Kitamaat Village to Crab River
The first leg of the trip runs the length of Kitimat Arm and Devastation Channel to the mouth of the Gardner Canal, a distance of 52 kilometres. The first leg of the trip from C'imoc'a [IR #2] in upper right to Kasa in bottom center, on the map below.
The first leg of the trip will take us past Wolhsdo (the Wathlsto Reserve, IR #3, 16.8 hectares) which was a previous village site, located 2 kilometres south of the point at the south end of Kitamaat village. There are still visible grave markers along the water here. The creek runs east, has pinks in the lower reaches and a coho run.
Gwa x sdlis
Continuing southward another 3 kilometres, we pass Raley Point and can look left into Gwa x sdlis (Clio Bay). This bay and stream have been focal resource sites for the Haislas. The bay entered the history of the area early. In 1865, the armed British ship HMS Clio was sent to anchor here, just south of the settlements at the mouth of the Kitimat River. The reason for the visit of the Clio is not clear. Either it was to impress the Haisla people into choosing to "become civilized" (since according to historians, the Haislas had a reputation for savagery and secret ritual cults), or in order to reconcile the X a'isla to trade with the Hudson 's Bay Corporation. For a while the bay was called Man of War Harbour. IR #8 (Kuaste) is located on the edge of Mud Bay , beside the island Elsdem, where the C'esis were buried. Mud Bay is at the edge of highlands that are important goat hunting areas. There was, until recently, a path running from Clio Bay to Kitamaat village. This area is trapline #603T057.
The Haisla Peoples' "Cognitive Maps" of Their Territory
The term "cognitive map" is used to refer to the mental map that first nations people have of their territory. These mental maps include much more than just the shapes and image of the boundaries, water and roads in the area. They include all the history, personal events, resources harvested there and other cultural information that members of a society have about their traditional lands.
One of the purposes of this report is to give readers a sense of the cognitive maps that Haisla people have of the places we will be visiting. Haisla cognitive maps are like a cultural encyclopedia of cultural knowledge. The map below is much less complete than the cognitive map that an informed Haisla elder would have bout this area. Such a person would know what was hunted, fished, trapped, handlogged and harvested. It would also record where the resources were. For instance, from interviews, we now have "on record" that the Haisla took from this wa'wais the following traditional subsistence resources (partial list) deer, moose, bear (black), bear (grizzly), marten, mink, fox, wolf, otter, fox, lynx, cougar, squirrel, weasel, geese, ducks, grouse, seals, coho salmon, spring salmon, pinks, chum salmon, sockeye salmon, bullheads, halibut, red cod, steelhead, herring, (the following beachlife were used previously: herring roe, crab, mussels, mussels, cockles, sea cucumbers, anemone, octopus), prawns, large cedar, cedar bark, cedar withes, hemlock cambium, spruce root, spruce gum, blueberries, raspberries, red/blue huckleberries, grey currant, blackcaps, cranberries, grey currants, crabapples, rose hips, salmonberries, fern roots, clover roots, buttercup roots, sprouts, fiddleheads, wild rice, hellebore, alder bark, devil's club, Labrador tea, fireweed, cattails, cow parsnips, wild rhubarb, ryegrass, firewood. Pollution has now had an effect on the Haisla use of the maritime resources from this area.
Based on descriptions of Gwa x sdlis in the 1920-30s, the drawing below describes Clio Bay, which was much used by the Haisla people. But, if this were a true cognitive map of an informed Haisla elder, it would also show all of the resources above and their locations
Elsdem (Gobeil Island)
Sacred and Spiritual Areas in Haisla Territory
Elsdem is the Haisla name for Gobeil Island, a small island at the mouth of the Kildala Arm. Numerous CMT's attest to the use of the island over a long period. It is important make a point here that may help readers understand the Haisla relation to their territory. It involves the distinction between "sacred" and "spiritual" in the traditional Haisla perspective. Elsdem, the island, has one of the sacred areas of Haisla traditional territory. That sacred place is the cave and surrounding area where the C'esi (Beaver chief) are buried. Visits by the curious are forbidden; the only reasons for going there are to bury a C'esi or a member of his family, to perform a ritual of respect, or provide something that the dead might want or need by burning food, treats, tobacco or warm clothes. Visitors may bathe before visiting this place or put on clean clothes; they may pray. The place is watched to preserve its sanctity from impious intrusion or, unthinkably, theft. That's what a Haisla sacred place is like. There are not many of them in Haisla territory.
