Discovering a lost First Nations trail

When caving…one of the ways to save time is to digitally survey before going into the bush.

One of my projects (from looking for historical reports for Horne Lake Provincial Park, which has an extensive cave network) has been tracing the lost trail and road network from Port Alberni to the east coast of Vancouver Island from colonial times to 1911, when the province surveyed and gazetted a road allowance.

Now, some success!

Independently finding two missing trails (Horne Lake and another trail), and a wagon road lost to memory since the 1870s/80s. Plus a portrait of Captain (later Admiral and Hydrographer) G.H.Richards, RN, commanding the 1857-64 survey of the coast, held in private hands. BC Crown agencies, local government, and all three local First Nations (Qualicum, K’omoks, Tseshaht) have periodically searched for the first Horne Lake trail map (1856), successor wagon road map (1872, active 1872-86) and associated reports for over 100 years. It took me 4 years and digitization helped. Thus far, I have physically visited 3 archives, but digitally…15 archives in 7 countries.

 

The 1872 took a few months in 2012 – not an easy find as BC united with Canada in 1871, and reports are missing for the years of administrative transition.

The 1856 took 4 years of thinking including ~3 months of research into the start of the backstory. Ruggles  (A Country Most Interesting, 1991) reports on the 1856 survey, but reference to the academic tome was not easy to notice at HBC Archives (1 line!), and only then found during a search for secondary sources after K’omoks FN’s archaeologist told me about another source, after finding the faint line of the trail on the HBC map myself – which is not cataloged to reference the trail.  BC Government, local government, and First Nations did not know about either map or the 1856 backstory. You’d need to know localities and the survey history to connect the dots.

I have some of this now – a complex tale of intrigue involving Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), the slaughter of the Qualicum village on the eastern coast end of the trail by a Haida war party, the Imperial Government and the Colonial Office, the gold rush and the Crown’s legal claim to all gold in its territories, US designs on the Oregon Territory, 1856-72 US/British negotiations to resolve border issues and tensions that later drove events like the Pig War, John Jacob Astor’s Russian American Company and Russian cartographers, commercial tensions related to HBC attempts to deceive the Royal Navy to block settlement (long enough to get control of properties for future sale?), and the Imperial Parliament’s 1857 inquiry into continuance of the HBC Royal Charter awarded in 1650; all bound up with the strangely conflicting dual-hatted duties and ambitions of Governor and HBC Chief Factor (call him “Senior VP”) Douglas (1843-59) and Surveyor-General Pemberton (HBC Surveyor-General & Engineer, 1853-59); all happening during the local shift from sailing ship to ironclad and the 3-6 month duration of travel back to England – and the methods of communication to deal with this (1 original and copies, sent by different ships).

A short note about the 1856 map is in our society newsletter — check it out for caving pictures! I suspect the Crown paid for the survey but HBC kept back details. And if so, is the UK National Archives the rightful owner of the 1856 original? Or local First Nations if HBC was trespassing? Some years later, Pemberton gave Richards a copy (tracing) of the map – to spark a favourable impression? What a can of worms! Further research is on the backburner as I pursue new business activities.

The marvelous aspect is that the original trail got used for centuries by foot and pack animal (First Nations’ traders, HBC fur traders, colonial era Crown employees and settlers) but never by wagons or industrial era transport, and lost to memory sometime during the 1880s.

Thus the bigger picture:
Proposing that we creating a small National Park on Vancouver Island to protect the trail and to grow economic spin-offs for the Island’s central coast region:
  • [Link] 01 – Enoksasant National Park 2017-2021 idea sketch
  • [Link] 02 – 1856 (clip) & 1872 (entire) maps + updated business links sketch
  • [Link] 03 – High-level image of proposed park at Horne Lake
  • [Link] 04 – Strata-level image of proposed park at Horne Lake

Sacred Priorities Protocol

ChilcotinMapRecognizing the intangibles of the new relationship.  SPP link here

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed title to the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation in British Columbia have always possessed aboriginal title to approximately 2,000 square kilometres of land.  The decision – the first to recognize aboriginal title to specific real property – explicitly renounces the Euro-British doctrine of terra nullius. The doctrine claimed that no one owned the land before the Crown claimed it, and the Court has determined that this has no basis in Canadian law.

The Crown (as the embodiment of the State) is required to obey the letter and spirit of its own treaties of shared rule, originating with the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

‘ “This is the fulfillment of that promise, held out by the Crown 250 years ago.”

Brian Slattery, Osgoode Hall Law School’

 Aboriginal Title

  • Control of ancestral lands and the right to use them for modern economic purposes, without destroying those lands for future generations.
  • Government can create works that show overwhelming value, but have to show substantive consultation and must reconcile those needs with aboriginal rights to title.
  • The Court explicitly states that the decision holds for all lands that were not ceded to the Crown by treaty.
  • Nearly all of BC.

 

Sacred Priorities Protocol – Could this be a way forward?

Seeding a Community-led Sacred Priorities Joint Mapping Database Initiative to map valuation zones for joint resource and economic development projects

I’ve been networking a respectful technical solution through industry since 2010.

There have been complaints that intangible cultural values are not scientific and therefore should not be allowable at Environmental Review Boards.

SPP proposes a method to have local communities assign values to intangible values, such as landscapes, as scientific/technical values…as a means to find win-wins vs. the old Might Makes Right way of resource extraction.

It is written here at a granular level, with an example and flowchart, for use at the very start of industrial development planning. Years and millions of dollars before a project is assessed by regulators. For example, with mining, after test drilling has identified an economic ore body but before the start of ore body extraction planning.

  • SPP flows out of watching mining projects fail across in BC.
  • The procedure could be used to create technical and governance win-win expertise.
  • Expertise exportable around the globe.

But to work, any Protocol must be centred in the good earth of respect for First Nations Law and Title.

And acknowledgement that when we Europeans and British arrived, we privatized property that wasn’t ours.

If we don’t acknowledge our own law, why should First Nations acknowledge it either?

 

Dave Huer