3.1 Objectives

As outlined by the Terms of Reference for the First Nations Cultural Heritage Study for the proposed Bamberton development, the primary objective of the ethnographic/oral history and ethnobotanical components of the study is to document -- from a First Nations’ perspective -- First Nations’ knowledge and use of the study area, both past and present. Accordingly, this research documents "traditional" (see following discussion) and contemporary First Nations use of Bamberton, the Malahat Mountain and the Saanich Inlet for activities such as plant collecting and processing, hunting and trapping, fishing and shellfish harvesting, and spiritual and sacred activities. In addition, it presents the perceptions and concerns of the First Nations People of the Saanich Inlet regarding the potential impacts of the proposed development on their rights and abilities to continue cultural practices.

As previously discussed, this study is the first in British Columbia to fall under the Environmental Assessment Act (Bill 29), which requires that the potential impacts of proposed developments on First Nation’s traditional land use be assessed. The necessity of incorporating Indigenous peoples’ traditional ecological knowledge in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is widely acknowledged, as is the need to ensure equal and meaningful participation in that process (e.g. Berkes 1993; Johannes 1993; Kuhn and Duerden 1996). As Berkes (1993:3) cogently notes, "People who are dependent on local resources for their livelihood are often able to assess the true costs and benefits of development better than any evaluator coming from the outside".

Johannes (1993), suggests research on First Nations traditional land use for environmental impact assessments focus on four frames of reference. These include: taxonomic (ie species identification), spatial (ie the distribution of species), temporal (seasonal variations in species distribution and abundance) and social perspectives. With regards to the latter, he states (1993:35):

The social frame of reference includes the way Indigenous peoples perceive, use, allocate, transfer and manage their natural resources. This perspective is the hardest to bring into sharp focus, but it is no less important than the preceding three frames of reference. Traditional knowledge cannot be used properly in isolation from the social and political structure in which it is embedded.

He goes on to suggest that the EIA should "not only cover the direct impacts of a project on the environment, but also the impacts of altered human access to those natural resources". To this, of course, we would add altered access to spiritual resources.

At this juncture, it is appropriate to raise the issue of terminology, particularly as it relates to the word "traditional". First Nations peoples and the project team members expressed concern over the use of the word "traditional" in the context of this study. These concerns stem from two points.

The first is related to the connotations associated with "traditional". To many, it evokes images of First Nations peoples living as their ancestors did prior to European contact. Thus, it implies a way of life that may be "old-fashioned" and "antiquated", and one which is "impractical" or "irrelevant" given today’s modern world.

The second point is concerned with change, and just how much change is acceptable to "traditional" ways. The literature is equivocal on this issue. Berkes (1993:3) notes:

In the dictionary sense, "traditional" usually refers to cultural continuity transmitted in the form of social attitudes, beliefs, principles and conventions of behaviour and practice derived from historical experience. However, societies change through time, constantly adopting new practices and technologies, and making it difficult to define just how much and what kind of change would affect the labelling of a practice as traditional.

For example, many outsiders view the adoption of modern equipment, such as outboard engines or food processors, as a break in tradition by First Nations people, a severing of the cultural continuity. Yet, as elders and others (e.g. Anderson 1996, Hunn 1993, Brody 1981) note, people still follow similar patterns of activities, simply employing newer, more effective methods to achieve similar ends.

In other words, to state that world views or activities are "traditional" does not imply that they are unchanging (Anderson 1996). Further, a change in the methods by which a particular activity is conducted is not indicative of something less "traditional". As Lewis (1993:9) points out, what is "traditional" is the knowledge behind or the ideas underlying the production and use of the tools that people utilize.


Having said all this, however, there was difficulty in coming up with a suitable replacement for the word "traditional". And so the term remains in the text, usually in quotations, to denote its qualified use.

3.2 Methods

As Ridington (1981:360) notes, "the best history by far is that provided by the people themselves; their stories give a rich, detailed and accurate picture of their experience from [past] to the present". Accordingly, information for this portion of the study was obtained from consultation with members from each of the six First Nations: the Malahat Indian Band, Tsartlip Indian Band, Pauquachin Indian Band, Tseycum Indian Band, Tsawout Indian Band and the Cowichan Tribes. This process was facilitated by the Management Committee, who identified knowledgeable elders and members from each community and invited them to participate in the study. A set of interview procedures and protocols were established under the direction of the Management Committee, with the advice of several elders.

Interviews with elders and other community members began in July of 1996 and continued into May, 1997. During this time, 16 interview sessions were conducted, including several field trips to the Bamberton property to identify plant resources and special areas. In total, some 40 elders, young people and community leaders from the six First Nations communities were involved in the consultation process representing, we believe, a good cross section of age, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds and knowledge of traditional culture. Interview sessions typically consisted of a group of at least 10 to 12 elders from the six communities, although this varied from as few as 4 or 5 to as many as 20. During these meetings, each individual had the opportunity to speak and share thoughts, concerns and information concerning traditional and/or contemporary use of the study area. Elders frequently brought along their children and grandchildren to encourage them to participate in this process. The group interview format was extremely effective and elders found it helpful to have others with similar life experiences present to assist in recalling specific details and this setting also encouraged elders to speak in their own language. When necessary, discussions were translated by Tom Sampson and others. Notes taken during the interviews and field trips have been transcribed and will be archived with the appropriate agency as agreed to by the Management Committee.

