears. Bears that have unusual markings and more extensive white in their fur may be seen as being of special significance because they occur more rarely. Indigenous peoples, however, did not see all white bears as a separate and distinct species and give them distinct names meaning “spirit bear”. Older traditions show that white markings allowed individual bears to be identified, and that indigenous understanding was much more complex than that presented in the media.

    Non-indigenous people from the cities related to bears in the 1950s in a way that we would find appalling by current standards (see appendix 3). The spotting of white coloured “Spirit bears” or “Ghost bears” is increasingly become a focus of the Tourist industry and sometimes the cause of a romanticized view of the natural world. We need to step back and think about how this behavior will be looked upon 50 years into the future

    Appendix I.  Some Accounts of Bear Diversity on the Northwest Coast

    David Thompson, while travelling in western Canada in the 1798-1807 time period noted that: “The only bears of this country are the small black Bear, with a chance yellow Bear, this latter has a fine fur and trades for three Beavers in barter, when full grown” (Thompson 2009:122). He notes that the black furred bears trade for one or two Beaver skins depending on their size.  As Thompson discusses the grizzly bear elsewhere, it appears he is referring here to the “yellow Bear” as a variation of the black bear.

    Figure 8. A cinnamon coloured black bear with black cubs. Keddie collection.

    Daniel Harmon was an early observer of bears in the Interior of B.C. In 1810, around Ft. St. James, he observes: “The brown and black bear differ little, excepting in their colour. The hair of the former is much finer than that of the latter. They usually flee from a human being. …The brown and the black bear, climb trees, which the grey, never does. Their flesh is not considered so pleasant food as the of the moose, buffalo or deer; but their oil is highly valued by the Natives, as it constitutes an article of their feasts, and serves, also, to oil their bodies, and other things. Occasionally, a bear is found, the colour of which is like that of a white sheep, and the hair is much longer than that of the other kinds which have been mentioned; though in other respects, it differs not at all from the black bears.” (Lamb 1957:260).

    Black, travelling on a branch of the upper Stikine River on August 3, 1824, with an Indigenous  Slave notes bears of a pale white colour.  Black explains “there are Bears, Black, blue or Grizzly & brown of different shades & they all appear large, the Old Slave is by no means inclined to attach them, the other day Mr. Manson & the old Slave in Company saw two Bears of a pale white colour, but the old Gentleman would not consent to attach them, such is the Idea of these Indians regarding Bears” (Rich 1955:153).

    Crompton, who travelled extensively in B.C. in the mid 19th century stated: “The black bear is subject occasionally to albinism like most for the other animals on this coast thus I have seen white (black) bears, white otters, white racoons, white martins and white minks.  The Indians set a great value on the white bear skin & I was shown one  which was supposed to be the paternal originator of the Tsimpsean race after the flood for their tradition of the deluge is that only a woman & a bear were saved on a mountain & that from this peculiar miscegenation the Tshimsean race arose.”  (Crompton 1879:51).

    Frederica De Laguna acquired information from both Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in the territories of Tlingit peoples in the 1930s to 1950s, which shows the confusion of bear descriptions at the time: “The Yakutat people; face a variety of large brown bears and grizzlies. These have never been classified to the satisfaction of biologists, but for the native all these large species are “the bear” (xuts; Boas, 1917, p. 158, xuts), the prize of the intrepid hunter and an important sib crest. The very large, dark grizzed Dall brown bear, Ursus dalli, lives northeast of Yakutat Bay, especially along the Malaspin Glacier. The forester, Jay Williams (1952:138),

    reports this huge bear at Lituya Bay, it may be another variety, or there may be a break in its distribution between Yaktat and Lituya Bays. Apparently confined to the south-eastern side of Yakutat Bay is the Yakutat grizzly, U.nortoni, a large true grizzly with yellowish or golden brown had and dark brown rump and legs, the whole looking whitish from a distance. It seems to range as far south as Lituay Bay (Williams, 1952:138). Also known at Yakutat is the giant brown bear of Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and Prince William sound, U. Middendorffi. The Alsek, U. Orgiloides, a cream coloured medium sized bear with long narrow skull, ranges the foreland east of Yakutat, especially along the Ahrnklin, Italia, and Alsek Rivers.  It is not known whether this bear, or the closely related Glacier Bay grizzly, U. Orgilos, is the form found at Lituya Bay. Between Cross Sound and the Alsek delta is the large Townsend grizzly, U. Townsendi, the exact range of which is undefined.

    The black bear (sik), found along the coastal glaciers form Lituya Bay (or Cross Sound) northward to the eastern edge of Prince William Sound or Cape Saint Elias, is very much smaller than the ordinary American black bear. Furthermore, in addition to the usual black and brownish colors, many from the same litter are blue-gray or maltese. These are called glacier bears, U. Americanus emmonsii, formerly Euarctos emmonsee or Ursus glacialis. The Indians make no distinctions, as far as I know, between the color variants, unless what Boas (1891:174) recorded as the “polar bear” (caq, i.e., cax) is really the blueish glacier bear.  A few bones of the black bear were found in the site of Knight Island.” (Laguna 1972:36-37).

    Appendix 2. Bear Traps and Indigenous Laws

    Swanton (1905:58-69) was told the story of a bear hunter and his traps by a Haida, Jimmy Sterling. In telling the story he gets a detailed description of how the traps are constructed. Haida names were provided for each part of the deadfall trap.

    Figure 9a. Grizzly bear in log fall trap. North coast of British Columbia. (RBCM PN15226).

    In the Haida bear path deadfall trap shown in figure 9b, the letters indicate: A- Four posts, two on each side of the bear trail. B-Short cross posts tying each set of vertical posts together. C- Between the posts lays a post on the ground. D- The deadfall log that drops on the bear. E- The suspended end of the deadfall post is held by a loop which passes over a short stick E. Stick E is supported by post B. A rope is fastened to the inner end of stick E and carried down to a notched in stick F which is tied to a stake pounded into the ground on one side of the bear trail. Other cords G are fastened across the two front posts and down to the same loop. The bear steps over the log and comes against these latter cords causing the rope to slip out of the notch and the deadfall log to fall (Swanton 1905:6).

    Figure 9b. Haida bear path deadfall trap. (After Swanton, 1905).

    Koppert gives one of the better explanations of the use, design and traditional laws around the subject of bear traps or “Chim mis yek ”. Koppert was informed that, if one eats “bear meat or venison, one must abstain for two months from eating fish, especially salmon and halibut”.

    In regard to the hunting grounds of bears:  “There are no special districts set aside for hunting. Traps are set in places frequented by the animals. An Indian has full right to an animal trail as long as his traps are there. Once he removes his trap, any other Indian may put his trap there and claim all the animals on the trail. An exception to this law is made with regard to the bear trails. The bears are a very valuable animal to the Indians, and the trail is, therefore, owned by the individual whether he has his trap set or not. No one may hunt on such ‘roads’, even though no trap is set. Such bear trails, as well as creeks in which certain Indians have the sole right to fish with trap-boxes, are called ha-how- thle, meaning: belonging to so and so”.  These (ha- how- thle) are inherited in the same manner as “house grounds”.  They may, however, be ‘leased’, or given away and be lost forever to the family and descendants.  A traveller may not take or capture an animal if traps are set in the vicinity.

    Koppert describes how bears are trapped in the following manner: “poles driven closely together into the ground near a stream where the bears follow the creek. These poles are about four feet high and arranged in a semi-circle with a diameter of about three feet [See Fig. 10]. The top and sides are covered with branches and sod to make the trap and ‘cave’ appear natural and to make the interior dark.  The entrance, at the center of the semi-circle, is just large enough to admit the head and shoulders of the bear. Over the entrance are erected two uprights and a cross-piece. Resting on this cross-piece and projecting about six inches, is a pole reaching back to the farther end of the ‘cave’. A strong string is tied to the inner end of the pole and let down into the ‘cave’; three stakes are driven into the ground at the back of the ‘cave’; to the tops of these stakes and lashed to cross-pieces forming a V …the V is closed by a stick held in place by the pull on the cord which in turn is tied on the ‘tripper’; the ‘tripper’ suspends the weighted log at the entrance of the ‘cave’.  To the same stick, a stout string is tied at the end of which is the bait of salmon. Above the entrance, a log is suspended by a thong from the end of the pole resting on the cross-piece. The log at the other end has a dozen or more other logs resting on the top of it as well as heavy stones. When the bear snatches the fish he releases the string that suspends the weighted log over the entrance, and is crushed under the weight of the fallen log. This effective dead-fall is still commonly used. It either kills the bear outright or so cripples him that he cannot run away.” (Koppert 1910:78-80).

    Figure 10. Nuu-chan-nulth style enclosed baited bear trap. (After Koppert 1910, fig.53).

    In the type of trap shown in figure 10, the bear sticks its head into the cave-like structure and pulls the bait on the rope. The rope pulls a short post out from the edge of a rectangular structure that is holding down, by a rope, one end of a long pole that extends across the cave and over a post across the entrance to the cave. The other end of this post is tied to the large heavy deadfall log. The release of distant end of the long post causes it to flip up over the entrance post causing the deadfall log to come crashing down on the bear.

    Figure 11. Bear Deadfall trap. Dene type. (After Morice 1893, fig. 86).

    Father Morice wrote how the Carrier of the Interior began to ritually prepare “a full month previous to the settling of his snares. During all that time he could not drink from the same vessel as his wife, but had to use a special birch bark drinking cup. The second half of the penitential month was employed in preparing his snares. The omission of these observances was believed to cause the escape of the game after it had been snared. To further allure it into the snares he was making, the hunter used to eat the root of a species of heracleum (tse’le’p in Carrier) of which the black bear is said to be especially fond. Sometimes he would chew and squirt it up with water exclaiming at the same time: Nyustluh! May I snare you!  Once a bear, or indeed any animal, had been secured, it was never allowed to pass a night in its entirety, but must have some limb, hind or fore paws, cut off, as a means of pacifying its fellows irritated by its killing. …The skulls of bears whose flesh had been eaten up are even to-day invariably stuck on a stick or broken branch of a tree. But the aboriginals fail to give any reason for this practice (Morice 1893:107-108).

    In the type of deadfall trap in figure 12, the bear crawls part way into the wooden structure to get the bait on the inner end of a bait stick. The outer end of this bait stick has resting on it a short post holding up the deadfall log. This upright support post is in a notch on the bait post.  When the bear swings the bait post around the short upright support post slips out of its notch and causes the deadfall log to crash down.

    Figure 12. Tahltan Deadfall Trap.


    Appendix 3. Humans and Bears of the 1950s

    In the 1950s bears were often seen as entertainment animals with little understanding of their relationship to their natural habitat. As bears lost their fear of humans they mingled together (see figure 13). When I camped in Banff and Jasper as a child it was common to see large line-ups of cars on the highway feeding bears. Ice cream cones were their favorite treat. My father would drive us to the local open garbage dumps where large number of bears came at dusk (figure 14a&b). In one incident a large bear climbed up onto the front of our car and looked at us through the windshield. My father (not a “bear whisperer”) blasted his car horn causing him to be required to explain later how his company car received some very large scrape marks down its entire front. We know today that feeding of wild bears usually ends in them having to be shot. We need to continually educate people not to do this.

    Figure 13. Black bear with four cubs at Jasper Train station c. 1935. Keddie Post Card Collection.

    Figure 14a&b. Bears at the Banff (above) and Jasper (below) Garbage Dumps in the 1950s


    Cove, John J. and George F. McDonad (eds). 1987. Tricksters, Shamans and Heroes. Tsimshian Narratives I. Canadian Museum of Civilization. Mercury Series. Directorate. Paper No. 3.

    Crockford, Susan J. 2006. Ryths of Life: Thyroid Hormone and the Origin of Species. Trafford Publishing.

    Crockford, Susan J. 2003. Thyroid hormone phenotypes and hominid evolution: a new paradigm implicates pulsatile thyroid hormone secretion in speciation and adaptation changes. International Journal of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A 135(1):105-129.

