Gilbert Pat – First Nations Jeweller

A member of the coast Salish band, Chawathl, Gilbert Pat is an extremely gifted and self taught First Nation’s jeweller from British Columbia who has been carving beautiful works in gold, silver and copper for the past 30 years. Pat studied Kwakiutl design, guided by many designers of his wife’s family and was shown how to use the tools of the trade by Lloyd Wadhams, a Kwakwaka‘wakw artist.  Pat has since passed on his knowledge to his two sons, Jeff and Jason who are also silversmiths.

The Orca pin pictured here illustrates Pat’s unique and exacting style, and intricate workmanship.  Today, Pat’s work can be found all over Europe and the Far East.

This pin and other similar pieces can be found at the Campbell River Museum Shop.  Open Daily 10am -5pm during the summer months, and from Tuesday to Sunday, Oct 1 – May 17, 12 – 5pm. 250-287-3103

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca

Intriguing Yorke Island Re-Visited

For those interested in Yorke Island and BC’s coastal defence, a book about Yorke Island has just been published.  See link below for full story:

http://kasha.ezabu.com/2012/05/12/434/

In 2004, museum docent Danny Brown (see left, yellow jacket) gave a presentation at the Campbell River Museum on a unique west coast military defence installation, Yorke Island, and later in the year took a group of people there on a tour.  The conditions had to be just right for this tour as this tiny island is surrounded by one of the most dangerous stretches of water in Johnstone Strait.  Located six kilometres northeast of Sayward, off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, Yorke Island was considered to be a strategic site during World War II as it commands an exceptional view of the strait.  Then, there was another kind of danger lurking in the water; Japanese U-Boats had been sited in the vicinity as early as 1939 and especially after such a U-Boat launched a shell at Estevan Point lighthouse on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1942, the Canadian military felt it was critical to establish a gunnery post in defence of British Columbia’s west coast.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Yorke Island with outdoor guide and military enthusiast Ross Keller, and one of the most profound impressions the site leaves is of the sheer magnitude of the construction that still remains.   While the windows might be missing and some of the paint peeling, these poured concrete edifices look as serviceable today as they must have been during the war years.  Yorke Island was occupied from 1939 – 1947, after which some of the portable buildings were taken to Hardwicke Island (about one kilometre away).  Prior to that, the only evidence of occupation was a cabin left by an individual who had been there in about 1925.

The island would not have been a hospitable place to reside on as it was missing one crucial resource – fresh water.  To resolve this problem, the military had to import enough fresh water to fill a 50,000 gallon (250,000 litre) tank.  Each of the men by military standards had to be provided with one gallon of water per day.  With 250 men posted there and sometimes as many as 200 construction workers, it was a formidable task to store enough of this precious commodity.  In fact, sea water was used to supplement their requirements in places like the toilets.

As a result of Brown’s talk on the island, he met a veteran who had actually been posted on Yorke Island, Gordon Kurton (now deceased) of Powell River.  His research also lead him to meet Garry Ogrodnik, manager of the Campbell River Superstore, whose father had been posted to the island, and he provided Brown with a photo of his father in uniform.  Other archival photos (see right) were donated to the Museum by the Bishop family , whose father Jack Husted had also been posted to the island.

Isolated as Yorke Island was, it was not a popular post and has been referred to as ‘Little Alcatraz” (Raincoast Place Names, Andrew Scott).  Many young men living there, especially those not used to coastal conditions, found the circumstances extremely trying and in Peter Moogk’s book, Vancouver Defended, he relates a few amusing tales of attempted escapes.  Not so amusing is the story of a soldier who committed suicide on the boat returning him to spend another stretch of time there.

The island is currently under the protection of BC Parks, and as it is without a dock, is not an easy place to reach.  A boat can anchor there, but a kayak or dinghy is required to reach shore, unless you have a landing craft like the Aurora Explorer that can lower its drawbridge and place you safely on the beach.  Although the undergrowth and buildings have been well cleaned up by out-of-work foresters through Sayward Futures, a visitor has to be fit enough to climb the steep hill to the top (200ft) in order to properly view the abandoned buildings.  For now, it remains even more remote than it did during the war years, which adds in many ways to its intriguing charm.