As originally set out in the Terms of Reference, this study was to make extensive use of published and unpublished ethnographic materials, including archival information, to supplement the oral history provided by the elders and community members. However, it became evident during the course of community consultations with knowledgeable First Nations historians that much of what was recorded by the early ethnographers (e.g. Boas, Duff, Hill Tout) is inaccurate and in fact, misrepresents the history of the First Nations peoples of the region. Elders noted that in many instances, an ethnographer spoke with only one person in a community, and often, that person did not have the knowledge or authority to speak on the issues raised by the ethnographer. First Nations people have been aware of these difficulties for decades; it is only recently that the inaccuracies associated with early ethnographic efforts have been recognized in the modern anthropological literature (W. Wickwire, pers. comm., Nov. 7, 1997). For these reasons then, our study makes little reference to early ethnographic works and instead, as Ridington suggests, we let the people themselves tell their story.

3.3 Results Part I: The First Nations Context

The information collected during interviews was arranged into several broad categories, to facilitate discussion. These categories represent, to a certain extent, topics and concerns expressed by First Nations peoples during the course of the study.

The discussion of the results begins with a summary of First Nations land and resource use, starting with a review of the traditional calendar of the Saanich Inlet peoples. After describing these traditional seasonal cycles, we examine briefly changes to these lifeways over the last several hundred years, with a particular emphasis on the last half century or so, as this has important implications for the study area. In Section 3.4, we turn to a discussion of specifics of knowledge and use of the study area for spiritual, plant gathering, hunting, fishing and other activities.

After outlining traditional and contemporary uses, the report looks at the importance of these activities to people today and their perceptions and concerns relating to the potential loss of these should the proposed Bamberton Development proceed.

3.3.1 Thirteen Moons: The Traditional Seasonal Rounds

The Northwest Coast is recognized as a land of abundance, a land rich in marine resources and a diversity of plant and animal species. Increasingly, it is also recognized as a landscape which to a large extent, was managed and maintained by the First Nations peoples who have lived in the region for generations (e.g. Turner and Peacock in press; Anderson 1996).

As previously mentioned, the Saanich Inlet is included within the traditional territory of the Saanich, Cowichan and Malahat First Nations. Within these vast traditional territories, the rich marine and terrestrial resources were geographically dispersed and their availability varied seasonally. In other words, the abundant resources of the Coast were concentrated spatially and temporally throughout the territory and throughout the year. To survive, First Nations people developed seasonal strategies with planned and patterned movements throughout their traditional territories. These yearly cycles enabled the people to harvest available resources, store them for periods of scarcity, and to integrate these subsistence pursuits with social and ceremonial activities.

The yearly cycle of the Saanich Inlet peoples reflects the changing seasons, the changing resources and the sophisticated strategies developed by the people to deal with periods of abundance, as well as times of scarcity. According to Tom Sampson (January 28, 1997):

The length of time, the harvesting schedules, the spiritual needs are all tied into the seasons. We have 13 moons -- each with different significance, and that's how we worked.

Similarly, Earl Claxton Sr. wrote (Claxton and Elliott 1993:27):

. . . the economic activities and the cultural activities of our people were related to the seasons. It was not our way to separate these activities when we lived a traditional life because all was sacred to us. Our art, language, spirituality and everyday activities were all one.

The thirteen moons, and their Sencoten and Hul'quminum' names, are listed in Table 1.

TABLE 1: The 13 Moons of the Sencoten and Hulquminum Peoples











ninene Moon of the child January puneq The time when the snow is waist deep January
wexes Moon of the frog February mimne The time of the baby moon; the short month February
pexsisen The moon of opening hands; the blossoming out moon March wulhus The time when the frogs start to sing March
sxánel Bullhead moon April liimus The time when the wild geese fly over (return from the south) April
penáwen Moon of camas harvest May punhwenum The time when the blue camas blooms May
centeki The sockeye moon June yuqwiqwulus The time of warm weather June
cenhenen Humpback salmon return to earth July




The hottest time of the year July
centáwen The coho salmon return to earth August tumqweunhw The time when the mosquitoes are out August
cenqolew The dog salmon return to the earth September puqulenhw The time when the leaves turn colour September
pekelánew The moon that turns the leaves white October hwisulenhw The time when the leaves fall off the trees October
weselánew Moon of the shaker of leaves October/November sh'tsulwe'sum The time when everything is put away -- too cold to do anything November
sjelcásen Moon of putting your paddle away in the bush November/December tthul'hwumutsun The time when the ground is shining, or glistening, from frost or ice December
sis,et The elder moon December

These strategies were not guided solely by economic motivation. Rather, they were regulated by what Anderson (1996) has termed "ecologies of the heart". Movements through the seasons were guided by religious principles and practices. Social sanctions which guided people's behaviour towards one another and the natural world were encoded in the rituals and oral traditions, and passed along between generations in formal ceremonies or through informal storytelling. The important point is this: the spiritual and economic aspects of making a living were not, and are not, separated. If you lived properly, that is, if you respected and honoured the plants and animals, then you lived well.