    Crompton, Pym Nevins. 1879.  RBCM Archives Additional Manuscript 2778. Natural History, pages 50-52.

    Daily Colonist. 1911. Reports on Game Exhibit at Vienna. March 9:15.

    Daily Colonist. 1912a. Ursus Kermodei. November 23:6.

    Daily Colonist. 1912b. Will Pay $250 For A Kermode Cream Bear. Nov. 17.

    Daily Colonist. 1905. Museum Curator Gets High Honors. February 1:9.

    Daily Colonist. 1925. White Bears Capture Ends Savants Dispute. January 14:5.

    De Laguna, Frederica 1972. Yakutat. Land and It Peoples. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology. Vol. 7 part 1.

    Emmons, George Thornton. 1991. The Tlingit Indians. Edited with additions by Frederica de Laguna and a biography by Jean Low. Douglas & MacIntrye, Vancovuer/Toronto. American Museum of Natural History, New York.

    Emmons, George Thornton. 1911. The Tahltan Indians. University of Pennsylvania. The Museum Anthropological Publications, Vol. IV, No.1. Philadelphia.

    Golder, F. A. 1907. A Kadiak Island Story: The White-Faced Bear. Journal of American Folk-Lore. Vol. XX. No. LXXIX, Oct. to Dec. pp. 296-299.

    Hatler, David F. David W. Nagorson and Alison M. Beal. 2008. Carnivores of British Columbia. Royal B.C. Museum Handbook. Vol. 5. The Mammals of British Columiba. Royal B.C. Museum Victoria, Canada.

    Hallowell. A. Irving.  1926. Bear Ceremonialism in the Northern Hemisphere. American  Anthropologist. New Series 28:1-175.

    Hedrick, Philip W and Kermit Ritland. 2011. “Population Genetics of the White-Phased ‘Spirit’ Black Bear of British Columbia,” Evolution vol. 66, no. 2.

    Holzworth, John M. 1930. The Wild Grizzlies of Alaska. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, New York.

    Klinka, Dan R. and Thomas E. Reimchen. 2009.  “Adaptive Coat Colour Polymorphism in the Kermode Bear of Coastal British Columbia,” Biological Journal of the Linnean Society vol. 98, no. 3.

    Koppert, Vincent. 1910. Contributions to Clayoquot Ethnology. The Catholic University of America. Anthropological Series. No. 1. Washington, D.C.

    Lamb, W. Kaye ed.  1957.  Sixteen Years in the Indian Country. The Journal of Daniel Williams Harmon. 1800-1816. Edited with Introduction by W. Kaye Lamb. The MacMillan Company of Canada Limited.

    Marshall, H.D. and Kermit Ritland. 2002. “Genetic Diversity and Differentiation of Kermode Bear Populations,” Molecular Ecology vol. 11, no. 4.

    Maud, Ralph. 1993. The Girl Who Married the Bear and The history of Kbi’shount, pages 30-41. In: The Porcupine Hunter and other Stories: The Original Tsimshian Text of Henry W. Tate. Newly translated from the original manuscripts and annotated by Ralf Maud. Talon Books.

    Merriam, C. Hart.  1918.  Review of the Grizzly and Big Brown Bears of North America (Genus ursus) with Description of a New Genus, Vetlarctos. North American Fauna: February 1918, Number 41: pp. 1 – 137. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bureau of Biological Survey. Government Printing Press, Washington.

    Morice, A.G. 1893. Notes archaeological, industrial and sociological on the Western Dénés: with an ethnographical sketch of the same. Transactions of the Canadian Institute, Vol. IV, part 1, no.7, 1892-93.

    Niblack, A. P. 1889. “Ethnology of the Coast Indian tribes of Alaska.” Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 11 (718):328.

    Pocock, Richard J. 1909.  Hunting and Fishing, Here and Elsewhere. Victoria Daily Colonist December 12, 1909.

    Piero, Viscounti, Stewart H. M. Butchart, Thomas M. Brookes, Penny F. Langhammer, Daniel Marnewick, Sheila Vergara, Allberto Yanosky and James E.M. Watson. 2019. Science Vol. 364. Issue 6437:239-241.

    Pike, Warburton Pike. 1910. The Big Game of British Columbia. The Victoria Colonist, Nov 13, 1910, p.6.

    Puckett, Emily E., Paul D. Etter, Eric A. Johnson, Lori S. Eggert. 2015. Phylogeographic Analyses of American Black Bears (Ursus americanus) Suggest Four Glacial Refugia and Complex Patterns of Postglacial Admixture. Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol. 32, Issue 9, 1 September 2015:2338-2350.

    Rich, E.E. (ed), 1955. Black’s Rocky Mountain Journal. 1824. The Publication of the Hudson’s Bay Company Record Society, XVIII, London.

    Reimchen, Thomas E. and Dan R. Klinka. 2017. “Niche Differentiation between Coat Colour Morphs in the Kermode Bear (Ursidae) of Coastal British Columbia,” Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

    Ritland, K, C. Newton and H.D. Marshall. 2001. “Inheritance and Population Structure of the White-phased ‘Kermode’ black Bear,” Current Biology vol. 11, no. 18.

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    Sapir, Edward 1915. A Sketch of the Social Organization of the Nass River Indians. Canada Department of Mines. Geological Survey. Museum Bulletin No.19. Anthropological Series, No.7. October 15, 1915. Ottawa. Government Printing Bureau.

    Swanton, John R.   1908. The Story of the Grizzly- Bear Crest of the Te’qoedi. Tlingit Myths and Text. Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology. Bulletin 39. Washington D.C.

    Swanton, John R. 1905.  A Story Told to Accompany Bear Songs.   Haida Myths and Text. Skidegate Dialect. Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology. Bulletin 29, Washington D.C.

    I recently spent an enjoyable day hunting Common Wall Lizards to help Camosun College students with a research project. Lizards were easily caught with nooses, by hand, and using elastic bands. These lizards are to be used in a diet study to see whether there is any pattern between historic and current arthropod diversity in pitfall trap samples, and to determine what lizards are selecting from the available invertebrates.

    We sampled at Haliburton Farm in Saanich, here on Vancouver Island. Lizards were everywhere – and that is no exaggeration. Every few steps would cause one or more lizards to skitter way into the forest of potted plants and garden veggies growing at the farm.

    My Google Earth Map totally under estimates the number of lizards because I couldn’t map the location of each one. There were hundreds of lizards in each section of the farm. Adults were predominant in the heavily modified areas, and yearlings seemed to be occupying peripheral areas that were almost semi natural – young ones likely avoided the main farm to avoid cannibalism.

    The tree and a closer view of the knot-hole where the Wall Lizard sought refuge.

    One lizard stuck out in my memory – because it was trying to shed the “wall lizard” stereotype by living in a tree. I spotted an adult male well up a tree – and as I approached, it bolted into a knot-hole. The knot-hole led to a significant cavity inside – I used a long dry grass stem to get an idea how large the cavity was. It was at least 20 cm long, plenty of room for an adult Wall Lizard. Years ago Richard Hebda noted that Common Wall Lizards had started to occupy grassy habitat as well as the typical more solid habitat. This lizard seemed more interested in becoming a Tree Lizard – sorry Podarcis, you can change habitat, but not your taxonomy. Luckily Urosaurus ornatus does not live here and won’t have to deal with this arboreally inclined invader.


    The armoured glyptodonts and ankylosaurs are one of my favourite examples of convergent evolution, the evolutionary phenomenon in which distantly related animals evolve similar structures or body shapes. Ankylosaurs are the armoured dinosaurs covered in bony plates called osteoderms, and are one of my favourite groups of dinosaurs. Glyptodonts, on the other hand, are mammals – they’re an exinct group of giant, herbivorous armadillos that disappeared about 10 000 years ago. The last time glyptodonts and ankylosaurs shared a common ancestor – a great-great-great-great-grandparent, if you will – was over 300 million years ago, but these two groups of animals evolved similar anatomical features. Most unusually, both ankylosaurs and glyptodonts evolved weaponized, sledgehammer-like tails.

    Click image to enlarge

    In this study, I worked with my colleague (and former postdoctoral supervisor) Dr. Lindsay Zanno at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to figure out whether or not ankylosaurs and glyptodonts had followed similar evolutionary trajectories when evolving their unusual tail weaponry. Lindsay and I have previously worked on understanding the evolution of bony tail weapons across amniotes (turtles, lizards, crocodilians, birds, mammals, and their extinct relatives) and found that certain anatomical features like armour, large body size, and a stiff backbone were correlated with bony tail weaponry. For our new study, we dug deeper into the anatomy of ankylosaurs and glyptodonts. We wanted to know whether or not ankylosaurs and glyptodonts evolved some of their distinct features in the same way – did certain features evolve before others in both groups? By studying fossils in museums around the world, we were able to map features onto the family trees for ankylosaurs and glyptodonts and see at what points different features first evolved. It turned out that, despite a few differences, the overall pattern was the same: both groups evolved armour, large body size, and stiff backs before weaponizing their tails, and tails became stiff before the tip of the tail was expanded.

    What does this similar pattern tell us about how or why tail clubs evolved in glyptodonts and ankylosaurs? When we see similar adaptations in unrelated species, it tells us that there might only be a few good solutions to the challenges that nature throws our way, or in other words, similar features evolve when species are faced with similar selective pressures. In this case,

    Lindsay and I speculate that a heavy, expanded tail tip might not be able to evolve unless the tail is already modified to support the extra weight. Similarly, swinging a heavy tail club around might be easier if you have a stiff backbone to help brace against impacts. And lastly, the rarity of species with tail clubs in the fossil record also suggests that tail clubs aren’t easy structures to evolve, and might only be able to evolve when a lot of other anatomical features (like armour) are already in place.


    Funding for this research was generously provided by NSERC, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Jurassic Foundation.

    Arbour VM, Zanno LE. 2019. Tail weaponry in ankylosaurs and glyptodonts: an example of a rare but strongly convergent phenotype. The Anatomical Record.

    Abstract: The unusual clubbed tails of glyptodonts among mammals and ankylosaurines among dinosaurs most likely functioned as weapons of intraspecific combat or interspecific defense and are characterized by stiffening of the distal tail and, in some taxa, expansion of the distal tail tip. Although similarities in tail weaponry have been noted as a potential example of convergent evolution, this hypothesis has not been tested quantitatively, particularly with metrics that can distinguish convergence from long‐term stasis, assess the relative strength of convergence, and identify potential constraints in the appearance of traits during the stepwise, independent evolution of these structures. Using recently developed metrics of convergence within a phylomorphospace framework, we document that convergence accounts for over 80% of the morphological evolution in traits associated with tail weaponry in ankylosaurs and glyptodonts. In addition, we find that ankylosaurs and glyptodonts shared an independently derived, yet constrained progression of traits correlated with the presence of a tail club, including stiffening of the distal tail as a precedent to expansion of the tail tip in both clades. Despite differences in the anatomical construction of the tail club linked to lineage‐specific historical contingency, these lineages experienced pronounced, quantifiable convergent evolution, supporting hypotheses of functional constraints and shared selective pressures on the evolution of these distinctive weapons.

    Last summer my wife and I bought a new car – it is less than a year old and has already transported quite an assemblage of BC species (Southern Resident Killer Whale foetus, Mule Deer, River Otter, Red Fox, Northern Alligator Lizard, Common Wall Lizard, Commander Skate, and 49 species of birds – including the museum’s first Brown Booby). The most recent passenger was a 1.2 meter Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrhinchus) which easily fit into the back of a 2018 Nissan Leaf. Chalk up another reason why electric cars are awesome.

    The Mako Shark (wrapped in plastic) arrives at the RBCM loading bay.

    As far as I know, this is the second Shortfin Mako Shark specimen from BC waters. The first specimen, from 185 nautical miles west of Cape St. James (Haida Gwaii), was made into a taxidermy mount and only a few of its teeth were deposited in the Royal BC Museum collection (993-00039-001). You have to wonder how often they range this far north?

    The mako shark thawed and ready for a long soak in formaldehyde.