While the Museum no longer has tours to Yorke Island, there will be historic boat tours beginning July 11 with Discovery Marine Safaris to many of the other Discovery Islands.  Call us to find out more!  250-287-3103.

Bill Henderson – Master Carver

Bill Henderson of the Wei Wai Kum Band of Campbell River is one of the most successful master carvers of his time,  and has established an international reputation with collectors of First Nation’s art.  He has been commissioned to carve several traditional totem poles to commemorate important Kwakwaka’wakw people and events, and creates dancing masks, paddles, bowls and plaques.  In 1983, he presented the town of Ishikari, Japan with one of his totem poles as a gift from its sister city, Campbell River.

Henderson began carving with his father, the late Sam Henderson, when he was seven years old.  Sam Henderson was not only an eminent Nak’waxda’xw carver, but also a devoted protector of ancient cultural traditions.  May Quocksistala Henderson,  Bill’s mother, was a high ranking woman of the Campbell River Band.  He also credits the great Kwakwaka’wakw master carvers Mungo Martin and Henry Hunt as major influences on his own work.  He distinctively carries on the Henderson legacy and passes on his knowledge and skills graciously to many of his nephews.

Henderson says that “the woods and waters of the [Kwakwaka’wakw] homeland are rich in animals and I have worked to capture the natural and supernatural figures in many of my masks”.  Pictured here is his Owl Mask, and the vibrant colours and strong lines speak clearly of Henderson’s skill and interpretation.

The Shop at the Campbell River Museum specializes in First Nations Art and carvings like the work of Bill Henderson.  Come in for a visit!

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca

Hume Researches Strathcona History at Museum

This week, the Campbell River Museum Archives has had a well known visitor.  Award winning author and journalist Stephen Hume, who has been a long time staff writer for the Vancouver Sun, is researching the Ellison expedition into Strathcona Provincial Park that is being replicated this July by mountaineer Philip Stone of Quadra Island.  Hume will be writing a piece for the Sun about the upcoming Strathcona Centennial Expedition, and was interested in using the resources at the Museum to find out more about the history of Strathcona Provincial Park.  In particular, he said he also came to seeing the current photo exhibit of the Ellison expedition that is on display in the Museum temporary gallery until the end of June.

Hume may be a participant in the new expedition, but isn’t certain yet.  For now, he can vicariously take the journey as he peruses the wonderful journal kept in the Archives that was written by Harry Johnson, a member of the original Ellison 1910 trek.

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca

Mark Henderson – First Nations Painter

Mark Henderson is a well known First Nations artist and member of the Campbell River Band.  He began painting traditional Kwakuitl designs at age 11 and received encouragement from his father, Sam Henderson, a famous Kwakiutl carver.

Henderson says that both of his parents (his mother was the late May Quocksister Henderson, the eldest daughter of a high-ranking family of the Wewaikum Band) were a major influence in his early artistic development, and wanted him to be familiar with his cultural background, teaching him the legends, songs and dances that have been part of his family heritage for many generations.  He was also influenced by other artisits like Henry Speck, Mungo Martin and Willie Seaweed.

Henderson believes that it is important to maintain traditional elements and colour in his artwork, while experimenting and developing his own creative ideas.  He prefers to work in acrylic paint on paper and produces limited edition silkscreen prints from the originals.

Mark Henderson’s exceptional and beautiful original pieces and prints can be found in the Shop of the Campbell River Museum, along with other First Nations artwork including carving, basketry and jewellery.  For information call: 250-287-3103.

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca

Jorge “Two Eagles” Lewis – Traditional Drum Making

Jorge Lewis is a First Nations artist from the Snuneymuxw nation of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, who specializes in drum making.  Jorge is a descendent of powerful Shamans, mask dancers and chiefs.  He was taught the craft of drum making by Bill Garton, a Lakota sundancer, pipe carrier and spiritual seeker.