This connection between religion and resource management is common to Indigenous peoples worldwide and as Anderson (1996) notes, the use of the religious system's emotional power and intellectual authority promotes conservation of resources and teaches environmental knowledge. He concludes, "In short, ecology and religion are inseparable" (1996:55).

Winter villages were the focal point of seasonal activities. From these, families dispersed in late spring and spent much of the summer and early fall travelling throughout traditional territories hunting, fishing and plant gathering. In late fall, people returned again to the winter villages and made preparations for the winter ceremonial season. This pattern of progressive seasonal rounds and resource utilization is of considerable antiquity (see Section 4.0: Archaeological Evidence of Past Land and Resource Use).

The following sections briefly synthesizes the "traditional" seasonal round of Saanich Inlet peoples in order to provide a context for a discussion of specific resource use in study area. It is based on information derived from Elliott and Poth (1990) and Claxton and Elliott (1993), and therefore emphasizes the Saanich calendar. This calendar serves as a general outline of the yearly cycle for all the First Nations groups, and is supplemented by information from the interviews with members of the Malahat, Saanich and Cowichan First Nations conducted as part of this study.

Spring Activities (February to May)

The arrival of spring is announced by the frog, who, in Saanich tradition, is the honoured keeper of the sacred seasons. As the rains diminish and the sun's warmth increases, people put their canoes back in the water and prepared for the "season of plenty". This period marks the end of the winter ceremonial season and ran from February to May.

The herring fishery is extremely important in the spring, as large numbers of herring returned to the Saanich Inlet to spawn. Herring roe was collected on the branches of cedar and hemlock placed in the water, and herring were raked in shallow waters. Ducks were netted in the inlet at this time too, and it is said that during March, clams, oysters and mussels were at their best. As the season progresses, people spent increasing amounts of time on the water. Halibut were fished, old women collected bullheads and seaweed was harvested.

On the land, people ventured into the forests to select and fall cedars for boat building and other uses and to strip cedar bark and collect roots which were stored and left to cure for manufacturing items during the winter season. Young shoots of salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) and nettle (Urtica dioica) were collected and served as important sources of fresh "green" vegetables.

Finally, towards the end of spring, families dispersed from their winter homes to traditional territories (on both land and water) and spring camps to collect and prepare camas bulbs (Camassia quamash and C. leichtlinii), gull eggs and various marine resources.

Summer Activities (May/June to August)

The summer season is associated with the return of the "Salmon People" which marks the reef netting season. At the beginning of /centeki/ moon (May/June), people begin the reef net fishery at hereditary family locations in the Strait, where they remained until August.

Amongst the Saanich Inlet peoples, a sacred ceremony is associated with the arrival of the salmon: The medicine man, /snamen/, would paddle to the farthest point east and call on our ancient relative (the salmon) to come and feed the Saanich people. He prayed, sang and mentioned all the family reef net locations that the salmon would pass (Claxton and Elliott 1993:13).

In addition, a first foods ceremony was associated with the arrival of the sockeye salmon. According to tradition, after the first salmon was caught, all fishing would cease and the ceremony of prayer and feasting began to honour the salmon and show respect for its new generation.

The reefnetting technology enabled the people to access plentiful salmon resources of the Strait about a month earlier than on the mainland. This encouraged considerable trade and exchange at this time of the year between the Saanich Inlet people and the mainland groups for the early, high quality fish.

The remainder of the summer was spent in fishing around the Gulf Islands and as far east as Tsawwassen and Point Roberts, where people established camps for the humpback salmon fishery. In late summer, cod fishing became important, and deer hunting began in late summer.

Summer was also a time of family gatherings, visiting between villages, celebrations and traditional sporting events. As Earl Claxton observes (Claxton and Elliott 1993:15):

This was a time to reaffirm family ties and history and hold other gatherings as well. These included /stanek/ (memorial potlatches), namings, weddings and society (ie. blessing) ceremonies. Potlatching enabled the more fortunate to share and distribute goods with those less fortunate than themselves.

According to the people, to become wealthy was honourable and to share one’s wealth with one’s neighbours was a traditional expression of First Nations’ values.