    This new mako, found September 27, 2016 on shore in Florencia Bay, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is almost perfect. It had been studied by Jackie King (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), tissue samples were taken,  and then was shuttled to the Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOS) in Sidney. I picked up the fish at IOS and kept it frozen until I had the time to prepare the shark for the Royal BC Museum collection.  Mako sharks are most streamlined representatives of the Family Lamnidae, the same family containing the Great White Shark. It was a thrill to see this amazing fish up close. Its only damage came from scavengers – the left eye is missing, and something – a wolf(?) – had ripped at the gills on the left side.

    Tooth rows are easy to see in the jaws of this Shortfin Mako.

    The teeth are amazing – and let’s face it – this is what most people want to see on a shark. But have a look at the tail! Without an efficient tail – the teeth would have nothing to bite. Mako sharks are amazingly fast and almost appear nervous when they are swimming – they are certainly the Formula-e cars or jet fighters of the shark world.

    The base of the tail on our new mako shark.

    Makos have a lateral keel at the base of the tail which allows the fish to efficiently oscillate its tail fin from side to side. In lateral view the base of the tail is narrow – in dorsal / ventral view – the tail base is broad. Salmon Sharks (Lamna ditropis), Porbeagles (Lamna nasus) and Great White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) have this same feature – it is all about efficient locomotion – hydrodynamics which submarine designers envy. Even the Ninespine Stickleback (Pungitius2) has this basic tail structure – but on a far smaller fish. Evolution is awesome.

    Enough fish worship – back to the task at hand. Preservation of a large fish. You have to make sure the internal organs and muscles fix – and since formaldehyde takes time to infiltrate tissues – you inject 10% formaldehyde deep into the muscles to make sure the specimen fixes from the outside in, and inside out.

    If the specimen does not fix fairly rapidly – then decay of the tissues begins. The specimen degrades and gas is produced. A gas-filled specimen displaces fluid and can result in a bit of a mess in the lab. When I was a student, we put a sizable sample of suckers in a vat of formaldehyde, closed the lid, and then left them to fix. Oily suckers are always a challenge to fix, and these were no exception. They bloated over night and displaced formaldehyde – which spilled out of the vat. The spill was large enough to draw the attention of the University of Manitoba’s Workplace Health And Safety team. Ooops.

    Reptiles also can be tricky to fix – their skin slows the uptake of formaldehyde. As a dewy-eyed student I was keen to check out all the specimens in the vertebrates lab – and was particularly happy to find a forgotten jar with dark brown glass – a mystery. I had to know what was inside. When I reached in and grabbed the snake – it simply fell apart – ribs straining through my fingers. The mouth and cloaca allowed formaldehyde to enter and so the snake’s head and tail preserved well. Its body though, had rotted from the inside out and was mush.


    The rattle from the rotten Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus).

    I now use a needle to perforate reptile legs and tails to make sure formaldehyde infiltrates everywhere. I also inject 10% formaldehyde into the body cavity to make sure the internal organs of reptiles fix rapidly.

    This mako shark was no different – I injected about 500 ml formaldehyde into the body cavity to make sure the internal organs fixed well – then left for the weekend. After a day in formaldehyde, the body already was rubbery and well on its way to making a decent specimen (yes I came to work on a Saturday to check on my precious). It also was not floating – that is a really good sign that the specimen is fixing well and not filling with decay gases.

    The mako shark after a day in formaldehyde.

    Once the mako shark is fixed (maybe three weeks in formaldehyde just to be sure), then it will get a rinse in water for a few days, and will go into a vat of alcohol for permanent storage. Alcohol is far easier on the eyes and nose than formaldehyde. Ethanol or Isopropanol are our preservatives of choice. Call me crazy, but I am guessing this shark will be a popular item during museum collection tours, so it better be stored in a manner that is fairly safe for visitors. I may as well get a few more larger fishes preserved while the formaldehyde vat is fresh – next up is a 1 meter Blue Shark (Prionace glauca) and a similarly sized Pacific Sleeper Shark (Somniosus pacificus).

    Museums contain the commonplace, normal, typical specimens as well as the specimens we call TYPES which serve as the golden standard when doing systematics research. But the real attention goes to the oddities – they seem to naturally draw your eyes away from all other specimens. Leucistic birds, albinos, a marmot with overgrown incisors, an Orca with nasty dental issues, an Orca with spinal deformity – these are the specimens that get the WOW vote on collections tours.

    Albino Starlings in the Royal BC Museum Ornithology collection – abnormal specimens certainly do catch your eye.

    A year or so ago we were clearing out an area we referred to as Room 17 (our version of Area 51), and found jaw fragments from a Sperm Whale mixed with the bones of other whales. Sperm Whales have teeth along the lower jaw but no teeth along the upper jaw and Sperm Whale jaws are long and straight. It does not take a scientific eye to notice what is wrong with these jaws.

    The section of Sperm Whale jaw in the Royal BC Museum collection.

    Both dentary bones are hooked to the left and it looked like the teeth were fairly normal with decent sized sockets. We have no idea what the upper lip looked like – but I assume these jaws just hooked out of alignment and hung out to the side of the animal. What a drag that would have been. The jaws are large – so this animal was able to feed – the teeth towards the back of the jaw probably functioned normally and it certainly could have performed suction feeding to catch fishes and cephalopods.

    Strangely enough, there is no information with these jaws to say when and where the animal was caught. Whaling here in BC ended within my lifetime (including the live capture of Orcas as a form of whaling – some would say jailing) – so I can only assume this jaw was collected pre-1970s when whaling stations were still actively processing Sperm Whales.

    Sperm Whales with normal straight jaws (Image A-09221 (top) and Image A-09220 (bottom) courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives).

    Jaw deformities are not that rare in Sperm Whales – there are several reports published and some of the deformities are shocking – some are stubby, others in a tight spiral like a conispiral snail shell (see: Murie 1865, Thomson 1867, Nasu 1958, Spaul 1964, and Nakamura 1968).

    This specimen is not cataloged in the Royal BC Museum Mammalogy collection, there is no record in our database, and no mention in the museum’s annual reports. Perhaps whaling records will mention this animal – I can’t imagine this whale was processed in the ‘fishery’ and the set of jaws saved with no comment made of the deformity. Time to go CSI on this dentary record.

    To dig deeper:

    MURIE, J. 1865. On deformity of the lower jaw in the cachalot (Physeter macrocephalus, Linn.). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1865: 396-396.

    NAKAMURA, K. 1968. Studies on the sperm whale with deformed lower jaw with special reference to its feeding. Bulletin of the Kanagawa Prefecture Museum of Natural History, 1: 13-27.

    NASU, K. 1958. Deformed lower jaw of sperm whale. Scientific Reports of the Whales Research Institute, 13: 211-212.

    SPAUL, E. A. 1964. Deformity in the lower jaw of the sperm whale (Physeter catodon). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 142: 391-395.

    THOMSON, J. H. 1867. Letter  relating to the occasional deformity of the lower jaw of the sperm whale. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1867: 246-247.

    When reptiles and amphibians take shelter from the cold, they seek refuge above freezing, but not too warm – maybe 2 to 4°C. If it is too cold, tissues freeze and for most animals, this is fatal. Death comes from ice crystal growth which essentially shreds body cells at a microscopic level. Some animals like the Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) are freezetolerant, and consequently are our northern most ‘herpetile’ along the coast of the Arctic Ocean/Beaufort Sea.

    Wood Frog photographed in a ditch near Winnipeg.

    If the refuge is too warm, the animal’s metabolism burns stored fat and the animal loses weight. My father had a pet Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) when he was a child – and in winter, his parents put the tortoise in a box, surrounded it with hay, and placed it in the boiler room to hibernate. The boiler room was too warm for hibernation – the tortoise starved or died of dehydration. Consequently, my grandparents bought a new tortoise each year after burying its ‘hibernating’ predecessor. I am not shore how many tortoises they went through.

    Hermann’s Tortoise image from Wikipedia.

    On March 5th (2019) I received a set of photos of a frozen adult Wall Lizard found by John Hunter, a Colwood resident. It appeared that the cold, frosty nights of Late February and Early March 2019 had claimed at least one lizard life. The lizard had taken refuge in John’s gardening shoes. Its body was placed on a rock in the garden – presumably nature would deal with the remains. March 6th – the lizard awoke and ran off.

    Resurrection? No. The Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis), like the Wood Frog, has a physiological ace up its sleeve. It can freeze up to 28% of its body water and still survive. As long as the cold snap is not too long or too severe, they usually survive without trouble. The mild winters of southern Vancouver Island were almost tailor-made for these invaders.

    However, shoes obviously were not ideal shelter from the cold. Shoes keep our feet warm because our feet produce heat – the shoe only slows heat loss to the environment. Has anyone ever said to you, “Here, this blanket will warm you up.” Truth is, a blanket doesn’t provide heat, only slows heat loss – just like winter boots. With no source of heat, and with the open cuff/collar, footwear would act more like a sci-fi cryo-tube than a cozy refuge. At best the shoes shielded the lizard from scavengers.

    I left my gardening boots outside last week – they were a bit too muddy to bring indoors. But since lizards are still about 60 meters north of my garden – I don’t think I will find any lost souls lining the insole.

    Robert A. Cannings¹

    1 Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC, V8W 9W2, Canada

    Since Corbet’s thorough 1979 overview of Canadian Odonata, hundreds of regional works on taxonomy, faunistics, distribution, life history, ecology and behaviour have been written. Canada records 214 species of Odonata, an increase of 20 since the 1979 assessment. Estimates of unrecorded species are small; this reflects the well-known nature of the fauna. A major impetus for surveys and analyses of the status of species is the work of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada which provides a scientifically sound classification of wildlife species potentially at risk. As of 2017, six species have been designated “Endangered” and two “Special Concern” (only five of which are officially listed under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA)). The Order provides a good example of molecular bar-coding effort in insects, as many well-accepted morphological species in Canada have been bar-coded to some degree. However, more bar-coding of accurately identified specimens of many species is still required, especially in most of the larger families, which have less than 70% of their species bar-coded. Corbet noted that the larvae of 15 Canadian species were unknown, but almost all larvae are now well, or cursorily, described. Extensive surveys have greatly improved our understanding of species’ geographical distributions, habitat requirements and conservation status but more research is required to better define occurrence, abundance and biological details for almost all species.

    barcoding, biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, climate change, identification, Odonata, species at risk

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    Jade Savage¹, Art Borkent³, Fenja Brodo¹¹, Jeffey M. Cumming², Gregory Curler⁴, Douglas C. Currie⁵, Jeremy R. deWaard⁶, Joel F. Gibson³, Martin Hauser⁷, Louis Laplante⁸, Owen Lonsdale², Stephen A. Marshall⁹, James E. O’Hara², Bradley J. Sinclair¹⁰, Jeffey H. Skevington²

    1 Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada 2 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 3 Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 4 Mississippi Entomological Museum, Mississippi State University, Starksville, Mississippi, USA 5 Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 6 Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada 7 California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento, California, USA 8 Unaffiated, Montreal, Quebec, Canada 9 University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada 10 Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 11 Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    The Canadian Diptera fauna is updated. Numbers of species currently known from Canada, total Bar-code Index Numbers (BINs), and estimated numbers of undescribed or unrecorded species are provided for each family. An overview of recent changes in the systematics and Canadian faunistics of major groups is provided as well as some general information on biology and life history. A total of 116 families and 9620 described species of Canadian Diptera are reported, representing more than a 36% increase in species numbers since the last comparable assessment by JF McAlpine et al. (1979). Almost 30,000 BINs have so far been obtained from flies in Canada. Estimates of additional number of species remaining to be documented in the country range from 5200 to 20,400.

    biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, Diptera, flies, systematics

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    David C.A. Blades¹

    1 Research Associate, Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC, V8W 9W2, Canada

    The Mecoptera are represented in Canada by 25 extant species in four families, an increase of three species since the prior assessment in 1979. An additional 18 or more species and one family are expected to occur in Canada based on distributional records, recent collections and DNA analyses. The Bar-code of Life Data System currently lists 24 Bar-code Index Numbers for Canadian Mecoptera. There are nine species of fossil Mecoptera known from Canada

    biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, Mecoptera, scorpionfly

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    James Miskelly¹, Steven M. Paiero²