Drums are used in sweat lodges, singing circles, or to accompany a singer.  Jorge believes that drumming is a tool which assists us in getting centred spiritually, and it connects us with the inner self and with all that is around us. His love for life is evident in his work, and he lives and breathes his spiritual culture through his art work.  He has resided in Campbell River for the past 34 years.

The Hummingbird drum pictured here is available in the Museum Shop, along with other examples of First Nations artwork.  Call the Museum for more information 250-287-3103.

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca

Strathcona Centennial Expedition with Phil Stone

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Price Ellison expedition that led to the formation of BC’s first provincial park, Strathcona.  In July this year, photographer, author and mountaineer Philip Stone of Quadra Island will be leading a group into Strathcona Provincial Park to replicate Price’s expedition of 1910.  To introduce the history of the Park and provide insight into this summer’s expedition, Stone will present an illustrated talk at the Museum at Campbell River on Saturday, April 17 from 1 pm to 3 pm.

The Ellison expedition was undertaken at a time when 19th century attitudes were still prevalent in terms of looking at natural resources as something to exploit.  Although Strathcona Park was viewed as a nature preserve and ‘set apart as a public place and pleasure-ground for the benefit, advantage, and enjoyment of the people of British Columbia’. (Strathcona Park Act March 1, 1911), there were ambitious plans to build a railway into the Buttle Lake area and to construct a resort in the tradition of the Canadian Pacific hotels.

An early brochure about the park makes glowing references to its attractions:  ‘There are no venomous snakes, and no wild animals from which danger may be apprehended.  In most localities flies and mosquitoes are nearly absent, and will not interfere with the trout fishing.’

While this idealized version of the park might have eventually attracted the general public, Strathcona never did become the ‘Banff’ of Vancouver Island and despite a mine being built in the park in the 1960’s there has been relatively little development.  Stone hopes that the current expedition will raise awareness of the park and help preserve its natural state.

Philip Stone himself has explored Strathcona Park extensively over the past 20 years and has written several books on hiking on Vancouver Island.  He is currently the owner and editor of the Discovery Islander and WildIsle publications.

When asked how he initiated his current project, Stone explained that the first step in making the expedition a reality was to “write to the Premier”, and that “the SPPAC (Strathcona Provincial Park Advisory Committee) and BC Parks have been vital in getting the profile needed to have it recognized as an official reenactment’.”

The talk is in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibit ‘Into the Wild: The 1910 Ellison Expedition and the Birth of BC Parks’.  The cost for the talk is $6.00.  Please call 287-3103 to reserve a seat.  For more information on this summer’s expedition, check out Stone’s website: http://www.wildisle.ca/strathcona-park/expedition

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The Campbell River Museum maintains collections and archives from Campbell River’s wide and diverse history, culture and community.  For more information about your local Campbell River Museum, call 250-287-3103 or visit www.crmuseum.ca

Wayne Bell – Traditional Cedar Weaving

Wayne Bell is a First Nations artist who creates woven objects that are both functional and attractive. He produces Cedar Baskets, Woven Cedar Headdresses, Woven Cedar Regalia (rope, capes and other costume items) and carves Cedar Masks.  Wayne’s tribal group is the Mamalilikulla of Village Island, of which he is the Hereditary Chief, and he was born in Vancouver, British Columbia.  He was taught the art of Cedar Weaving by his grandmother Katie Ferry, and his grandfather taught him how to carve fish clubs.

Wayne travels extensively teaching the art of Cedar Weaving, and has been teaching in the school district for the past 14 years.  Articles about Wayne and his work have appeared in The Campbell River Mirror; he has displayed his work at the Campbell River Museum as part of a basketry exhibit and has proudly participated in the P.N.E. Parade where he wore his newly carved Eagle Mask.  He currently resides in Campbell River.

Wayne’s basketry and other First Nations art can be found in the Museum Shop.  Featured here is one of his clam baskets, made from red cedar strips.  For further information call 250-287-3103.