But, the rest of Elsdem island is a spiritual place, no more or less than any area of Haisla territory. As such, Elsdem Island is considered to be a place observed and controlled by the Creator. According to the Haisla nuyem (NOO-yuhm, 'traditional oral law'), the Creator, depending upon an individual's hiliga (hay-lee-GYAH, 'soul'), can be of help to people if inclined to do so. But, on the other hand, the Creator, can undermine, derail, oppose and jinx the efforts of those who are unworthy or incur the Creator's indignation, resentment or displeasure. Although traditional Haisla believe in an unformulated way that the power that humans draw on for strength and good luck is the power of the earth. The Creator and one's nakwelagila (NAH-kwuh-lah-gee-luh, 'cleansing by bathing in cold water') rituals enable humans to draw on the power to accomplish things and succeed in the activities they undertake. The Creator and the souls of animals and other living things are ingratiated by (a) respect and gratitude, by (b) people who are clean and moral, and by (c) those who take no more than they need and share the bounty with others, avoiding waste. If a Haisla kills a living thing by accident or kills something that submits itself for human subsistence, he or she says, "Nolexw, Nolexw, nolexw" (NO-lu h w, essentially, 'What the Creator has done [for us]!'). The Creator, if offended, can cause the animals and fish to withhold themselves and cause even the lucky and talented to get skunked. Furthermore, the Creator, offended by a single individual, family, clan or non-Haisla business group could exact retribution against the entire Haisla tribe. So, we say that Haisla land, in general, is presumed by traditional Haisla to have a spirit presence is to put visitors to any particular site in Haisla territory on notice that traditional Haislas believe that their behaviour is being monitored by a spiritual power who can be either appreciative or vengeful. This suggests the traditional logic of the spiritual bond that links the Haisla to their territory and the living things in it. And, it may allow visitors in Haisla traditional territory to be more sensitive to Haisla perspectives.
Haisla Indian Reserves
Kildala arm is a bay extending 15 kilometres eastward. There are four Haisla reserves along the arm, including one on the north side of the mouth Kuaste (IR #8, at Mud Bay), Tala (IR #4, at the east end of the arm), and Kildala (IR #10, at the mouth of the Kildala River), and a new one, Za'wiyaas (#99, west of the lower Kildala River). In fact there are 19 Haisla reserves, more than half of which cover less than 10 acres. These reserves were set up, surveyed and staked in the early 1890s or added after the McKenna-McBride commission reviewed Haisla desires and needs in 1913. It is a fact of Haisla life that they have much smaller reserves than first nations in the interior. The reasoning for this inequity is that the Haisla people were considered to live on fish, rather than farming. For that reason, interior peoples needed pastures and fields. The Haisla were allotted reserves barely large enough for their homes, let alone burial areas and gardens. In the Kildala, for instance, IR #8 Kuaste has 3 hectares, IR #10 Kildala has 1.4, and IR #4 Tala and IR #99 Za'wiyaas have 5 hectares each. These days, many of the Haisla reserves have trapper's cabins on them (newly constructed in the last two years) but are largely uninhabited. They are a relic of a previous Indian Affairs perspective which presumed that the ultimate future of the first nations was assimilation into mainstream society. This trip to the Kitlope will make it clear that such expectations were erroneous. We will pass five more Haisla reserves on this trip, stopping at each of them
The Difference Between Mainstream Documentary History and Haisla "Folk History"
When Captain Vancouver visited Haisla territory in June of 1793, his logbooks tell of encounters between his exploring parties and the "natives of the area," who were hospitable and even gave them a gift of fish. Those logbooks constitute the first "historical record" of a visit to Haisla territory. The logbooks have been published. That is mainstream history. The Haisla also have their own history. It is referred to by the term "folk history," which means that it is recalled in the oral tradition of the Haisla. Folk history is often thought of as less respectable than mainstream documentary history, since oral tradition can, over time, be subject to a legendary enlargement of people and their exploits. In fact, folk history often recalls things that written history don't include, uses the traditional native perspective of the time, and is not subject to the effects of political correctness, and ethnic prejudice that characterize much of the mainstream historical record about native-EuroCanadian relations. This report will feature Haisla folk history importantly. Here, for instance, is a transcript of the Haisla folk historical recall of Vancouver 's visit by Louise Barbetti, a Haisla elder. Note that the speaker tells from whom the story was heard (part of the Haisla narrative record):
Folk History, Legend and Myth in the Haisla Cultural Narrative
Since this report will include various types of stories from the Haisla nuyem (Haisla corpus of oral history and law), it may be useful for us to distinguish the various types of stories that we will be mentioning. Haisla oral tradition includes various sets of stories that occur at the "Time of Beginnings." The time of beginnings is a mythic time before the world came to be the way it is today, when animals and people could still talk to one another, when living things often had supernatural powers. Remember that we are not making claims about the truth of stories by calling them myths (i.e. we're not using the term as we do when we say, for instance, "It's a myth that Gerald is 39 years old."). Readers may appreciate some sense of what these mythic Haisla stories included. There are four types of sets of Haisla stories from the Time of Beginnings. Many of these take place in places we will visit in the course of this trip to the Kitlope.
