The Capital Iron Site, DcRu-116. Victoria Harbour.

January 25, 2018. By Grant Keddie. The remains of an ancient village, in the form of a shell midden, are located around the intersection of Store and Chatham Street off Victoria’s upper harbour. The site, listed as DcRu-116,   was on a rocky bluff on the east side of the Harbour between the Johnson Street and Point Ellis (Bay Street) Bridges. This specific location on a rocky bluff with a good view up the Harbour would suggest the site was chosen for defensive purposes. Archaeological Excavations In 1976, buried shell midden was discovered during the removal of massive amounts of overburden for building a new facility next to the Capital Iron building at 1900 Store Street. On an emergency basis, volunteers … Continue reading “The Capital Iron Site, DcRu-116. Victoria Harbour.”

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”

The Shuttle-cock Lure. Fishing around the Salish Sea

By Grant Keddie The shuttle-cock lure and spear, was a unique form of technology used to catch mostly the larger lingcod and rockfish. The fisherman used this device at low tide from anchored canoes or rock points that overlooked kelp beds. The lure would be pushed down deep with a separate pole that was quickly pulled away from it. The lure then spun toward the surface, the fish darted after it and was speared when it came near the surface. The spear was 4.5 to 6 meters long. It consisted of two or three, unbarbed, fir shafts on the end. The shafts were about 4cm thick, 46cm long and about 10 cm apart at their tips (Swan 1870; Jennes 1934-35; … Continue reading “The Shuttle-cock Lure. Fishing around the Salish Sea”

Jimmy Fraser the Songhees Story Teller

By Grant Keddie. In 1941, World War II was on. At the age of 72, Jimmy Fraser (Kin-Kay-nun; Unthame, Cheachlacth) of the Songhees Nation, stood next to his fellow band members Jack Dick, Roddy Stewart, Art Hall, Clarence Dick, Richard Albany, Dave Fallardeau and Louis Kamai, at the Esquimalt dock yards, famous for their ship building. The Songhees were being praised for their contribution to the war effort. Like so many other Indigenous people then and before in World War 1, they contributed to the Canadian war effort. The Songhees were being singled out for the work they were doing at the dock yards. The foreman at the dockyards said the Songhees “were the best workers he ever had”. (Colonist … Continue reading “Jimmy Fraser the Songhees Story Teller”

Indigenous Combs of British Columbia

By Grant Keddie. Preface Combs are artifacts used by many cultures around the world over thousands of years. They are used primarily for disentangling and arranging the hair, but also as decorative items for holding the hair and head pieces, they have evolved into symbols of status or authority and cultural identity. To make a point, I show an extreme physical example of an Ashanti comb from Ghana in figure 1. Large Ashanti prestige combs were given by men to women as an act of devotion and commitment. In the 1970s, African combs took on a role in African American culture and politics where they became a sign of solidarity to the Black Power movement as a cultural statement. Combs … Continue reading “Indigenous Combs of British Columbia”

Transfer of the Famous Kwah’s Dagger to the Nak’azdli People

Post Script, to article on Kwah’s Dagger. Transfer of the Famous Kwah’s Dagger to the Nak’azdli People. Grant Keddie. 2012. The Royal British Columbia Museum, had in its stewardship a famous dagger associated with the story of a prominent Nak’azdli First Nation, from the Fort St. James area of Northern B.C., known as Chief Kwah. I assisted the Nak’adzli Band and Parks Canada in a successful submission to the Monuments Board of Canada to have Chief Kwah recognized as a National Historic Figure. The story of the dagger is interwoven with the history of Sir James Douglas, K.C.B., the second Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island and the first Governor of the Mainland Colony of British Columbia. The dagger … Continue reading “Transfer of the Famous Kwah’s Dagger to the Nak’azdli People”

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”

Bird Spears and Bird Arrows

Grant Keddie. 2023. Introduction The identification of bone projectile points found in archaeological sites that were used as components of bird spears and bird arrows are difficult to identify. This is due, in part, to the lack of Museum ethnographic examples with accurate documentation. Old traditional bird spears or arrows are rare in Museum collections. With the introduction of iron and the gun, the components of the spears and arrows changed and then they disappeared from use. Bird spears have several components: a shaft, a central bone point with up to five other bone points of several sizes or two bone points positioned at the same level on the distal end of the spear. Most of these are barbed but … Continue reading “Bird Spears and Bird Arrows”

A Lekwungen Herring Fishing site in Esquimalt Harbour: A Unique photograph in the Collection of the Royal B.C. Museum

By Grant Keddie. Nov 2016. 19th century photographic images in the Victoria region that show Lekwungen (Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations) undertaking traditional food gathering practices are rare. The only example of fishing is a photograph, taken in 1868, by Frederick Dally in Esquimalt harbour at the south entrance to Lang Cove (RBCM PN905). Lang Cove is located south of Skinner’s Cove, both of which are within the larger Constance Cove. This is the location of an ancient shellmidden as demonstrated by the scattered white clam shells seen in the image and later observed by the author at this location. This image (fig. 1 and close-up fig.2) of a man and woman at a herring fishing site is listed in … Continue reading “A Lekwungen Herring Fishing site in Esquimalt Harbour: A Unique photograph in the Collection of the Royal B.C. Museum”