Fall Activities (September to November)

The return of the dog, or chum salmon to the local rivers of the Saanich Inlet peoples marks the beginning of the fall season and drew the people back into the Saanich Inlet. The Goldstream River at the head of Saanich Inlet, for example, was an important fishery and people gathered there to collect and dry salmon. This was the last salmon to be caught and stored for winter.

With the salmon fishery finished, people turned their attention to cod fishing in the inlet, which was at its best in the fall. Deer and elk hunting also increased in importance at this time of the year as the animals were in prime condition and could be hunted more easily while in rut.

By late summer and early fall, a variety of berries were ripening in the forest and in the mountains around the inlet. People also returned to the forests to prepare the cedar logs felled in the spring, splitting logs, roughing them out and getting other materials ready for winter’s work.

Winter Activities (November to January)

By November, the weather had become unpredictable and stormy, making travel difficult and dangerous, so people settled back into their winter villages. Elder Ernie Rice (October 16, 1996) explained:

November is always rough. It freezes, snows, always rough. December is better. In November, it can be a really nice day and then it gets really windy. Time to quit hunting and fishing, to pull the canoes up and rest. The cold north wind blows. That’s when you light the fires in the big house.

The lighting of the fires in the big house signalled the start of the ceremonial activities -- the winter dances and initiations central to the spiritual well being of the people. Ritual bathing at sacred streams on Mount Newton and /Yaas/, the Malahat Mountain, took place. This is a time of storytelling, teaching of the young people, a time when traditions are reaffirmed and passed along.

During the winter, people lived off the stored foods collected and prepared during the spring, summer and fall. These supplies were supplemented by fishing in local waters, hunting in the mountains for deer and elk, and clam digging during low winter tides.

It was also during winter that people began to work with the materials stored throughout the spring and summer and to manufacture and repair a wide variety of implements necessary for survival. These included "materials for making twine, rope, lines, cables, baskets and storage boxes, cooking utensils and cooking baskets; weaving materials for making baby cradles, etc; tools and fishing gear, either made new or repaired" (Claxton and Elliott 1993:25).

People remained in their winter villages, participating in ceremonies, visiting and storytelling, until the frog called again in early spring, signalling the beginning of another cycle.

3.3.2 The Changing Rhythms of the Traditional Seasonal Rounds

The activities outlined above represent the "traditional" seasonal rounds of the Saanich Inlet peoples. Subsistence activities were planned and patterned, designed to make the most of abundant marine and terrestrial resources which were seasonally diverse and geographically disperse. Winter villages served as the focal point of the subsistence and ceremonial cycles. From these fixed locations, families, the basic economic units, dispersed in late spring to traditional fishing, root digging and berry picking areas throughout the traditional territory. In fall, with the changing of the seasons and the beginnings of the salmon run at Goldstream and other rivers, people’s activities and attentions were again focussed on the waters of the Saanich Inlet and the surrounding countryside, which continued to supply resources -- spiritual and physical -- for the remainder of the year.

This "traditional" pattern, which sustained the Saanich Inlet people for several thousand years, was altered by the arrival of European explorers, traders and settlers in the Pacific Northwest and the subsequent loss of traditional territories, the depletion of resources, and the devastation of communities and families by introduced diseases. The residential school system, which removed children from their families, their communities and their traditions, also contributed to the alienation of First Nations peoples from their traditional lands and lifeways.

One of the most significant events in the process of alienating the First Nations people from their traditional lands and lifeways, was the establishment of the Indian Reserve system and, in the case of the study area, the effect of the so-called Fort Victoria (or Douglas) Treaties (see Duff, 1969) concluded between Sir James Douglas - in his capacity as Governor of the newly established Crown Colony - and various First Nations group in the Victoria and Saanich area. The combined effect of the Douglas Treaties and the Indian Reserve system was to severely restrict the traditional land base of local First Nations while also imposing restrictions, trespass, and the utilization of land and marine resources that were once the basis of the First Nations’ economic and social well-being.

The establishment in 1877 of thirteen Indian Reserves to the "Saanich Tribe," effectively isolated most First Nations people to specific land parcels and severely restricted their ability to utilize their traditional land base.

Despite these often devastating disruptions, the traditional cultural and economic patterns of the Saanich Inlet people persist today, although the details and rhythms of these activities are altered. Many of the same resources are still used, the traditional camps are still visited (when possible) and the family continues to be the basic economic unit. Many of the elders interviewed recall that as young children, they went fishing, clamming or plant gathering with their grandparents in traditional territories -- just as people had done for generations past. Elder Gabe Pelke (January 28, 1997) explained:

We belong to the land, it doesn’t belong to us, the old people said this. Our traditional territory extended into the San Juan islands. In the Inlet, my uncles used to shoot deer, catch cod fish, mink and otter. It was a good life. Dig clams, get crabs, flounders were plentiful -- go and spear them and bring them home, now not there anymore. People at the Malahat -- that mountain is sacred to them just like Mt. Newton is sacred.

Similarly, Ivan Morris recalls hunting, fishing and digging for food when he was very young.

