Indigenous “Bear Dogs” of Northwestern Canada

By Grant Keddie Indigenous hunting dogs have gone through enormous changes in northern British Columbia and surrounding regions in the 19th and early 20tth centuries. They were subject to large-scale interbreeding and replacement with European dogs. A focus of attention has often separated out the discussion of northern hunting dogs under varieties called “Tahltan bear dogs” or “Hare bear dogs”. The breeding of Tahltan bear dogs by non-Indigenous owners, and their brief recognition by the Canadian Kennel Club, has given dogs identified by this name prominence in the literature. It is important to know when and from whom information about bear dogs was collected. Here I will present the earliest observations by non-indigenous people, the ethnographic writings acquired from Indigenous … Continue reading “Indigenous “Bear Dogs” of Northwestern Canada”

Honouring the Ancestors

The Great Songhees Potlatch of May 16-27, 1913. In 1911, the Songhees moved from their historic period reserve in the inner harbour (1844-1911) to a new reserve above Esquimalt Harbour where European style houses were built. At Maplebank, along the waterfront, five new buildings were constructed, commonly called Long Houses or Big Houses. These were a blend of both traditional and European style house construction, and used mostly for activities such as social gatherings and canoe building. Figure 1, shows the five new longhouses owned by: Left to right: Chief Michael Cooper; William Roberts; Jimmy Fraser; Jimmy Johnny; jointly owned by Alex Peter and Jack Dick. Chief Michael Cooper and representatives of Songhees families held a series of Potlatches over … Continue reading “Honouring the Ancestors”

Lekwungen Resources. Part 2. Birds

By Grant Keddie Introduction The Lekwungen needed to be keen observers of the natural world of which they are part. Knowledge of bird behaviour was important not only to secure them as a source of food, but also to inform them about where the fish resources were. Birds were an import feature of ceremonial and religious life which included everything from their display on clothing and masks, to the mimicking of bird behavior in dances, and their role as mythic ancestors. Bird names were given to months as both indicators of time or as important food sources in that month. Birds were imbedded in Lekwungen culture. There are around 390 species of birds sighted in the Greater Victoria Region, many … Continue reading “Lekwungen Resources. Part 2. Birds”

Mistaken Indigenous Wool Dogs

By Grant Keddie. June 3, 2023. Introduction It has occasionally been assumed that photographs of small white dogs with Indigenous people or on Indigenous reserves in late 19th and early 20th century are “wool dogs”. This is not likely the case as these dogs had become extinct as a physical type before this time period. The dog images referred to above do not fit specific characteristics of the wool dogs and are most likely one of several varieties of small white dogs introduced from Europe as far back as the 1850s. See Appendix 1 for the images and commentary on dogs suggested as wool dogs. In 19th century British Columbia non-Indigenous dogs were brought here by explorers, gold miners, surveyors, … Continue reading “Mistaken Indigenous Wool Dogs”

The Lime Bay Indigenous Defensive Site

By Grant Keddie. May 26, 2023. This Archaeological site, DcRu-123, is located in the outer portions of Victoria’s Inner Harbour in the traditional territory of the Lək̓ʷəŋən people. It is located on Lime Point – a peninsula that once existed between Lime Bay and Mud Bay to the East of Catherine Street. Part of Lime Bay still exists, but Mud Bay is completely filled in and covered with condominiums. The site was, at least intermittently, occupied from twelve to five hundred years ago (Keddie 1983). This whole area of eastern Victoria West to the east of Alston Street was an historic Indigenous village and then Reserve of the Songhees from 1844 until they moved to a larger reserve off Esquimalt … Continue reading “The Lime Bay Indigenous Defensive Site”

The Bison of Beacon Hill Park

June 20, 2017 By Grant Keddie Introduction A very interesting specimen is recorded in the catalogue of the Vertebrate Zoology Collection of the Royal B.C. Museum for April 19th, 1932. It was the body of a three-day old bison donated by the Victoria Parks Department. It was the baby born in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park to its bison parents Victoria and Albert. Where did the Bison Come From? On November 9, 1928, William Straith, President of the Victoria Junior Chamber of Commerce, had advised the Victoria Park Committee that he had been trying to obtain two bison (buffalo) for the Beacon Hill Park Zoo. The Dominion (Federal) government allotted two from Alberta’s Buffalo National Park near Wainright where they had … Continue reading “The Bison of Beacon Hill Park”

A History of Royal Bay. In the City of Colwood

By Grant Keddie. April 28, 2020. Introduction Twenty one thousand years ago a glacier that advanced from the north into Saanich Inlet melted away into a large fresh water lake. The lake burst through to the south sending millions of tons of sands and gravels across the landscape creating what is known as the Colwood Delta. Buried in the upper portions of this delta were the remains of a 20,000 year old mammoth. Over the last 100 years these sands and gravels have been largely removed and used to create the buildings and roads of the region. The community of Royal Bay has now immerged from the base of this ancient Delta. The Human History The landscape in the Royal … Continue reading “A History of Royal Bay. In the City of Colwood”

Jubilee Hospital Excavations

March 9, 2007 By Grant Keddie TAKING IN THE GARBAGE ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER EXCAVATING THE PROVINCIAL ROYAL JUBILEE HOSPITAL DUMP The Victoria Branch of the Archaeological Society of British Columbia was engaged from April to July 1991 in weekend excavations of hospital dump material associated with the early years of the Provincial Royal Jubilee Hospital. On sporadic occasions over the next two years evenings were spent cleaning, sorting and gluing the artifacts. The hospital opened in 1890 and dropped the Provincial part of its name in 1938. The Jubilee Hospital excavations project started when Dr. Stuart Kenning of the Victoria Medical Society and Norma Friedmann, the Facility Planner for the Greater Victoria Hospital Society came to the City of … Continue reading “Jubilee Hospital Excavations”

Where is Urban Archaeology?

Originally Published in Discovery: Friends of the British Columbia Provincial Museum Quarterly Review, 15(3). By Grant Keddie.  July 1987. Introduction   “Diggers Uncover Bottle Bonanza” read the headline of a Victoria newspaper in October 1981. The article explained that “Excavators have struck it rich while dig­ging at the lawn bowling club beside Crystal Gardens”. There were, in fact, many interesting bottles and ceramic items found by the work crew excavating the foundation for the new clubhouse. But were these really a surprising discovery as the newspaper article seems to suggest? The answer is, of course, no! It was a well-known fact that this area was once the shoreline of James Bay. The area was often referred to around the turn … Continue reading “Where is Urban Archaeology?”

Victoria’s Early Hospital Properties

Originally published in Discovery: Friends of the Royal British Columbia Museum Quarterly Review, 19(3), 4-5. By Grant Keddie. Summer 1991. Introduction In the early 1850s, temporary locations – usually private homes – served as Victoria’s first public hospitals. People who were declared insane were put with prisoners in the Public Jail. In 1853, Governor James Douglas was ordered to construct what became Vancouver Island’s first real hospital, the Esquimalt Naval Hospital. It was established for wounded British veterans of the Crimean War. The Crimean soldiers never came, but the hospital eventually was used in Esquimalt as a naval hospital. In 1858, Reverend Edward Cridge argued that “We ought immediately to unite and found a hospital, and an asylum and having … Continue reading “Victoria’s Early Hospital Properties”