The first of the four sets stories tells how the physical features of Haisla territory and the living things came to have the features they do. For instance, in one, Porcupine allowed the ancestors of the animals and birds to pick out suits with the features that they have to this day. At the same time the animals and the birds were assigned particular types of landscape to inhabit and whether they were to venture out by day or night. Another story tells how the different fish were created by carving each type of fish out of a different type of wood. Other stories from this period tell how the animals acquired their individual characteristics such as why the dog lives with people and chases deer.
A second set of tells of the mischievous Wiget, who caused many, many things in the natural world. Old Wiget, traveled through Haisla territory at the Time of Beginnings with his fickle sister Zewasenx, and usually tried to trick people into giving him what he wanted. For instance, Wiget stole the moon and put it up in the sky. He also tricked Tide Woman into causing the big spring tides when shellfish and other beachlife are so easy to gather. Travelling down the Douglas Channel we pass several places whose names indicate that they are the locations of Wiget's exploits. For instance, appropriate to our position at the entrance to Kildala Arm, just on the south side of the entrance to Kildala there is a rock with a large crack down the middle of it called Buqwsiyaxws Wiget (more or less translatable as, "Wiget passes gas"). Here according to Haisla tradition, Wiget delivered himself of a great fart that split that rock. He did more outrageous things elsewhere.
A third set of Time of Beginning stories has to do with how the clans came to be. In each story a woman takes on the features of the clan animal (Eagle Clan, Raven Clan and Beaver Clan) or marries the clan's totemic animal (Killerwhale Clan). Since the Henaksiala had different traditions for the origins of the clans, you will hear more than one story of the origin of some of the clans. Many of these stories will take place along our route.
A fourth set of Time of Beginnings stories has to do with parables based on the most important Haisla values. The characters in these stories either (1) do things that break the value-based conduct rules like show disrespect for frogs and, as a result they have to pay the price, or (2) act according to the value-based conduct rules like be kind to a hurt wolf and, as a result they are rewarded. These stories are an important aspect of the nuyem because they illustrate the patterns of conduct and behaviour that are valued in the Haisla life.
The Haisla nuyem also has stories that happened after the Time of Beginnings. These are Haisla community memories which have been passed down orally through the centuries. These stories have to do with people who are in real time rather than mythic time. Haisla stories in real time are set in Haisla history when things had already become the way they are now. Sometimes events in these historical accounts became bigger than life and have taken on legendary features in which the characters have a quality of superhuman power, but these are Haisla memories of real events. As such, these stories merge into Haisla folk history.
Appropriate to our position at the mouth of Kildala Arm is the story of the origin of the Haisla people. It is worth including here, as told by Johan Howard and Gordon Robinson.
Other Haisla stories that take place in real time are include a period of Haida raids that figure in the folk history of the area that we will be visiting in the Kitlope. For instance, early Kitamaat and Henaksiala communities chose settlement sites that could be easily defended and were close to a point high enough to serve as a lookout site (e.g. on the rocky heights above Misk'usa, the village at the mouth of the Kitlope River, whence comes the name Kitlope, "people of the rocks"). The Haisla recall that their warriors often beat off the Haida raiders. Henaksiala elders recall a Haida raid on the Kitlope that was successful at first, but while the Haida raiders were returning home with a canoe-load of female captives, the women tricked them. We will include this story when we get to Nuwaqela Point, just below Kemano.