We survived on clams and fish and whatever . . the elders went up the mountain to go hunting, up Willis Point too. People could hunt -- there were no restricted areas. Even ladies used to go out and fish. When they saw whales come in, they would row in because they were afraid of the whales (January 28, 1997)

Elders interviewed noted that up until the 1950’s, the First Nation’s people of the Saanich Inlet obtained the majority of their food from the land and waters of the Inlet. Many hunted and fished for family subsistence, while others were involved as wage labourers in traditional occupations such as clam digging and fishing. They estimate that at least 75% of each family group was working. They recall this period as a time of plenty, relative to the present.

Our whole existence came from the Saanich Inlet. There was no such thing as poverty -- there was so much food (Tom Sampson, April 22, 1996).

However, the encroachment of suburban development on traditional land based territories, combined with the entry of increasing numbers of non-Natives into fisheries and shellfish industries (which were essentially First Nations’ enterprises for several thousand years) during the late 1950’s and 1960’s marked a major turning point in the socio-economic status of the First Nations people of the Saanich Inlet.

The loss of traditional terrestrial resource base areas, due to development and changing land tenure, meant the First Nations people were becoming more dependent upon the cash economy for subsistence. The loss of traditional occupations such as fishing and shellfish harvesting, meant a loss of family income at a time when it was needed most. As one community member explained:

In the 1950’s, we were able to compete in the labour market, but once it was licensed and opened up to whites, Native people were displaced and no longer able to compete (Tom Sampson, December 3, 1996).

These developments also served to focus subsistence efforts and the "traditional" seasonal round more directly on the lands and waters of Saanich Inlet during the last 30 to 40 years, a point which has important implications for this study, as outlined in the following section.

Despite these changes, it is important to emphasize that the traditional pattern persists. This is not to imply that these changes, which have displaced the First Nations peoples and have a had serious impact on their socio-economic status, are acceptable. Rather, it is to stress the fact that the resources of the sea and those of the land continue to be "absolutely necessary". Although the rhythm of the yearly cycle is altered and the instruments for procuring resources differ, the same suite of plants and animals are sought during the same "moons", and the Saanich "year" remains unchanged. The Saanich Inlet continues to play a vital role in the health and well-being of the First Nations people of the area. However, as one elder noted, "If we don’t have the land to practice on, these thirteen moons don’t mean anything".

3.3.3 Naming the Landscape

The traditional pattern of land and resource use described for the People of the Saanich Inlet is one of considerable antiquity, as evidenced by the archaeological record of the region (see Section 4.0). However, the significance and time-depth of the relationship between the First Nations people and the landscape is perhaps best reflected in the place names assigned to culturally important locations throughout their traditional territory (see Basso 1987 for a discussion of the significance of place names).

Both Sencoten and Hul’qumi’num’ speakers provided place names for locations throughout the Saanich Inlet and the Bamberton property specifically. As Elliott and Poth (1990:19) note,

All the names have a meaning. They describe the physical geography, refer to the use, or to a story. Since the Saanich People named the places they knew and used, the placenames represent the extent of the traditional territory. The placenames are evidence of occupation and use.

Together, the Sencoten and Hul’qumi’num’’ place names reflect the significance of the relationship between this land and the First Nations peoples. A comprehensive list of Sencoten placenames is available in Saltwater People (Elliot and Poth 1990). Rozen’s (1985) unpublished Master’s thesis, Place Names of the Island Halkomelem Indian People, provides a list of Hul’qumi’num’’ place names. Readers are also referred to the Saanich Inlet Study (Simonsen et al. 1995) for a synthesis of these data.

3.4 Results Part II: First Nations Land and Resource Use

In the previous section, we outlined the history and nature of traditional First Nations use of the study area, emphasizing that although what is termed the "traditional" cycle of seasonal subsistence activities has been altered, the basic pattern persists and resources from the land and the ocean continue to play a prominent role in First Nations lifeways.

In this section, we summarize evidence from the interviews regarding the specifics of traditional and contemporary use of the Saanich Inlet, the Malahat Mountain and the Bamberton property and include information from other aspects of the overall study, to provide an up-to-date context leading up to statements of impact and project effect.

3.4.1 Spiritual Resources: /Yaas/ as a Sacred Landscape

Indigenous peoples throughout northwestern North America consider mountains sacred places, the homes of spirits and the source of power and strength, both physical and spiritual (eg. Reeves and Peacock 1995). /Yaas/ is such a place to the people of the Saanich Inlet.

The spiritual significance of /Yaas/ was initially discussed in Section 2.0 in the context of the relationship between the First Nations people of the Saanich Inlet and the landscape of the region, a landscape dominated by the Malahat Mountain.