    1 Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St., Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 9W2, Canada 2 School of Environmental Sciences, 50 Stone Rd. East, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

    In the last 40 years, the number of species in the orthopteroid orders has increased by ~10% from that known in 1979. The largest order, the Orthoptera, has increased from 205 to 235 species known in Canada. The number of Blattodea has increased from 14 to 18 species, while Dermaptera has increased from 5 to 6 species. The number of species of Mantodea (3) and Phasmida (1) known in Canada have remained unchanged. Most new species records reported in Canada since 1979 have resulted from new collections along the periphery of the range of more widespread species. Some species reported since 1979 are recent introductions to Canada, including species restricted to homes or other heated buildings. The taxonomy of these orders has also changed, with only the Dermaptera having maintained its order definition since the 1979 treatment. Additional orthopteroid species are likely to occur in Canada, particularly in the orders Orthoptera and Blattodea. DNA bar-codes are available for more than 60% of the species known to occur in Canada

    biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, Blattodea, cockroaches, crickets, Dermaptera, earwigs, grasshoppers, katydids, mantids, Mantodea, Orthoptera, Phasmida, stick insects, termites

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    David W. Langor¹

    1 Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, 5320 – 122 St. NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T6H 3S5, Canada

    Based on data presented in 29 papers published in the Biota of Canada Special Issue of ZooKeys and data provided herein about Zygentoma, more than 44,100 described species of terrestrial arthropods (Arachnida, Myriapoda, Insecta, Entognatha) are now known from Canada. This represents more than a 34% increase in the number of described species reported 40 years ago (Danks 1979a). The most speciose groups are Diptera (9620 spp.), Hymenoptera (8757), and Coleoptera (8302). Less than 5% of the fauna has a natural Holarctic distribution and an additional 5.1% are non-native species. A conservatively estimated 27,000–42,600 additional species are expected to be eventually discovered in Canada, meaning that the total national species richness is ca. 71,100–86,700 and that currently 51–62% of the fauna is known. Of the most diverse groups, those that are least known, in terms of percent of the Canadian fauna that is documented, are Acari (31%), Thsanoptera (37%), Hymenoptera (46%), and Diptera (32–65%). All groups but Pauropoda have DNA barcodes based on Canadian material. More than 75,600 Barcode Index Numbers have been assigned to Canadian terrestrial arthropods, 63.5% of which are Diptera and Hymenoptera. Much work remains before the Canadian fauna is fully documented, and this will require decades to achieve. In particular, greater and more strategic investment in surveys and taxonomy (including DNA barcoding) is needed to adequately document the fauna.

    Arachnida, biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, checklists, Entognatha, Hexapoda, Insecta, Myriapoda, surveys, taxonomy, Zygentoma

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    David C.A. Blades¹

    1 Research Associate, Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC, V8W 9W2, Canada

    The Neuroptera of Canada consists of 101 extant species, an increase of 26 (35%) since the previous assessment of the fauna in 1979. More than 48 additional species are believed to occur in Canada based largely on recent DNA evidence and new distribution records. The Bar-code Of Life Data System (BOLD) currently includes 141 Bar-code Index Numbers (BINs) for Canadian Neuroptera. Canadian fossils have thus far yielded 15 species in three families of Neuroptera.

    antlion, aphidlion, biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, lacewing, mantidfly, Neuroptera, owlfly

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    Robert G. Foottit¹, H. Eric L. Maw¹, Joel H. Kits¹, Geoffey G. E. Scudder²

    1 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa Research and Development Centre and Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes, K. W. Neatby Bldg., 960 Carling Ave., Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0C6, Canada 2 Department of Zoology and Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada

    Th Canadian Hemiptera (Sternorrhyncha, Auchenorrhyncha, and Heteroptera) fauna is reviewed, which currently comprises 4011 species, including 405 non-native species. DNA bar-codes available for Canadian specimens are represented by 3275 BINs. Th analysis was based on the most recent checklist of Hemiptera in Canada (Maw et al. 2000) and subsequent collection records, literature records and compilation of DNA bar-code data. It is estimated that almost 600 additional species remain to be discovered among Canadian Hemiptera.

    Barcode Index Number (BIN), biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, DNA barcodes, Hemiptera, true bugs

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    David C.A. Blades¹

    1 Research Associate, Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville St, Victoria, BC, V8W 9W2, Canada

    There are eight species in two families of Raphidioptera known from Canada, an increase of one species since the prior assessment in 1979. Another four species are likely to occur in Canada based on DNA evidence and distributional records. The Bar-code of Life Data System currently lists ten Bar-code Index Numbers for Canadian Raphidioptera.

    biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, Raphidioptera, snakeflies

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    Robb Bennett¹, Gergin Blagoev², Claudia Copley¹

    1 Department of Entomology, Natural History Section, Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 9W2, Canada 2 Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph, 579 Gordon Street, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

    In 1979 nearly 1400 spider species in 32 families either had been recorded (1249) or were believed to occur (~140) in Canada. Twenty years later, although significant progress had been made in survey efforts in some regions, Canada’s spider inventory had only increased by approximately 7% to roughly 1500 species known or expected to occur. Th family count had increased to 38 but only two additions were truly novel (fie family additions and one family deletion were the result of advances in family-level systematics). The first comprehensive taxonomic checklist of Canadian spider species was published in 2010 documenting the regional distributions of 1376 species representing 42 families (three novel since 1999). From 2010 through 2017 new national records steadily accumulated resulting in the current (2018) Canadian inventory of 1477 species classified in 45 families (one novel since 2010). Although there has been close to a 20% increase in the number of spider species recorded in Canada since 1979, much greater increases have occurred in some of the regional species checklists, indicating increasing knowledge of the regional distribution of species previously recorded elsewhere in Canada. For example the regional checklists for Newfoundland, British Columbia, and Prince Edward Island have increased by 69%, 339%, and 520%, respectively. The national and regional increases reflect significant advances in the fist two decades of the 21 st Century in spider faunistics research in previously under-sampled habitats and regions and the development of molecular techniques and consequent bar-coding of spiders. Of the 1477 species recorded in Canada, 92% have been successfully DNA bar-coded resulting in 1623 unique Bar-code Index Numbers (BINs). At least 25 of the BINs are associated with relatively easily distinguished but undescribed morpho-species. Th majority, however, appear to indicate the existence of many cryptic species within Canada’s known spider fauna. Thse data, coupled with the fact that novel Canadian or  even Nearctic spider species records (including of undescribed species) continue to accumulate annually (especially in habitat-diverse regions such as British Columbia), suggest that Canada’s tally of spider species may approach or even exceed 1800.

    Araneae, BINs, biodiversity assessment, Biota of Canada, checklist, classification, DNA barcoding, faunistics, spiders

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    I’m thrilled to announce the publication of my first book, Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur! Co-authored with my colleague Dr. David Evans (Temerty Chair of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum) and published through the ROM Press, this book explores the discovery of a spectacular armoured dinosaur skeleton and what it’s revealing about the evolution and biology of these unusual dinosaurs.

    For over a decade I’ve been interested in the palaeobiology of ankylosaurs, a fascinating group of extinct dinosaurs with a spiky, armoured appearance. I’ve studied how they used their unusual tail clubs and how those tail clubs evolved, how different species around the world are related to each other, and how those species changed over time. In 2016, when I joined David’s lab at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow, I had the incredible opportunity to study a brand new dinosaur known from a nearly complete, exceptionally well-preserved skeleton. David and I named this new dinosaur Zuul crurivastator in a May 2017 paper published in Royal Society Open Science. The genus name, Zuul, is after the Ghostbusters monster of the same name, and the species name, crurivastator, means ‘destroyer of shins’ in Latin, in reference to its sledgehammer-like tail club.

    In Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur, David and I pull together our recent and ongoing research on Zuul, my experience studying the biology of armoured dinosaurs as a whole, and David’s work on the dinosaurs of southern Alberta and Montana. We share how Zuul’s skeleton was discovered and excavated in the badlands of Montana and how it made its way to Toronto. We describe how it was named and how it fits into the bigger family tree of ankylosaurs, and what this new specimen is teaching us about ankylosaur armour and weapons. We even get to share what we know about Zuul’s broader ecosystem: the remains of many different species of plants and animals were found alongside Zuul’s skeleton, allowing us to understand Zuul’s friends, foes, and food.

    Throughout the book we’ve been able to feature beautiful photographs of this amazing specimen, brand new illustrations by world-renowned palaeoartists Danielle Dufault and Julius Csotonyi, and behind-the-scenes peeks at ongoing scientific research on Zuul. It’s been a blast getting to study this wonderful specimen and work with such a talented team of fossil preparators, artists, exhibit developers, scientists, and the ROM publishing team to bring this book to press. I hope you’ll get a chance to appreciate the beauty and intrigue of these dinosaurs as much as I do!

    Signed copies of Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur are available in the Royal Museum Shop now!

    Zuul: Life of an Armoured Dinosaur
    Victoria Arbour and David Evans
    ROM Press, 2018, 9” x 12”, 96 pages, hard cover


    Figure 1. Charles Newcombe 1851 – 1924

    Dr. Charles Newcombe played a major role in the development of the Royal B.C. Museum ethnology and palaeontology collections (figure 1). He left behind four of his own interesting photographs that were missing the details of their context. Here, I present the story behind these images.

    Newcombe was fascinated by the Northwest Coast paintings of the famous Canadian painter Paul Kane.  In 1904, Newcombe traveled to the University of Toronto where he photographed some of the Kane paintings from the Sir Edmund Osler private collection that were on loan to the University.  Newcombe was keenly interested in Kane’s composite oil painting – then labelled as No. 84 (now ROM912.1.84). This painting was made from several images that Kane sketched in 1847 (see Lister 2010: 292-293). Newcombe had a lantern slide made from some of Kane’s images that he used in public talks (figure 2).

    On July 4, 1907, sixty years after Paul Kane’s visit to Fort Victoria, Newcombe went in search of the location of Kane’s painting of I-eh-nus.  The site was located near the mouth of Ennis Creek east of Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State (figure 3). Newcombe took four photographs (RBCM PN352; PN352B; PN353; PN353B) of the location during his visit but these have remained in the ethnology photo collection without information describing their context (figures 4-6).

    Newcombe also left a typed draft manuscript of his trip to Ennis Creek which did not appear among his family papers.  In the 1970s, I identified this important draft in an old box piled amongst miscellaneous natural history items in what was then the Museum’s Birds and Mammals Division.   Newcombe had a special interest in Indigenous fortified defensive sites (Keddie 2013). Images of these forts that still existed in the mid-19th century are rare. Kane’s visuals of the Ennis Creek fortified village are the best preserved of all. His interest in archaeology, ethnology, geology and natural history is expressed in his draft article, included here, where he refers to the village as “Inas”. I have corrected some of the spelling or typos from the draft, added annotations in brackets, a few notes (*) for the Appendix 1 and interspersed some images relevant to Newcombe’s commentary.  Following this I have added the commentary that appeared in Paul Kane’s 1859 publication regarding his visit to the Ennis Creek village.

    Newcombe’s Manuscript

    Battle. Between Cllam [Clallam] & Macaw Indians, at I-eh-nus, a Clallam Fort in the Strats [Straits] of Fuca.

    Directed by the nephew of the late “King George” (*1) of New Dungeness, who unlike his relative, bound to abstinence from alcohol & tobacco by his affiliation with the sect of Shaker [the Shaker Church (*2)], the writer found the site of the old village of Inas, on a point of land about a mile & a quarter to the east of the steamboat wharves at Port Angeles.

    It is a wide sandy flat full of rounded pebbles of all sizes which have been washed down from the bluff of boulder clay & glacial material which forms part of the coast line along the southern shore of the Strait of Fuca.