Haisla oral tradition includes the stories of totem poles, which includes the G aps g ola x pole, originally from the Henaksiala village of Misk'usa (mouth of the Kitlope River), but is now located in a Museum in Sweden, is also a part of Haisla history and the only 19th Century Haisla pole which exists. These stories will be included when we arrive at the appropriate point in the trip. And the Haisla nuyem stories include community oral history that happened in the "modern period of recorded history" but wasn't written down at the time. For example, every Haisla elder can recount the story of Billy Hall (born in the 1850s) who is remembered to have had an encounter with Bekwis creatures (sometimes called Sasquatches) in the Misk'uk' area, along the Gardner Canal below Kemano Village. Having accidentally killed one Bekwis (thinking it was a bear), and being chased by others, he escaped and, according to some elders, he was able afterwards to predict when people would die. Another more recent example from the folk-history from about the same time that the elders.
Hopefully, this brief introduction to Haisla oral literature will allow readers to appreciate Haisla folk history as the resource it is. It provides the Haisla people with a basis for their ethnic identity. It gives visitors to the area a sense of the degree to which the Haisla used their oral history as a basis for their beliefs, science and sense of their history.
Toseqai'ya (Eagle Bay)
Toseqai'ya is the Haisla name for Eagle Bay. Coming from the north, we pass down Amos Passage, going the length of Coste Island (T'lekai) on the east side. This island is a wa'wais by itself, owned by the holder of the Blackfish clan name C'ipela. Just off the south end of Coste island are a field of seal rocks, called T'alht'alha. The mouth of Eagle Bay is off the south end of Coste Island.
BC Provincial Traplines in Haisla Traditional Territory
In 1925-6, British Columbia started to register the rights to trap in areas of the province. In Haisla territory, these traplines were generally watersheds whose boundaries were similar, if not identical to the traditional wa'wais boundaries. And, the traplines were largely registered to the clan members whose names entitled them to ownership of the wa'wais. Those traplines are still being used and owned, with only two exceptions, by Haisla people. There are some interesting differences between the Haisla wa'wais owners and the trapline owners, though. Haisla clan names traditionally pass matrilineally, which means they should optimally pass from a man to his sister's son The following chart shows how matrilineal descent works and explains matrilineal inheritance patterns:
Such matrilineal descent and inheritance is still considered by traditional Haisla to be the appropriate way for Haisla clan names and wa'waises to be bequeathed. However, the trapline system is a qwemksiwa x aid ("White man's way thing"). White man's way is for inheritance to pass from father to son, rather than father to sister's son. So, sometimes clan names pass to one descendant and someone else pays the $15 and registers the trapline. In any case, the ownership remains Haisla, even though the price of furs collapsed during the 1960s and most Haisla feel that it is more sensible to allow the animal stocks to regenerate. Although traditionally animals were caught in various types of snares and traps (pitfalls, deadfalls, spring traps), and animal hides were valued, trapping really became much more common after the 1860s, when commercial metal traps came into use. Trapping starts in December and lasts until late January. The primary furs taken in Haisla country are marten, beaver, otter, mink, weasel, fisher, and bear. A trapline may simply sun along the shoreline, with trappers traveling by boat. Or, more commonly in traditional times, the trapline would run along the courses of a river or creek. The Eagle Bay trapline is BC trapline #0603T056.
The Three Wiwaas
There are three Wa'waises called the wiwaas: northern (Na'labilisc Wiwaa), middle (O'yuwisc Wiwaa) and southern (X a'isabisc Wiwaa). Northern Wiwaa is a Blackfish clan area, Central Wiwaa is a Beaver clan area, and Southern is a Salmon clan area. They drain large areas extending back approximately 15 kilometres into the highlands to the east. Central Wiwaa has a kuksta (KYOOK-stuh, 'hotspring') located just to the north of the mouth of Weewanie Creek, and is referred to as Weewanie Hot Springs.
The Hotsprings of Haisla Traditional Territory
The Haisla people use the term kuksta for a hotspring. There are a number of them in Haisla traditional territory, and we will pass four of them in the course of our trip to the Kitlope:
And a seep of water that comes down the rocks at the water's edge below Cornwall Point.