Today, as in the past, the Malahat Mountain area is used by the First Nations people for ceremonies associated with the transition from childhood to adulthood for young men and women, as well as for ritual bathing associated with the longhouse traditions and the winter ceremonies, all of which form the foundation of the religious principles and practices of the Saanich Inlet peoples. Without revealing the specifics of these practices, and thereby diminishing their spiritual powers, suffice to say the water on the Malahat -- its creeks, streams, ponds and lakes, are central to these rituals, as are the plant and animal medicines associated with each. This is what the elders say:

You receive spiritual power through the water in the mountains. The water is for everybody. The water is healing and no matter how big or how small, always find a place to bathe. (Theresa Rice, July 29, 1996).

The water is strong; the water is alive. Talk to the water, always face east when you go in. Everything around you is alive, the trees and rocks. Always pray when you pick medicines. Always have a clear mind when you pick medicines and talk to the plants (Theresa Thorne, July 30, 1996).

The majority of the elders and community members interviewed had bathed or fasted on the Malahat Mountain, and continue to do so today. (In fact, S. Peacock was honoured to participate in a bathing in one of the sacred pools in August of 1996). Further, these traditions have been passed to their children and grandchildren. For example, Tom Sampson (August 7, 1996) took his seven year old grandson up the mountain to teach them to be awake or /wewehas/. He explained that today, children’s minds are "asleep", not alert, a result of European influences.

Each of the elders involved in the study expressed considerable concern regarding the destruction of sacred bathing places on the Malahat Mountain. For example, Ernie Rice (July 29, 1996) explained:

Areas of bathing and washing are very important and provided they are not altered, will always have that power and will never go away. Once altered, it becomes a disaster for the First Nations people who use them.

According to the elders, there were formerly six creeks on the Malahat Mountain used for ceremonial bathing. Each of these is named in the Sencoten language, and each creek has a specific use and specific medicines associated with it (Ernie Rice, July 29, 1996). Unfortunately, only one remains accessible today; the others have been damaged by development and pollution.

Elders and community members were equally concerned about the lack of privacy for these sacred activities in the areas that remain.

The sacred water in the creek -- (name of creek) -- we used to go there to bathe, new dancers go there, but now we can’t because there’s no privacy (Theresa Sam, March 13, 1997).

These sentiments were echoed by numerous others over the course of the year and one elder recounted the story of her granddaughter and other young women being ambushed while participating in a ritual bathing by people with videocameras.

In summary, although the specifics of the ceremonial nature of the activities associated with the Malahat are not described in detail in order to respect the wishes of the community, the protection of the /Yaas/, or the Malahat Mountain, its waters, its land and plant resources, is without a doubt the most important issue from the First Nations perspective arising from community interviews. The fact that the sacred activities associated with the Malahat are inextricably linked to all other aspects of the traditional culture of the First Nations peoples, makes protection of this sacred site that more urgent.

3.4.2 Plant Resources

The contributions of plant resources to the "maritime" cultures of the Northwest Coast are often overlooked and undervalued in discussions of traditional resource use. However, a growing body of ethnobotanical research (e.g. Turner 1995; Turner and Peacock, in press) points to the significance of plants as foods, medicines, materials and spiritual aids in the lives of Indigenous peoples of the region.

Ethnobotanical investigations undertaken as part of the Bamberton project reveal that some 75 species of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, as well as a variety of ferns, mosses, lichens and algae, utilized by the People of the Inlet occur within the Bamberton property (or immediately offshore). A tabulation of "uses" indicates at least 31 species were used for food, 61 for medicines, 23 for materials in technologies, and 19 for spiritual or ceremonial purposes. The cultural significance of these plant resources is further reflected in the fact that each species has a corresponding name in Sencoten or Hul’qumi’num’. In addition, several locations in the Saanich Inlet are named after specific plant resources (see Simonsen et al. 1995; Elliott and Poth 1990).

This list is based on interviews with elders conducted by S. Peacock, as well as a review of unpublished Saanich ethnobotany field notes compiled by Dr. Nancy Turner and Dr. Richard Hebda. Pojar and MacKinnon (1994) also include ethnobotanical notes provided by Dr. Nancy Turner. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the plant species utilized presently, or in the past, but rather, represents current knowledge of these researchers and the people of the Inlet.

The results of the ethnobotanical investigations are presented in Tables 2 to 5. Plants are listed alphabetically by their scientific name, followed by their common name. The uses of each plant are divided into four broad categories: Food (F), Medicinal (M), Technological (T) and Spiritual (S). It is important to note there is considerable overlap between these categories as for example, the distinction between "food" and "medicine" is often one of degree, not kind. Many "foods" are also considered to have "medicinal" or health-promoting properties. Similarly, all plants have "spiritual" properties, but only certain plants are used specifically for ceremonial purposes.