    Figure 4. The hill on the left is the location of the fortified site that was the subject of the Paul Kane sketches and painting. Ennis Creek is located in front of the hill. Looking West toward Port Angeles. Charles Newcombe 1907 photograph (RBCM PN352)

    To the west of this village site is bounded by a small pebbly creek which cuts through the bluff at this point & afforded an unfailing supply of water to the village and, no doubt both salmon & trout at certain seasons. The Bluff itself, covered with cedar, & all the common trees of this region, protected the back of the fort which fronted on the sea, & the 4th side had no natural cover.

    Figure 5. Looking east across Ennis Creek from just north of the fortified hill. Newcombe 1907 Photograph RBCM PN352B

    The site is full of signs of Indian occupation, consisting of shell mound material, burnt stones, fragments of whetstones & hammers and the lines of the house places are still marked by long rounded mounds formed by the rubbish thrown out from time to time.

    This is especially noticeable in the case of a carved board, the face of which is rounded & show traces of red paint on the carved surface. The west face is flat & roughly hewn. The fragment is of cedar & covered with a bright yellow lichen. [It is surprising that Newcombe does not mention the pole that he photographed (figure 6). His photo catalogue only says “Inez pole and stream”. It is likely that the large pole remnant was a major support for the corner of the old Fort].

    Figure 6. Looking south up Ennis Creek and the shingle beach refered to by Newcombe. The fort site is on the upper right. Newcombe 1907 photograph RBCM PN353

    The parallelogram occupies the portion of the sandy flat shown by Kane as fortified. Some very old Indians seen at Port Angeles will remember the incident of the burning of the fort by the Macas [Macaws] & confirm many of the details related by Kane.

    Figure 7. Remnant of large post that formed part of the old Fortified village. Charles Newcombe 1907 photograph RBCM PN353B

    Sheltered by Ediz Hook, a spit of sandy shingle which runs in a curve for nearly three miles from shore, this village occupied an ideal situation.

    Useful trees, shrubs & plants noted. Cedar, Douglas fir, balsam fir, hemlock, spiraea, dogwood, willows, crab apple, thorn, goose b., current, thimble b., straw b., claytonia, onion, cherry, salal, rushes. Woods abounded in bear, elk, deer, birds of many kinds as ducks, geese (?), grouse, eagles, woodpeckers, &c.

    Lighthouse at end of hook in line with cedar hill gives location of bluff above flat on west side of creek. Spanish map of Eliza, 1791, shows houses a little to east of Inas (*3). [Newcombe includes on his draft a simple sketch of the top of the hill that notes on each sloping east-west sides a “bank of shell” and at the N.W. corner a “carved board with no paint”].

    Paul Kane’s Visit to Ennis Creek

    Paul Kane’s description of this Fortified site and the battle between the Makah and Klallam (see figure 8) was presented in his 1859 publication. He visited the village site of I-eh-nis from May 9 to 11, 1847. His description is as follows:

    “Made a portage across the spit, and by the evening reached I-eh-nus, a Clallam village or fort. It was composed of a double row of strong pickets, the outer ones about twenty feet high, and the inner row about five feet, enclosing a space of 150 feet square. The whole of this inner space is roofed in, and divided into small compartments, or pens, for the use of each separate family. There were about 200 of the tribe in the fort at the time of my arrival. Their chief, Yates-sut-soot, received me with great cordiality. … A few months before my arrival a great battle had been fought with the Macaws, in which the Clallums had suffered very severely. It originated in the Clallums having taken possession of the body of a whale which had been killed by the Macaws, but had got away, and was drifted by the current to the village. The Macaws demanded a share of the spoils, and also the return of their spears, some fifteen or twenty in number; which were sticking in the carcase; both demands were refused, and a feeling of animosity sprang up between the tribes.” … A few months after the quarrel about the whale, the brother of Yellow-cum, the head chief of the Macaws, went to Fort Victoria to trade for ammunition and other necessities, and on his return was attached by the Clallums. He and one of his men were killed, but three others escaped, and succeeded in getting to Cape Flattery, where Yellow-cum resided. Immediately upon hearing of the death of his brother, Yellow-cum fitted out twelve of his largest canoes, with twenty warriors in each, and made a sudden descent upon I-eh-nus;  – after fire was set to the grass and wood – the Clallam were forced to run out and fight – Yellow-cum took prisoners, mostly females, who were made slaves, and he had eight heads stuck on poles in the bows of the canoes on his return. These heads were carried to the village, and placed in front of the lodge of the warriors who had killed them as trophies” (Lister 2016).

    Figure 8. George Gibbs 1855 map showing Klallam and Chimacum territory (Gibbs 1855)

    Figure 9. Captain Henry Kellet’s 1847 information reproduced on this portion of Captain George Richards 1859 map showing “Indian Village” at Ennis Creek below the tip of False Ness spit

    During the same year as Paul Kane’s visit, the region around the Ennis Creek village was surveyed between July 22-28, by Captain Henry Kellet (Kellet 1847).  He showed three “Indian village” places west of Ediz Hook. The furthest village east below the tip of Ediz Hook is the Ennis Creek village.  This survey information formed a portion of the George Richards map of 1859 (Figure 9).

    Charles Newcombe’s notes and his photographs in the Royal B.C. Museum collection, taken on his 1907 journey, have contributed to providing a better understanding of the physical landscape and context of Paul Kane’s unique imagery.

    Appendix 1. Notes on Charles Newcombe’s Draft article

    (1) It is likely that the person who guided Newcombe was Lah-ka-nim called “Prince of Wales”, who was still living in the 1930s. It was common for high ranking Klallam peoples to take on names of high-ranking Europeans. The “King George” mentioned was S’Hai-ak, the brother of Chits-a-mah-han or Chetzemoka [c.1808 -1888], who was also called the “Duke of York” and recognized by Europeans as a “chief”.  Chetzemoka was the leader of a mixed group of about 200 Chemakum and Clallam peoples living at Port Townsend, Washington.  He had two wives Chil-lil or Jenny Lind and See-hem-itza or “Queen Victoria”.  The latter was the mother of Newcombe’s guide Lah-ka-nim. His uncle S’Hai-ak or King George was the older brother of Chetzemoka and was recognized as the “chief” of the Port Townsend peoples before him. Lahka-nim or the Prince of Wales, was named after his grandfather who was present at the time of Captain Vancouver’s visit in 1792 (McDonald 1972; Castile 1985). S’Hai-ak is seen in a drawing done during his 1848 visit to Victoria one year after Kane’s visit (see Keddie 2003).

    (2) The Indian Shaker Church is a blend of Christian and indigenous religion that originated in lower Puget Sound in the 1820s. It was founded by John Slocum, a Puget Sound Squaxin man in his 40s who, it is claimed, died and came back to life.

    (3) I agree with Newcombe here that the Elisa 1791 map,  Carta que comprehende, that shows two houses to the east of Port Angeles are likely too far east to be at the location of Ennis. Erna Gunther (1927:174), mistakenly shows I’e’ nis  west of Tciwi’tsen near the base of Ediz Hook. This location is too far west. Gibbs (1855:22) description is not specific and is only given as “Yennis, at Port Angeles or False Dungeness”. A map that clearly shows a village at Ennis Creek is the 1853 map of Lieutenant James Alden (Alan 1853). Henry Kellet’s information shown in figure 9 is also shown on a second 1859 map (America N.W. Coast. Strait of JUAN De FUCA. Surveyed by Captain Kellett, R.N. 1847. Haro & Rosario Straits. By Captain G.H. Richards, R.N. 1858. Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound. By the United States Exploring Expedition, 1841. Coast South of C. Flattery by the same in 1853).

    Alden, James. 1853. (KNo.5) U.S. Coast Survey. Reconnaissance of False Dungeness Harbour, Washington.  Lieutenant  James Alden. U.S.N. Assistant.
    Castile, George (editor). 1985. The Indians of Puget Sound. The Notebooks of Myron Eells. University of Washington Press.
    Eells, Myron. 1886.  Indian Shakers. Ten Years of Missionary Work among the Indians at Skokomish, Washington Territory 1874-1884. The Post Treaty Years.
    Gibbs, George. 1855. Pacific Railway Reports. Vol. 434. Report of Mr. George Gibbs to Captain Mc’Clellan, on the Indian Tribes of the Territory of Washington. Olympia, Washington Territory, March 4, 1854. Washington.
    Gibbs, George. 1877. Tribes of Western Washington and Northwestern Oregon. Part II. In: Department of the Interior. U.S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. J.W. Powell.  Contributions to North American Ethnology, Vol. I. Washington: Government Printing Office.
    Gunther, Erna.  1927. Kallam Ethnography.  University Publications in Anthropology, 1(5)171-314. University of Washington Press. Seattle, Washington.
    Keddie , Grant.  2013.
    Keddie, Grant. 2003. Songhees Pictorial. A History of the Songhees People as seen by Outsiders, 1790-1912. Royal B.C. Museum, Victoria, Canada.
    Kellett, Captain Henry. 1847.  Victoria Harbour. Hydrographic Office. America N. W. Coast.  Vancouver Island.  RBCM Archives CM A215/149.
    Lister, Kenneth R. 2016. (Editor) Wonderings of an Artist Among the Indians of North America by Paul Kane. Royal Ontario Museum.
    Lister, Kenneth R. 2010. Paul Kane. The Artist. Wilderness to Studio. Royal Ontario Museum Press, Toronto. Pages 292-293.
    McDonald, Lucile. 1972. Swan among the Indians. Life of James G. Swan, 1818-1900. Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon.
    Richards, George. 1859. Haro & Rosario Straits. Surveyed by Captain G.H. Richards and Officers of the H.M.S. Plumper. 1858-9. (see Kellet 1847 for relevant portions of this map).


    Wooden and antler wedges are a common tool found in the Northwest Coast cultural area of North America. The purpose of this article is to drive a wedge into our current thinking about wedges and to stimulate further research by making some observations based on Royal B.C. Museum archaeological and ethnological artifacts. I combine this view of collections with my own background experience in working with wedges.

    Wedges are commonly known to have been used for splitting fire wood, for the manufacture of posts and planks used in house construction, household items such as boxes and bowls, and for the whole process of canoe making from cutting down trees to splitting the tree trunks and carving out the canoes.

    When archaeologists find antler wedges in old shellmidden sites their presence is usually interpreted as evidence of wood working activities. Wedge shaped antler artifacts, however, do have a number of other uses, the most significant is their use in the repairing of canoes and in hide working, as well as the general use of their proximal end as a hammer.  This article is intended to bring about the awareness of the need for more experimentation, fine scaled observation and analysis of what we normally call antler wedges.

    Figure 1. Elk antler wedges being used to close the split sides of a cedar canoe. Charles Newcombe photograph RBCM PN629

    Canoe Repair Wedges

    This inside of a canoe (Figure 1&2) was photographed by Charles Newcombe in 1913, at Alert Bay on northern Vancouver Island. Although no commentary was preserved with it, Newcombe obviously took the photograph to show the ten antler wedges being used to repair a major split in the side of the canoe. There are likely, at least several more wedges that cannot be seen in the image.

    If this canoe was pulled up from the beach long ago and left to rot on land, a concentration of antler wedges would likely became buried in an archaeological shellmidden site. The presence of all these wedges in close proximity to each other would likely be mistakenly interpreted by archaeologists as the location of extensive woodworking activity.

    The use of wooden wedges for canoe repair has been minimally known about, but photograph RBCM PN629 is important in clearly showing small antler wedges in canoe repair as late as the early 20th century.

    Figure 2. The shape, texture and fracture patterns indicate these are antler and not wooden wedges. Close-up of RBCM PN629

    Why Use Antler Wedges for Canoe Repair?

    When the canoe sides begin to split, holes are drilled into each side of the crack and twisted bark rope is strung across the crack. In order to firmly tighten or pull the boards together a small antler wedge is pounded between the ropes and the side of the canoe to pull the boards tighter together than can be done by simply pulling and tying the rope by hand.

    A significant statement was provided by First Nations consultants of Waterman about wedges used in Puget Sound (Waterman 1973). He noted that: “They were made of yew, or of hemlock knots, or of elk antler, the last named being the best”.