There are two others in Haisla territory at the back of Bishop Bay and the top of Klekane Inlet. The Haisla people used them traditionally for bathing, recreation and healing. It is pleasant to stop at these hotsprings as a break in the trip.
Eastern Hawkesbury Island
As we pass the Wiwaa shores, on our right, across the channel are the cliffs that run along the eastern shore of Hawkesbury Island. In the middle of that long expanse of cliffs Dorothy Island lies offshore, sheltering a little bay that is the actual focus of the area that is called Biba x ela (bee-BAH-huh-lah). Seals sit on a little beach there and there are caves in the heights above that beach. These cliffs extend all the way down to Blind Pass (Kiciwi, kit-SEE-wee), which is a Bagwaiyas. Kitseway, as it's written on maps, was a site of immense importance to the Haisla in traditional times. There was a rock wall weir built across the lower entrance to Blind Pass and when the tide was falling the Haisla would stand below this weir and beat on the water to keep the fish from escaping until the water was so low that there were just tidal pools full of fish (especially flounders, which the Haisla used to catch by the canoe load at each change in the tide. It was common to get salmon here, and there were drying racks, particularly on the island side, which would be full when the fish were running. It was also an area of huge cedars and important as a canoe making center. The Haisla cognitive map of Kiciwi includes the houses, the fish weir and other features of importance in traditional life.
Temex (tuh-MUHK) is a long wa'wais between the three Wiwaa wa'waises and Crab River. It is a Salmon clan wa'wais, associated with the name Hai'masaqa. The wa'wais is BC Provincial Trapline #0603T112. The shoreline of Temex is often hunted by Haisla people going to or from the Gardner Canal, catching a deer or bear along the beach.
Crab River (IR #18, Kasa)
Kasa (KYAH-suh) is the entrance to the Gardner Canal. Crab River was always exploited heavily by the Haisla people. It was the site of an early village. In 1913, Robert Nelson, Mark Smith and Johnny Paul told the McKenna McBride Commission that the Henaksiala, "Used to have a lot of houses there, there is only one shack there now, where we dry fish." They said, "Our grandfathers stayed there before us," and "There are three graveyards at Crab River." They testified that Kitlope Indians had used that place for trapping "Ever since I can remember; and that they continued to use it for that purpose," and that they had lived there permanently in the past. As a result, the McKenna McBride Commission suggested setting up a reserve (May 16, 1916), 10 acres more or less, on both sides of the river, for use as a village site, fishing station, hunting base and burial ground. This was subject to the expiry of a previous pulp lease, originally given in 1903 for 21 years to Oriental Power and Pulp Company.
An Interesting Case of Matrilineal Wa'wais Inheritance
The Kasa wa'wais was traditionally an Eagle wa'wais. It was in the hands of Isaac Woods, a Tlingit from Alaska, who had moved here and had no maternal relatives among the Haisla. Thus, he had no sister's son to leave his name (and the associated wa'wais) to. It would have been unthinkable for him to leave the wa'wais to his own son, according to matrilineal tradition. So, he adopted Annie Amos, an eagle clan woman, as his sister; and, Annie's grandson Charlie Williams took care of Isaac when he was old. Isaac passed on his house and his Eagle name, K'iselagelis, and trapline and everything to Charlie when he died in 1940. This clearly illustrates matrilineal inheritance.
Crab River is a common stop for Haislas heading into the Gardner. True to its name, it is one of the dependable places to put out crab traps during a stop. Other resources reported to have been collected at Kasa in the memory of living Haisla are the following: deer, bear, moose, marten, otter, mink, squirrels, weasels, beaver, seals, ducks, geese, spring salmon, sockeyes, coho salmon, humpies, halibut, ling cod, grey cod, red cod, red snapper, flounders, lemon sole, clams, mussels, cockles, sea cucumbers and other beachlife, prawns, handlogging (cedar, hemlock, spruce), canoe logs and cedar bark, blueberries, salmonberries, elderberries, huckleberries, roots (including buttercup, rice root), basketry materials and medicinal plants (including alder bark and devil's club), Labrador tea. Crab River is truly typical of the use to which the Haisla traditionally put their stewardship areas.