TABLE 2: Herbaceous Plants on the Bamberton Property Utilized by the First Nations People of the Saanich Inlet

Scientific Name Common Name F M T S Community** Map Unit***
Achillea millefolium Yarrow X GO, FJ, DFA, D 1, 1a, 2m, 6
Achlys triphylla Vanilla leaf X DFA, DFS, RC 2o, 2l, 2m, 3m, 4m, 4y
Allium cernuum Nodding onion X X* GO, DFA 1, 2a
Anaphalis margaritaceae Pearly everlasting X GO, DFA, DFS 1, 2l, 3l
Brodiaea coronaria Harvest brodiaea X FJ 1a
Camassia leichtlinii Giant camas X GO 1
Camassia quamash Blue camas X GO 1
Cerastium arvense Chickweed X GO, FJ 1, 1a
Daucus pusillus* American wild carrot X D 6
?Epilobium angustifolium* Fireweed X D 6
Fragaria vesca & F. virginiana Strawberry X X GO, FJ, DFA, DFS 1, 1a, 2m, 2a, 3l
Fritillaria lanceolata Chocolate Lily X GO, DFA 1, 2a, 2m
Goodyera oblongifera Rattlenake plantain X GO, BFA 1, 2o
Hypericum perforatum St. John’s wort X D 6
Lathyrus nevandensis Peavine X X GO, DFA, DFS 1, 2a, 3l
Lysichiton americanum Skunk-cabbage X X RC, RSC, CMC 4m, 5m, 6m/o
Lomatium dissectum Fern-leaved desert- parsley X X GO, FJ, DFA 1, 1a, 2a
Lomatium nudicale Indian consumption plant X X X GO, FJ, DFA 1, 1a, 2a
Lomatium utriculatum Spring Gold X GO, FJ, DFA 1, 1a, 2a
Oenathe sarmentosa Pacifc Water Parsley X CMC 6m/o
Osmorhiza chilensis* Sweet cicely X DFA 2m, 2l
Plantago major Broad-leaved Plaintain X DFS 3l
Satureja douglasii Yerba buena X X GO, DFA 1, 2a, 2o
Stachys cooleyae* Cooley’s hedge-nettle X GO, CMC 1, 6m/o
Typha latifolia* Cattail X Ponds W
Trifolium sp. Clover X DFS 3l
Urtica dioica* Stinging nettle X X X RC, CMC 4y, 6m/o
Veratrum viride* Indian hellebore X CMC, RC 4, 6m/o

F= Food; M=Medicine; T=Technology; S = Spiritual

TABLE 3: Tree Species on the Bamberton Property utilized by the First Nations Peoples of the Saanich Inlet

Scientific Name Common Name F M T S Community** Map Unit***
Abies grandis Grand fir X X DFS, RC 3m, 4m
Acer macrophyllum Bigleaf maple X DFA, DFS, RC, CMC 2o, 3m, 3l, 4m/o, 4m, 4l 6m/o
Alnus rubra Red alder X* X X RC, RSC, CMC 4m/o, 4m, 4y, 5m, 5y, 6m/o
Arbutus menziesii Arbutus X X X GO, DFA, DFS 2o, 2m, 2y, 2l, 2a, 3m, 3y, 3l
Cornus nuttallii Western flowering dogwood X X* DFA 2o
Juniperus scopulorum* Rocky mountain juniper X GO 1
Pinus contorta var latifolia* Lodgepole Pine X X DFS? 3m?
Pinus monticola Western white pine X X RC 4m
Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa Black cottonwood X X DFS, CMC 3l, 6m/o
Pseudotsuga menziesii Douglas fir X X DFA, DFS, RC, CMC 2o, 2m, 2y, 2l, 3m, 3y, 3l. 4m 6m/o
Quercus garryanna Garry Oak X* X X GO, 1
Salix sp. Willow X X DFA, DFS, ponds 2o, 2l, 3m, 3l, W
Taxus brevifolia Western yew X X RC 4m
Thuja plicata Western redcedar X X X RC, RSC, DFS, CMC 4m/o, 5m, 5y, 3m, 3l, 3y, 4l, 6 m/o
Tsuga heterophylla Western hemlock X X RC, RSC, DFS 4m/o, 4l, 5m, 3m
Unidentified treee “the bitterroot” comes from tree X

F= Food; M=Medicine; T=Technology; Sp = Spiritual

TABLE 4: Shrub Species on the Bamberton Property utilized by the First Nations Peoples of the Saanich Inlet

Scientific Name Common Name F M T S Community** Map Unit***
Amelanchier alnifolia Saskatoon X X* GO, DFA, DFS 1, 2o, 3l
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Kinnickinnick X DFS 3l
Cornus stolonifera* Red osier dogwood X CMC 6m/o
Corylus cornuta ssp. californica* Hazelnut X DFA, RC 2o, 4m
Cytisus scoparius Scotch broom X ? GO, FJ, DFA, DFS, RC, RSC, CMC, ponds all invasive
Gaultheria shallon Salal X X X GO, DFA, DFS, RC, RSC, ponds 1, 2o, 3m, 3l, 4m, 4y, 5, W
Holodiscus discolor Oceanspray X X X GO, DFA, DFS, ponds 1, 2a, 2o, 2m, 2l, 3m, W
Lonicera sp. Honeysuckle X GO, DFA, DFS 1, 2a, 2o, 3l