    Waterman worked with Indigenous advisors in the 1919-1921 period – their experiences would go back to the 1850s.  Although he does not mention why antler is best, I would surmise that one of the benefits of antler is the fact that it does not shrink and expand as much as wood – making it better for long term canoe repair jobs.  From my own experience in using antler wedges for splitting wood, antler can keep a tougher distal end than wood and not split as easily as some types of medium to hard woods.

    Figure 3. Example of common antler wedge assemblage from the McNeil Bay site DcRt-16

    The Reworking of Antler wedges

    Both antler and wooden wedges vary enormously in size. It appears that most of the antler wedge-like artifacts we find in Archaeological sites are the broken fragments and re-purposed portions of previously larger examples (figure 3). When longer antler wedges are broken or weathered down by use they usually break near the tip and become too small to use as wood splitting wedges. They then can be more appropriately used as canoe repair wedges (figure 4). Many short broken wedge tips show post breakage pounding or compression on their proximal end – which demonstrate that they were reused. Archaeological collections contain many broken wedge tips that also show evidence of being graved into smaller pieces to be used for making other objects such as antler projectile points (figure 5).

    Observations of Wedge Use

    During his travels along the lower Columbia River in 1824, George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company observed: “Our Iron Works are not as yet come in to general use among them; they have no occasion for Hatchets to fell timber as their shores are covered with Driftwood which they split with wedges” (Merk 1931:103).

    Figure 6. Wedges being used to split planks off cut log

    When reading the ethnographic literature on the use of wedges, it helps to have a bit of personal experience with the subject matter in order to judge or interpret what is being reported.

    Starting when I was six years old I often used an axe to cut down trees and split wood for the stove in our cabin at Skeleton Lake Alberta.  This wood splitting experience was helpful when I later had to root out 300 year old tree stumps. When I was 13, I was given a specific job of splitting 120 ten foot poles of hemlock and cedar to make 240 fence posts to enclose our new property in Surrey, British Columbia.

    I started off with two steel wedges which I soon lost inside partially split logs. I was forced by necessity to make an increasing number of wooden wedges. I soon remembered the importance of the width and thickness of the wedge in relation to the splitting edge and how multiple wedges were needed to be used in concert with each other. A series of wedges that are flat in relation to the cutting edge could be used on cedar with near perfect grain structure, but thicker wedges on both the top and sides were usually required for controlling the split.

    Figure 7. Three common types of wedges after by Boas (1909). Figure on the left is 24cm in length

    Anthropologist Franz Boas reports that seven sizes of wedges were being used to split boards among the Indigenous peoples on the north end of Vancouver Island (1909:253&324). See figure 7 for the distal end shapes shown by Boas. Anthropologist Phillip Drucker (1951:80) notes the practice of using eight to a dozen small wedges across the top of a split tree trunk to remove a large board.  These are used to get the split started and then they are replaced with larger wedges

    First Nations Canoe Wedges

    We are fortunate in having a detailed description by Boas (1909:323-324) in the making of wooden canoe wedges (figure 7). Indigenous advisors told him that one should cut four pieces of yew wood to different lengths. What is significant is that even the smallest wooden wedges described are much bigger than what appear to be complete antler wedges found in Archaeological sites. I have only seen (in a private collection) two elk antler wedges of an archaeological nature that are over the 30cm size mentioned below. These were found together just below the surface in a rocky bush area above the N.W. corner of Bay and Cook Streets in Victoria. There was no evidence of a habitation site at this location.

    Boas gives the measurements in spans-distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger. I will use 9 inches or 0.2286m for the usually accepted English standard for a spam. For fingers, I will use 19mm or ¾ inch. I will record these to the nearest cm. Given these standards, Boas’s seven canoe wedges of six different sizes(the last two being the same size)would be: (1) 76cm (2) 69cm (3) 53cm (4) 46cm (5) 30cm (6) 23cm (7) 23cm. Unfortunately, a description of how the various sizes of wedges are used in the production of a canoe is not explained. Wooden wedges generally had twisted plant fibre grommets on the end to prevent splitting (See figure 8a&8b).


    Alter wedges used as an axe head

    Sproat, from observations made in the 1860s, indicates that, in canoe making among the Nuu-chan-nulth of the West Coast of Vancouver Island, the tree trunk was split in half with wedges and the best half used for making a canoe. An “axe used formerly in falling the largest tree …was made of elkhorn [antler], and was shaped like a chisel. …This chisel-shaped axe, as well as large wooden wedges, was also used in hollowing the canoe” (Sproat 1868:86). It is uncertain here if Sproat is referring to a wedge hafted in the mid section like a modern axe head or an antler chisel-like wedge pounded with a stone hammer.

    When Drucker visited the same area in the 1940s, he pointed out that none of his indigenous consultants knew of the elk antler chisels described by Sproat (Drucker 1951:78).

    Antler wedge shaped hide processing tools

    The most common land mammal remains found in archaeological sites in British Columbia are those of deer, with elk and other ungulates being prevalent in some areas.  The preparation and wearing of animal hides by coastal peoples is downplayed in reports in favour of the wearing of woven clothing. This, in part, is due to a lack of knowledge as to what artifacts were used in the processing of hides on the coast – in some areas this information is lacking in the ethnographic literature – especially on the southern coast.

    Boas reports on the use of yew wood wedges in the processing of the hides of large animals such as elk and bear. It is likely that antler wedge-like artifacts would serve the same purpose (figure 9). After elk hides have been soaked and hung up in preparation for further work:  “the woman takes a scraper, consisting of a wedge of yew-wood, and scrapes it downward on the hair side. Thus all the water is squeezed out. Then the flesh side is scraped with the back of a cockle-shell which is fastened to a long handle. When all the fat and tissue have been scraped off and all the water has been pressed out, it is scraped down once more with the shell scraper (figure 10). Next the whole hair side is rubbed thoroughly with a little oil of the silver perch, and is scraped once more with the yew-wood wedge until the oil has been pressed out again. The skin is put in the sun; after this, it is scraped once more until it is quite dry” (Boas 1909:400-401).

    Examples from the RBCM Archaeology Collection

    Some antler artifacts described as “wedges” have sharply turned angles which would make it unlikely that they were used for splitting wood.  Others with slight curing distal ends (figure 11) would

    Figure 11. Curved antler wedges ground from one side. DcRu-7:168&507: DcRu-15:1006

    be suitable for the removal of wood in shaping the sides on the inside of a canoe. Some of the longer “wedges” with long tapering and flatter distal ends would function effectively as hide stretchers (figure 9).

    Some shellmiddens on the south-eastern coast of B.C. contain large numbers of whole or portions of antler wedge-like artifacts. Figure 3 is an example of antler wedges from archaeological site DcRt-16 in McNeil Bay dating between about 500 and 200 years ago.

    Figure 12,shows a common example of a short stubby elk antler artifact (DcRt-Y:102; Length 152mm; wide at mid-section 30mm;18mm wide at a distance of 10mm from the distal end and 37X40mm at the proximal end)that has been broken off a large wedge and re-used – judging by the evidence of pounding on the proximal end. This is a likely example of a wedge re-used as a canoe repair wedge. Figure 16 shows very different distal ends on two small antler wedges. The wedge with a pointed end (DcRt-15:4202) would have had a specialized purpose. Figure 17 shows three wooden wedges from water-logged sites. The two on the left are shaped from both sides to form the triangular point. Both are over 2000 years old. DcRu-74:88, has been burnt on the tip to harden it – as was known in historic times.


    Figure 12. Broken, re-used elk antler wedge tip. Possible canoe repair wedge. RBCM DfRu-13:851

    There is one example of a large wedge made of a whale rib bone (14250) in the ethnology collection like those found at the Ozette Village site (Figure 18). Based on the condition of this artifact, I suspect it is actually from an archaeological site and has recent twisted root material tied around the neck.

    Additional Uses of Antler Wedges

    Boas recorded several other uses of antler wedges.  The proximal or flat ends were used as hammers for breaking open Sea Urchins – often referred to as sea eggs (figure 13).  Boas notes this activity among the people of northern Vancouver Island: “His wife often carries a yew-wedge to break the sea eggs” with a grommet of cedar twigs at the upper end to prevent splitting (Boas, 1921:491). He also indicates that the wedge was used as a beater in fish preparation (Boas 1921:387-394), and as a hammer in the preparation of octopi tentacles to use as bait on fishing hooks. After the pieces of octopi tentacles are dried they are placed on a board and pounded flat with a short wedge.  A man in: “His left hand holds the piece of devil-fish, and with his right hand he holds the flat point of the wedge; and he pounds the devil-fish with the other end of the short wedge” Boas (1909:483).

    Figure 13. Sea urchin. These were broken open with the proximal end of a wedge. Grant Keddie photograph 1985

    Wedges found in museum ethnographic collections rarely have associated information on their use. Two small thin hemlock wedges, RBCM Ethnology 2063a&b (18.3cm and 16cm), were collected by Charles Newcombe in 1912 at Alert Bay. They are described as having been “used by women with a small stone hammer for splitting wood for household purposes”. The small size of these would suggest they were only used for making kindling wood.

    An Ethnographic Example of a Wedge Set

    A bark bag of an open twilled weave for holding wedges was collected with 6 yew wood wedges – four large and two small examples (RBCM2237A-g). It was collected by Charles Newcombe in 1912, from the northern Moachaht on the west coast of Vancouver Island (figure 14&15). Drucker later makes reference to a special woven bag to carry wedges (Drucker 1951:78).

    Boas records that after chopping a small yew tree in pieces, the points or distal ends of these are “burned off to harden them, and are rubbed down with water on a large slab of sandstone. The burning of the wood prevents it from warping. When the point is ground down, the lower side of the wedge is given a steeper slant than the upper one; so that when driven into a horizontal log, the wedge is ground down on one side only (Fig. 51,b,c) [Examples are 47cm and 57cm long], and the sides are flattened down by chopping with an adze or by grinding. The tip of the wedge also generally tapers down from the sides. The butt-end is tapered down slightly, and is then provided with a ring made of cedar-withes.  After the ring has been fastened on to the wedge, the butt-end is sometimes rubbed against a wetted grindstone until it is quite flat. Generally, however, it is battered down on a stone slab. Wedges for splitting boards are always made in sets of seven pieces, the longest of which is four spans long, while the others decrease in length to about two spans and a half or less” (Boas 1909:323).

    Boas specifically mentions wedges made for hollowing out canoes: “These are made of crooked pieces of yew-wood, which are bent so as to conform to the inner curvature of the canoe. They are ground down to a point on the concave side.

    Drucker (1950) lists wooden wedges as element #420 and includes element #421 as a “symmetrically tapered” wedge and element #422 as a “curved” wedge. He notes: “There are apparently two forms of curved wedges, used particularly in canoe making, but it was not possible to differentiate between them consistently” (Drucker 1950:255).

    Boas indicates that small wedges are “used for work in the house, particularly for splitting fire-wood. These are only about 20cm long, and are generally ground down evenly from both sides, the point of the wedge being rounded.” The example he shows in his Figure 51a is 24cm long (Boas 1909:323).

    Figure 14. Ethnology Collection Wedge Set

    Figure 15. Large woven cedar bag made for carrying a set of wedges


                                              Wedges from the Ozette Site

    The excavation of the famous Ozette site on the Olympic Peninsula, buried in a mud slide about 400 years ago, resulted in the recovery of 1100 wooden wedges. This site provides us with the largest comparative sample of wedges. Wedges at this site were grouped into seven sub-types on the basis of morphology, cross section size, and length. There were 42 preforms (unfinished examples) at the site. Gleeson notes that “both wedge fragments and complete wedges with evidence of repair indicate steps used to maintain the wedges” (Gleeson 1980:67).

    The Ozette wedges were made primarily from compressed spruce wood (Friedman 1975:121). Compression wood is cut from the underside of a leaning branch. Because of the stress on the moving branches, this wood has very thick cell walls and round cells in cross section.  It is important to have the compression parallel to the grain to take heavy pounding.