‘Into the Wild’ – New temporary exhibit of Strathcona Provincial Park in 1910

‘Into the Wild – The 1910 Ellison Expedition and BC’s First Park’ is a new temporary exhibit at the Museum celebrating the 100th anniversary of the journey that culminated one year later in the creation of British Columbia’s first Provincial Park – the 429,000 acre Strathcona Park.   The exhibit draws on archival photographs and passages from a journal kept by one of the Ellison expedition members, Harry Johnson and chronicles their journey along a watershed now much altered.

The expedition, a 36 day trek that was essentially a reconnaissance mission, was undertaken by a group of twenty two men and one woman, who  travelled by canoe and on foot along the Campbell River watershed to Buttle Lake. After a nine day detour to climb Crown Mountain, the party headed overland, making the traverse through a rugged mountain pass to Great Central Lake, then finishing their journey in Port Alberni.

They left Victoria on July 5, 1910, boarding the steamship the “Queen City”, and sailed to Vancouver for supplies.  Among those participating were some notables, like Reverend William Washington Bolton, Headmaster of Victoria’s University School for Boys, who had made an exploratory journey of Vancouver Island in 1894,  (Beyond Nootka – Lindsay Elms), and the Honourable Price Ellison, Minister of Lands and leader of the expedition.  They arrived in Campbell River on July 7, 1910 and stayed at the Willow’s Hotel, with which they were very impressed, not expecting to find such fine accommodation in such an isolated community.  Some of the rooms actually had running water!

 “Campbell River was a very small and quiet place in those days, but very lively on week-ends as there was a large logging camp located near the mouth of the river, and the Willows Hotel with a big barroom open for business six days a week”…This is the best place on the Pacific Coast for Tyee salmon fishing”.

Getting to the Buttle Lake area at that time was very different from how it is today.  A wagon was able to take the group along the newly formed road to McIvor Lake for a distance of six miles (9.6 km).  There they camped before continuing on their journey up the Campbell River.  The inimitable Lord Bacon, an eccentric character who lived alone at Buttle Lake with his dog ‘Man’,  had  joined them in Campbell River as their guide, and entertained them that evening.

“While waiting for supper we have our first talk with one of the leading figures of the expedition, Lord Hugh Nathan Bacon, one time of ___ Scotland, now Lord of Vancouver Island; and make the acquaintance of his sole partner, “Man”, a little fox-terrier. We find very soon that the Lord is no ordinary person. He spends his time in the princely fastnesses of his forest-home back in the Buttle Lake region, and comes down to the settlements only when the silence of the forests palls on him and he feels it his duty to come down and straighten out the rabble of the ordinary workaday world. He takes a fore-place in the hotel bar and tells the loggers they are a pack of drunkards and under the persuasive influence of good old Scotch recites Kipling to them to tell them what they may expect in the next world”.

They paddled up the Campbell River and through the small Lower Campbell and Upper Campbell Lakes, fording rapids and portaging, combating mosquitoes and camping on islands in the middle of the river that are under water today.  They did take time to enjoy the scenery however, as this description of a sunset at Lower Campbell Lake illustrates.

“The sky is clear except for a few clusters of clouds in the west, and there is one of the most gorgeous possible sunsets.  The clouds change from gold to red and wine.  The peaks are blue, then pink, then lavender, and the forests all about and up the mountain sides are every delicate shade.  The water about us too takes on all sorts of shades of light and dark blue, green, yellow and pink.  The changing colours last until 9:45 and we continue our fishing until then just to watch them.”

Upon reaching the Elk River, they took a detour west towards Crown Mountain, as ascending this mountain was a pertinent objective on their itinerary, being a landmark to mariner’s on the West Coast.  Nine members of the group (including the author, Price Ellison and his daughter Myra) were elected to make the ascent.

Once this was accomplished, they continued on their journey through the Buttle Lake area and on to the traverse across to Great Central Lake.  While their journey was roughing it in many ways, they didn’t suffer when it came to the food.

“Pete (the cook) rewards us for our noontime fast by offering us vermicelli soup, lobster pates, mutton (canned) a la Spanish etc, and plum pudding with proper sauce – not bad for the woods!”

