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February 27, 2016

More Salt Spring Early Days

John Craven-Jones was
the first black teacher. 
By Maryanna Gabriel

There is a story here that where Harbour House Hotel now stands there was a continuous high mound where the parking lot is. Back in the day someone decided they wanted a tennis court and began clearing the burm. It turned out to be a mounded First Nations burial site. A woman with sense stopped the clearing, in those days there was no watch-dog heritage board, and the bodies were relocated for burial to the rear of the property. And so one cultural group overtakes another, a story as old as time and thus the tennis court was created.

It is said there were many tribes that had claim to Salt Spring. The earliest carbon dating is 4,000 years ago but it is thought that occupation commenced much earlier. There is a story told of First Nations warfare right in Ganges harbour just as the black population began arriving from the States by invitation from Governor James Douglas. They settled on the southern side of Ganges adjacent to the white pioneer community around 1859. With some bewilderment and also warranted aggression the Indian population that lived here felt their new “guests”, black and white, to be a bit rude settling in and helping themselves without prearrangement or compensation.

A royal navy gunboat was sent from Esquimalt to settle things down. 

February 19, 2016

Skull Island

By Maryanna Gabriel

"If you go out in the woods today, you better not go alone..."

Heaven Itself
There is a place here that is beautiful, white shell midden beaches, and when the sun shines and the waters sparkle it seems as if heaven itself has touched the earth. Yet when one strays away from the water into the forest there is a strange creepy feeling. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I once walked with a friend who could not hurry me through fast enough. He definitely felt the place was giving him the jitters. Then I heard at a community gathering that years ago some girls decided to have a sleep-over in the woods, only to come screaming out in the middle of the night. I walked through with another friend and she felt nothing, so there you go.

It was only recently that I found out that there was a history that seemed ominous, a history I
Skull Island
and a story which explains it. Historically it is said that the islets off of this land was covered in bones and skulls at contact. It was called "Skull Island" by the pioneers. So there was warfare in this area on the south end which is now a reserve and still owned by the indigenous First Nations. A little later in time, on the same land, a farm was established. Mysteriously, the farm house was  abandoned with all of the belongings still in it. This also was a mystery. Now a story has surfaced that the occupants got small pox and went off some place quietly to die, probably nearby, once again contributing to the haunting feeling of the place. Later a cider house was built inspired by the wonderful apples that were growing. The cider house is long gone. I go still. I take a picnic. It is too beautiful not to. I try not to stray into the woods. 

Cider House From The Apples

February 6, 2016

Stirring Up The Past

By Maryanna Gabriel

Sometimes being at home is not as easy as it sounds. Last night a wind roared through here causing the power to flicker and made such a ruckous I checked out the latest earthquake report. Nothing. The answer to what I had heard greeted me this morning when I went outside and saw that a huge branch had shirred the side of the house. All is calm now and I have been wondering about a passion I had when I was younger which was the study of archaeology. 

Me surveying in the interior for research. 
Salt Spring Island excavation reveals stratigraphy.

Before I married I worked in several areas of British Columbia and delved deeply into the subject at colleges and at Simon Fraser University. Some part of me was fascinated with the detective work of it all and a part of me was trying to sort out where we came from with the known history of this era. On the island here we seem to be going a bit history crazy lately. A local archaeologist working on his doctorate has been excavating at a well known beach nearby, in part to reveal the stratigraphy. I walked to where the work was being done and was fascinated to see the layers of occupation, ash, midden, house floors, post holes, fire pits etc. a time profile that is thousands of years in the making. Yes, the fascination for what the secrets of the past reveal is still within me.