    The Ozette collection has a much wider range of wedge types than is reported in the ethnographic literature.  Gleeson indicates: “it is supposed that the majority of the large cross section oval wedges were used for heavy duty splitting such as removing large blocks from standing trees or fallen trees, the rectangular wedges represent somewhat different approach. Because the oval wedges have their bit in the same plane as the thickness dimension, their lifting height is therefore equal to their width and not their thickness”. He refers to thickness as “lift” (Gleeson 1980:67).

    Gleeson observes that oval wedges are symmetrical; the rectangular wedges are asymmetrical on the width axis, one side being straight and the other convex. This characteristic could work to advantage when splitting wide thin pieces of cedar that would be likely to develop secondary splits or fractures.

    The “rod” wood wedges do not fit into the above descriptions: “The rod wedge is a long slender wedge almost circular in cross section. The proximal ends of these wedges are not grommeted and the distal end has more of a point than the convex margin of the other wedges” (Gleeson 1980:67).

    The Ozette whole wedges and fragments were subdivided into large, medium, small, and marking (extra small) wedges. The four most numerous categories were large rectangular wedges, large oval wedges, rod wedges and preforms (Gleeson 1980:68).

    Drucker indicates that the short wedges “are seen to be those that may have been cycled out of use, while the medium to long wedges are probably still usable. The groups of wedges are assumed to reflect the splitting of both different shapes and sizes of wood”. Length ranges three feet to several inches (Drucker 1951:78).

    The Ozette sizes are as follows: Short large Oval: L. 10.0–25.8cm. Mean 17.4 SD 3.34.  Width: 2.2–5.8cm Mean 4.0 SD.52. Thickness “lift”: 1.9-5.5. mean 3.1.SD .58cm

    Medium to long. Large oval wedges; L. 26.1–64.5 Mean 37.2. SD 9.68. Width 3.5-5.5. Mean 4.6. SD.52. Lift 1.9-4.6 Mean 3.5 SD.77.

    Gleeson indicated that 114 of the Ozette wedges still had grommets and the other 304 have battered ends Gleeson 1980). Although wooden wedges have a variety of shapes the antler wedges of Ozette have only one morphological variety. They are low angled dense short wedges that Gleeson believes were mostly likely used for starting splits. Whale bone rib wedges include one variety of broad flat wedges possibly used to split and support wide thin boards such as would be used for boxes (Gleeson 1980:62).

    Gleeson inventoried 54 antler and two bone wedges: Elk base (1) whole beam (19) split beam (17) joint as proximal end (1) tine (1); and indeterminate tip fragment (16). Antler and bone L: 6.9-26.6 Mean 16.0 W: 2.1-7.2; Th: 1.3–5.6; bit angle 12-31 mean 20 degrees (Gleeson 1980:65).

    Stern describes the use of wedges in processing a cedar tree. It is felled: “by cutting all around it with a sledge and an elk horn blade. … the tree is then trimmed and when the boughs are removed, it is split into halves by means of large stone hammers: both halves are used as material for canoes. Small bone wedges start the split at one end and after the crack is begun, wooden spruce knots are inserted as gluts. As the wedges open, short timbers catch all the slack and the working wedge is placed at the smallest part of the spit until the other end is reached.” After fires have burned holes at intervals inside the canoe, the section between the holes are hewn out with an antler wedge and hammer (Stern 1934:95).


    An examination of Museum collections and descriptions in the ethno-historic literature indicate there is a wide variety of artifacts often labeled as wedges that have specialized uses as wedges as well as uses for purposes other than wood working. A question for the future is to ask what are the differences in the use of wooden wedges and wedge-like antler artifacts? A more precise description of those objects we find in archaeological sites and controlled experimentation with replicas in their use is needed to gain a better understanding of the more complex behavior behind these important processing tools.

    Boas, Franz. 1909. The Kwakuitl of Vancouver Island. Jessup North Pacific Expedition. 5(2) 301-522. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, 8(2).
    Boas, Franz.   1921. Ethnology of the Kwakiutl Indians.  Thirty-Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1913-1914. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.
    Drucker, Philip.  1950. Anthropological Records. 9:3. Culture Element Distribution: XXVI. Northwest Coast. University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles.
    Drucker, Philip.  1951. The Northern and Central Nootkan Tribes. Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology.  Bulletin 144. United States Printing Office, Washington.
    Friedman, Janet Patterson. 1976. Wood Identification – An Introduction. In:  Gerald H. Grosso (ed), Pacific Northwest Wet Site Wood Conservation Conference. September 19-22, 1976. Volume 2, Neah Bay, Washington, pp. 41-46.
    Gleeson, Paul F.  1980.  Ozette Woodworking Technology.  Project Reports No. 3. Laboratory of Archaeology and History. Washington State University, Pullman.
    Newcombe, Charles. 1904.  Newcombe Family File. RBCM Archives manuscript 1077, Vol. 59, F14-1.
    Sproat, Gilbert Malcolm. 1868. Scenes and Studies of Savage Life. London: Smith, Elder and Co.
    Stern, Bernhard J.  1934. The Lummi Indians of Northwest Washington. Columbia University Press, New York: Morningside Heights.
    Waterman. T. T. 1973. Indian Notes and Monographs No. 59. Notes on the Ethnology of the Indians of Puget Sound.  Museum of the American Indian. Heye Foundation. Printed in Germany by J.J. Augustin, Gluckstadt.

    The Haultain Valley 14 meter Ocean Standstill.

    At the end of the ice age the land, in relation to the sea level, was undergoing enormous changes around Greater Victoria. Where the land surface was covered by ice or had ice sheets nearby, it was pushed down making local sea level high in relation to the land. This was occurring even when world-wide sea levels were much lower.

    As ice melted the local earth’s crust quickly rebounded and relative sea level fell at least 45 meters below where it is today. The sea then slowly came back up to near its present level around 4500 years ago – creating Victoria harbour, Esquimalt harbour and the large Bays as we know them today. It is of scientific interest to determine when and what part of the landscape was available at this time for the occupation of plants and animals – including humans.

    During the period of rapid local emergence of the land from the sea there were short periods of stability. At these short times of more stable environments ancient beaches with clam beds developed in the bays and inlets found at various levels over time. These periods of stability are called ocean standstills. At these now buried locations one can often pull out whole intact marine clam shells. These locations are usually exposed during digging for the installation or replacing of sewer or water mains and by modern housing developments.

    Indigenous History

    There is evidence of humans spearing mastodon and butchering bison around 13,800 years ago to the south of Vancouver Island on the Olympic peninsula (Waters et. al.2011) and Orcas island (Kenady et al. 2010). We should expect to find similar evidence on southern Vancouver Island.

    Much of the evidence for the history of Indigenous people in Greater Victoria is missing between about 13,000 and 4,500 years ago because the sea level was far below what it is today. The bays we are familiar with were not here. There was no Victoria or Esquimalt Harbour, they were dry land. Evidence of indigenous activity is still to be found at inland localities, but these are much more difficult to identify than the large shell middens found at the back of most current bays and inlets. Any coastal villages occupied during that time are now under water and mostly destroyed. There will, however, still be some interesting intact waterlogged evidence in silted in bays.  Most stone artifacts washed out of old, now underwater, village locations and stone tools or weapons lost from canoes will still be found on the ocean floor.

    A few examples of the ancient raised beaches or sea stands exist around greater Victoria. These are locations where there are buried marine beaches in now extinct inlets or bays that existed for short time intervals in the past. If these bays were stable for even a few hundred years, there may be evidence of human use or habitation at these bays that we need to be looking for.

    Figure 1, shows an example of an undated marine shell layer at 34 meters above the current sea level. This old marine beach was exposed during excavations in the 4500 block of Lockside Drive on March 12, 1989. Jim Phillips, who lived nearby on Lockside Drive, took this photograph and collected Shell samples at the location. He turned these over to the author in 1993. Areas along Lockside Drive were once an ancient sea ridge.



    Problems with Radiocarbon dating Ancient Beaches

    Although some ancient beach levels have been dated for the greater Victoria area, the dates do not always fit with the expected lowering of sea level or the dates overlap considerably – making it difficult to provide specific times for each ancient beach level. When ocean inlets disappear their basins are generally filled in with small lakes or marshes. Some radio carbon dates pertain to the testing of peat or marl (composed of fresh water snails) at the base of these wet areas that often lay above the extinct ocean basin. These dates can only tell us when the sea level was no longer at that location. The dates may be several hundred years after the ocean has retreated from the area. It is therefore import to compare the actual shells from each of the beaches as well as later material.

    Dating Marine Shells

    Radio carbon dates need to be re-calibrated based on known changes in atmospheric carbon found at various times in the past. Scientists refer to this as the re-calibrated date. Although the atmospheric carbon re-calibration has been refined over the years, a second calibration is needed when dating marine shells.

    This second calibration is needed because of the different amounts of carbon in different marine environments at different time periods. Marine shells can produce older dates than contemporaneous terrestrial non-marine materials. This is because marine shells can contain older carbon. To re-calculate a standard radio-carbon date on marine shells for the Victoria area, at least minus 400 years would be added to the calculation of dates more than 800 years old (Deo et al.(2004). This is called the marine reservoir correction number.

    It is believed that the need for a decreasing reservoir correction number during the early Holocene is due to lower amounts of oceanic mixing of carbon when sea level fell. In recent years there have been different calculations on what marine reservoir number should be added to dates of different ages. Hutchinson and associates favoured adding 950+or-50 years to dates over 10,000 years ago (Hutchinson et al. 2004). James and associates summarized most of the previous radio carbon dates related to sea level change in the Victoria region using the above calibration figures (James et al.2009). Although they did suggest that the reservoir number was possibly too large for the Victoria area and a reduction to 850 years “would reduce the slight discrepancy between some of the transitional samples and the inferred sea-level pattern” (See Robinson and Thompson 1981; Mackie et al. 2011 and other reference sited for many of the previous publications relevant to this discussion).

    In light of more recent information by Miskelly (2012)pertaining to the existence of a previously unrecognized glacial advance at around 21,000 years ago of what is now called the Saanich Glaciation, and new information on the early period of the glacial advance and retreat, there is a need for a re-examination of earlier documentation.

    Clague had demonstrated that the Quadra Sands (proglacial outwash and beach sands) began being deposited in the Victoria area after 22,600+-300 years ago (Clague 1976, 1977). Miskelly (2012)showed that this glacier had reached Saanich Inlet by around 21,000 years ago, which correlates well with Anderson’s demonstration of the underwater glacial terminus deposits in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca at the same time (Anderson 1968). Our knowledge of what happened between the time of the retreat of the Saanich glacier and the advance of the Fraser glaciation is in need of much more research. In addition, the possibility that some of the ancient beach standstills may be the result of a short re-inundation of the landscape needs to be considered.

    The new Radio-Carbon Date

    I am presenting here a new radiocarbon date, the first date on an ancient marine beach located at 14 meters above the current shore line. The actual location above sea is about 12.8 to 13.8 meters, but I am using 14 meters for discussion purposes. As there seems to be some problem with dates in the region being out of alignment with their stratigraphic position on the landscape, I will present this date from the Haultain Basin of Victoria with two different marine reservoir calibrations to demonstrate the problems involved. More dates of ancient shorelines will be needed to better clarify what reservoir correction numbers need to be used in future calculation of marine samples from various time periods.

     The Haultain Valley 14 Meter Marine Standstill

    Over the years I have made sporadic visits to examine various excavation holes being dug throughout greater Victoria. My recognition of the importance of this area resulted from finds of marine shells and bison remains by Charles Newcombe in the 1914-15 period under Haultain Street to the west of Empire Street and a later donation of bison remains found a few blocks away on Oregon Street during a water main excavation in 1946. Figure 3 shows Haultain Street, where two blocks down the road to the west Charles Newcombe found evidence of shells from a 14 meter marine standstill and bison remains from the bottom of swamp that developed later at this location. On the left of the image is the location of the recent finds discussed here.

    Figure 3. Looking west down Haultain Street at area of old marine inlet and later swamps along a creek. Grant Keddie Photograph May 4, 2009.