They arrived in ‘Alberni’ August 11th, and were officially out of the woods. Telegrams were sent to the Premier McBride and to the expedition member’s families to inform them of their safe arrival. From there went by road to Nanaimo, and the trip was almost at an end.

“Lunch at the hotel, (August 13) a walk about the streets of Nanaimo, more rain.  Then we board the afternoon train of the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway, and are in Victoria at the Empress in time for dinner.”

This expedition will be replicated this year in July by local mountaineer Philip Stone and several participants (see http://www.wildisle.ca/strathcona-park/expedition/)

All the above excerpts in quotations are taken from the ‘Journal of BC Exploratory Survey Trip into the Buttle’s Lake region by Harry McC. Johnston.’  The journal can be found in the Museum archives and is a rare treasure – full of wonderful descriptions and humour.  It is strictly a reference item, and is not available for reproduction.  Many archival photos of the Park are also available in the Archives, open Tuesday – Sunday 1-4pm or by appointment – 250-287-3013.

The Days of the Deep Freeze and Local Winter Sports

Having the Olympics here in BC this winter has everyone thinking about winter sports.  While winter sports enthusiasts can visit Mt. Washington or Mt. Cain to partake in snow related activities, there was a time when there was plenty of snow right here at ground level in the Campbell River area.

Granite Bay Winter Scene

Granite Bay Winter Scene

With the milder winters we have been experiencing recently, it is hard to believe that it was once cold enough for local lakes, and even salt water to freeze.  Susan McEwen recalls the days when Echo Lake (15km west of Campbell River) would freeze over.  “I remember about 14 years ago taking my young children to Echo Lake to go ice skating,” she said, “it is such a treat to be able to do things like that outside.”

Pictured here is a photo of skaters at Granite Bay on Quadra Island taken when the salt water actually froze over.  A long time ago, it could get very cold in this area.  Cecil ‘Cougar’ Smith spent his childhood in the Black Creek area in the early 1900s, and recalled a winter when the temperature remained at 12 degrees F below zero.  All the cattle died from the cold and lack of food, and they were unable even to go ice fishing in the frozen lake nearby as they couldn’t hack through the ice that was at least three feet thick.

Before Mt. Washington ski resort opened in 1979, Forbidden Plateau was the john-painterbeverly-mckay-fp-optimizedplace to go downhill skiing (see photo left of John Painter and Beverly McKay 1950).  Forbidden Plateau Lodge was built in 1934 by Clinton S. Wood, at the top of the Comox Logging Company abandoned railway grade.  Shortly afterwards, Coach Line excursions started taking people there to ski. By 1972, there were two tow lifts and a new chair lift (the only one on Vancouver Island at the time), a rental shop and recreation house. In the late 1970s, Jim Boulding of Strathcona Park Lodge had visions of creating a ski hill on the other side of Strathcona Provincial Park near Buttle Lake, and used to fly friends in by helicopter to enjoy the perfect conditions.  However, just when it looked like the project would go through, suddenly there wasn’t enough consistent snowfall to support it, which happened to be the same difficulty faced at Forbidden Plateau.

During winters when snow was plentiful, cross country skiing was a popular family sport.  Jessica Madsen remembers going up past General Hill to find skiing spots in the mid 1980s.  They would ski near John Hart Dam, or sometimes night ski at the Sequoia Springs golf course on Petersen Road.

Tobogganing was another activity that could be enjoyed at night. Young people had great fun with their wooden toboggans and sleds on the sloping hills of Campbell River in the 1960s before the town was fully developed.  “We used to bring Coleman lamps and hang them from the trees at night,” Linda Hogarth told me.  “We tobogganed over by where Alder Clinic is today.”

Now it is necessary to go to higher elevations to find snow, and skating is done indoors at local arenas.  While the mild weather makes for better driving conditions, there are still those who fondly remember the days when winter sports were right at their doorstep.

The Museum at Campbell River Archives contains a wealth of old photos of true winter weather, and there are several articles about Forbidden Plateau and its history and development in the vertical files.  If you can’t find what you are looking for, just ask for help!  The archives are open Tuesday to Friday, 1-4pm or by appointment, 250-287-3103.