    Charles Newcombe was the first person to take a keen interest in this subject matter. In 1914, he wrote a publication entitled: Pleistocene Raised Beaches at Victoria, B.C. (Newcombe 1914). Newcombe had found marine shells and a bison cranial and horn core fragment (RBCM EH.2002.004.0001) in 1914, and a posterior portion of a bison 12th or 13th rib (EH.2007.004.0007) near the same location in 1915 (figure 4A and 4B).

    Newcombe’s 1914 map, not as accurate as those of today, shows what he calls the Saanich formation marking the area up to 100 feet (30.48 meters). It was below this level where he had observed marine shells in several locations. The highest  location that Newcombe did observe sea shells was at 27 meters above current sea level at Blenkinsop Lake (see figure 5).

    Figure 5. Charles Newcombe’ s 1914 map

    In July of 1946, Herbert Raines, a City of Victoria pipefitter found a nearly complete bison maxilla with articulated premaxilla (EH.2007.004.0001) when sewer pipes were laid along Oregon Avenue further up the Haultain Basin between Walnut and Bay Street (see figure 6).

    Figure 6. Bison maxillae from above marine deposits under Oregon Street  (EH.2007.004.0001).Grant Keddie photograph.

    In 2009, I monitored the city of Victoria water main insert project in the Haultain Valley and surrounding areas. One evening, while looking in an excavation hole on Haultain Street near Wesley Place (48.4361595 N. latitude – 123.3498 longitude) I discovered an ancient beach where whole clams could be pulled out of the cut bank. The location was clearly a 14 meter high sea stand and one that was not dated. Above this marine beach layer is a layer of lacustrine marl from decomposed fresh water snails and above this a peat layer (see figures 7 and 8).

    I had earlier talked to the project foreman and a number of workers, gave them my card, and told them what I was looking for in terms of stratigraphy and bison remains, and asked them to call me if they find anything. Several days later I received a phone call from Tina Anderson, who worked at the adjacent Haultain Fish and Chips shop where some of the workers came for lunch. She indicated that a larger amount of shells were turning up. Tina has been enthusiastically supportive of helping information recovery and encouraged the workers from the contractor to bring her any bones they might find.

    On April 29, I collected Marine shells (Saxidomus & Mya species) from the excavation area. These included specimens that I collected myself from the back dirt piles and insitu in the wall as well as some of those turned over by workers to Tina Anderson (see figure 9 and 10).

    I later photographed and collected matrix samples from both the peat layer for future seed and pollen analysis and the marl layer below. Most of the marl layer is composed of delicate and highly crushed snail shells (figure 11).

    I collected a larger sample of the marl to go through and extract any complete or nearly complete identifiable fresh water snails (figure 12).

    At another location at the intersection of Walnut Street and Oregon Avenue I had also photographed (figure 13-14) the stratigraphy showing the same sequence of peat overlaying a marl layer that was overlying marine deposits with marine shells. The Haultain Street and Oregon Street excavation locations were both, respectively, within 100 meters of where separate bison remains were previously recovered.

    I was able to observe that the marine shell and fresh water shell sequences did not extend east up Haultain Street to Garden Street (c.150cm deep hole) and did not extend east up Walnut Street to Belmont Avenue (figure 15). The excavation extended to a depth of 250cm at the latter location. This helped determine the boundaries of the ancient shore line and that its limit was at 14 meters above sea level – as found on Haultain Street. The marl layer at both locations was around 137cm below the present surface.

    Figure 15. Deep excavations at Walnut and Belmont Street demonstrate that the ocean beach stand did not extend this far east. Grant Keddie photograph September 26, 2009

    Bison Tooth

    Figure 16. Bison molar tooth from bottom of ancient swamp above marine beach under Haultain Street. Grant Keddie photograph

    A re-excavation of the same hole on Haultain Street, that I had earlier visited, had exposed new stratigraphy at the east end of the excavations. On August 7, 2009 a worker turned in a tooth to Tina Anderson who immediately phoned me. The unwashed tooth clearly showed peat embedded on one side and marl embedded on the other side. This showed that the tooth was found at the junction of these two stratigraphic layers that I had observed and sampled previously and was able to re-examine again. I identified the tooth as the 3rd upper molar of a bison (Figure 16). These remains were from the eastern portions of the same swamp where Charles Newcombe collected bison remains 95 years earlier. The tooth, marine shells and freshwater snails are now part of the Royal B.C. Museum’s Earth Sciences Collection (RBCM.EH2009.016) and await further studies.

    Dating the ancient beach.

     A portion of a valve of Saxidomus gigantea or butter clam (Accessioned as RBCM.EH2009.016.0020) was sent for radio-carbon dating thanks to the generosity of long time museum volunteer and patron Sharon Smith.

    The conventional radio carbon age date was 12,910+-40 BP (Beta-488449). Adjusted for the local marine reservoir correction of minus 400+-20 the date is 12,510+-45. The corrected date range to a 95.4% probability is 14,131-13,848 cal BP. or to a 68.2% probability is 14,069-13,920 cal BP. If the marine reservoir correction was minus 950+-50, the calibrated age on a date of 11,960+-40 BP would be 13,886 +- 166 BP or a range of 13,720-14,050 BP. Using either of the marine calibrations the results are not much different for the probable date range of the sample. If we combined the maximum and minimum extent of the two ranges we can provide a probable conservative date for the Haultain 14 meter standstill between 13,720 and 14,131 years before present.

    Comparison with other Ancient Beach Stands.

    James et al. (2009) indicated that in the Victoria region: “Sea level fell rapidly from its high stand of about +75 m elevation just before 14,000 cal BP (12,000 radiocarbon years BP) to below the present shoreline by 13,200 cal BP. (11,400 radiocarbon years BP).”

    I will only refer here to three locations with dated marine standstills in close proximity to the Haultain valley that I see as most pertinent in the discussion. The calibrated ages given for the other raised beaches are reported after James et al. (2009).

    There are difficulties with coordinating radio carbon dating with elevation in this region. As mentioned there has been changing opinion as to how much time needs to be taken off to account for the varying amounts of carbon found in shellfish remains at different time periods. As James et al. suggest “It is possible that the marine reservoir correction of 950+-50 years is too large for the Victoria area”, but they chose to retain the 950+-50 years marine reservoir correction proposed by Hutchinson et a. (2004)for samples older than 10,000 BP.

    The Blenkinsop Lake 27 Meter Ocean Standstill

    Only a few kilometers to the south of the undated 34 meter ocean standstill on Lockside Drive is a 27 meter ocean standstill located at Blenkinsop Lake. A standard radio-carbon date of 12,110 B.P. (GSC-246a) was received on the shell (Mya truncata) from these deposits (Dyck et. al. 1965). The standard calibrated date for Blenkinsop Lake was 13,060+or-80 years. This result was then given a date range of 13,844-14052 years before present (James et. al 2009).

    Because the standard correction was not applied to this early Geological Survey of Canada date, a correction factor of plus 400 was added by James et al (2009) giving a date of 13,060-+80. The latter resulting conventional date was adjusted for a local reservoir correction of minus 950+-50 years resulting in a date of 12,110+-94, and from this, a calibrated age range of 13,844-14,052 BP(original sampling Dyck et al 1965). [If the marine correction for 13,060+-80 was only minus 400 the resulting date would be 12,660+-80, giving a calibration range of 14713-15347 BP].

    The McKenzie Avenue 26 Meter Ocean Standstill

    Shells (Hiatella arctica) located at 26m above current sea level received a radiocarbon age of 13,120-+80 (GSC-763) (Lowden and Blade, 1970). Adjusted for the local reservoir correction of 950+-50 it is 12,170-+94 and a calibrated age range of 13,904-14,133 BP (James 2009).

    If the reservoir correction was calculated at only minus 400 years, the resulting date would be 15,131-+289 BP with a 68% calibration range of 14842 – 15420 BP, and therefore substantially different. Sea shells were exposed in a day-lighted creek running through the Saanich Municipal yard (See figure 17).

    Figure 17. Marine shells from Mckenzie Street Ocean standstill. Collected by Grant Keddie, February 20, 1987

    Rithets Bog 15 Meter Non-Marine date

     At about the same level as the Haultain site, there is a 15 meter marine shell layer at Rithets Bog. However, this shell layer was not dated. A date on a basal Gyttja layer which lay above the marine shell deposits was given a conventional date of 11,400+-95 (GSC-945; Lowden and Blade, 1970). A correction of 625+-60 years to the Gyttja provided a date of 10775+-112 BP and a calibrated date of 12708-12876 BP. (James et al. 2009). This date indicates when the ocean had gone below this level and does not date the ancient beach.

    Cook Street 1 Meter Ocean Standstill

    A marine shell (Saxidomus giganteus)in deposits c. 1 meter above current sea level was dated to 12,100+-160 (GSC-1114; Fulton 1971). Adjusted for the local reservoir correction of 950+-50 it is 11,550+-94 BP with a Calibrated age of 13440-+ 130 BP and a 68% range of 13,309-13,570 BP.(James 2009). If the marine correction for 12,100+-80 was only minus 400 years the resulting date would be 11,700+-80, giving a calibration range of 13,435-13,731 BP. These marine shell deposits include the Cook Street village area and extended east into Fairfield (See figures 18-19).

    There are three other radio carbon dates from the Cook Street area that are from above the marine shell layer and are therefore later than the shell date. These include:

    (1) Fresh water shells had a radiocarbon age of 11,200 +_170 (GSC1130;Fulton 1971). A corrected and radiocarbon age is given in Table 1 of James et. al (2009) as 11,620+-85 yr BP with range of 13366-13580 BP.

    (2) Plant material (peat) was given a conventional date of 11,500+-160 (GSC1131; Fulton 1971). It is recorded as 11500+-80 in Gowen (2005) and as 11500+-85 with a corrected date of 13269-13413 BP in James (2009).

    (3)Gyttja material provided a date of 11200+-190 BP (GSC1142; Fulton 1971). It is given a radiocarbon and corrected age in James as 11200+-95 and a corrected range of 13020-13193 BP).


     If we accept the marine reservoir correction of minus 950+-50, the Haultain Street high sea stand was in existence about 13,886 years ago. The possible time range of the ancient beach is between 13,720-14,052 BP. Even if the marine reservoir correction was taken at minus 400, the date range would be similar.

    The Blenkinsop Lake ocean standstill at 27 meters above current sea level and the McKenzie Street standstill at 26 meters both have similar time ranges using a marine correction of minus 950+-50(13,844-14,052 B.P.) and (13,904-14,133 BP). However, in this case, and unlike the Haultain date, using a marine correction of minus 400(14,713-15,347) and (14,842-15,420 BP) would involve a potentially large difference of 1287 years at the older part of the time range and 869 at the younger end of the range. The expected closeness of dating on these two sites does fit better with the marine reservoir correction of minus 950+-50 years.

    The calibrated dates before present for the McKenzie Street, Rithet’s Bog and Haultain Basin are in reverse order of what we would expect – the oldest dates being above the younger dates. The Haultain Street date range is 13,720 BP to 14,052 BP with a marine reservoir of minis 950+-50 and a range of 13,848 BP-14,131 BP. When we compare the blended Blenkinsop and McKenzie Street ranges of 13,844-14,133 years ago, they overlap considerably with the Haultain Basin time range. The difference of the date ranges being only 81 years at the older end and 124 years at the younger end of the time range.


    It is difficult with current dating to determine the specific age of ocean standstills or how fast the sea level in the Victoria region was falling to each of these locations. It appears that the sea level fell from around 27 meters to near the present shore in a period of only about 400 to 600 years. This might suggest the land was rising in relation to the sea about a meter every 20 years, but the ocean standstills indicate there were intervals of reduced movement which allowed for the development of shellfish beaches. Until further detailed radio-carbon dating is undertaken we can assume that the ocean standstill at the 14 meter mark in the Haultain Basin is about 13,886 years old and the likely time range is between 13,720-14,052 years ago.


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    Lettuce is shipped to Canada regularly. Plastic-wrapped-produce crosses our border every day – it is inspected and then it goes to grocery stores across the province. The lettuce then gets purchased, bagged and taken home – sometimes for sandwiches, salads, or maybe for juicing.