Mahonia aquifolium &

M. nervosa

Tall Oregon grape & Dull Oregon grape X X G0, DFA, DFS, RC 1, 2a, 2o, 2l, 2m, 3m, 3l, 4m, 4y
Ribes spp.* Gooseberry X X X
Rosa gymnocarpa Baldhip rose X X* GO, DFA, DFS 2o, 2m, 2l, 2a, 3l
Rosa nutkana Nootka rose X* X* GO, DFA, DFS 2o, 2m, 2a, 2l, 3l
Rubus parviflorus Thimbleberry X X GO, DFA, DFS 1, 2o, 3l
Rubus leucodermis Blackcaps X X DFA, DFA 2o, 2m, 2l
Rubus ursinus Trailing wild blackberry X X* X GO, DFS 1, 3m, 3l
Rubus spectabilis Salmonberry X X* RS, RSC, CMC, ponds 4m/o, 4y, 5m, 5y, 6m/o, W
Sambucus racemosa* Red elderberry X RC, RSC, CMC 4m, 5m, 6m/o
Shepherdia canadensis Soopalallie; Soapberry X X X DFS 3l
Symphoricarpus albus Common Snowberry X GO, DFA, DFS 1, 2a, 2o, 2l, 3l
Vaccinium parviflorum Red huckleberry X X DFA 2l

F= Food; M=Medicine; T=Technology; S = Spiritual

TABLE 5: Ferns, Mosses & Lichens on the Bamberton Property utilized by the First Nations People of the Saanich Inlet

Scientific Common F M T S Community** Map Unit***
Athyrium filix-femina Lady fern X RSC, CMC 5m, 6m/o
Blechnum spicant Deer fern ? X RSC 5m. 5y
Equisetum hyemale* Branchless horsetail X S RSC 5m
Equisetum telmateia Giant horsetail X RSC, CMC 5m, 5y, 6m/o
?Parmelia sulcata* Waxpaper lichen X
Polypodium glycyrrhiza Licorice Fern X X ? DFA, RC, RSC, 2o, 4, 5
Polystichum munitum Sword Fern X X X DFS, RC, CMC, ponds 3l, 4m/o, 4m, 4y, 6m/o, W
Pteridium aquilinum Bracken Fern X X X DFA, DFS 2m, 2l, 3l, 3m
Unidentified “moss” on alder X
Unidentified “lichen” X

F= Food; M=Medicine; T=Technology; S = Spiritual

TABLE 6: Vegetation Communities of the Bamberton Site (adapted from Radcliffe et al. 1993)

Community Abrev. Seral Stages Map Unit
Garry Oak GO

Garry oak bluffs

Fescue Junegrass



Douglas-fir - Arbutus DFA

Old-growth forest

Mature second growth forest

Young second growth forest

Recently-logged forest

Arbutus rock bluffs






Douglas-fir - Salal DFS

Mature second growth forest

Young second growth forest

Recently logged forests




Redcedar RC

Mature/Old growth forest

Mature second growth forest

Young forests

Recently logged forests





Redcedar - Skunk Cabbage RCS

Mature second growth forest

Young second growth forest

Recently logged forest




Cottonwood - Maple CMC

Mature/old-growth forest

Young second growth forest



Ponds P Ponds W
Disturbed Sites D

Unvegetated areas

Grass and Forbs







These culturally significant species are distributed throughout the six plant community types identified within the larger Coastal Douglas Fir biogeoclimatic zone for the Bamberton property. These include: the Garry oak community; the Douglas-fir - Arbutus community; the Douglas-fir - Salal community; the Redcedar community; the Redcedar - Skunk cabbage community; and the Cottonwood - Maple community. This classification is based upon the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification developed by the Ministry of Forests (Pojar et al. 1987) and applied to the Bamberton project by Radcliffe et al. (1993). Readers are referred to this biological inventory for a complete description of each of these community types.

Information concerning the distribution of each plant species, as assessed by S. Peacock during field studies of the Bamberton property, is presented in the ethnobotanical tables under "Community". Radcliffe et al. (1993), noting that history of land use on Bamberton site makes the classification of vegetation communities problematic, further divided plant communities into seral or successional stages, identified as "Map Unit", and outlined in Table 6.

This distributional information is depicted on Map 3, which plots the location of these plant communities and habitat associations within the Bamberton property. This represents a qualitative assessment only; the next step in the process would be to assess the densities of culturally significant species within each of the vegetation communities outlined above.

Food plants

Plants were important contributors to the traditional diets of the NW Coast peoples who collected, processed and stored a wide variety of green "vegetables", roots and berries (Turner 1995). These provided important sources of carbohydrates, vitamins and other nutrients to complement the marine and animal protein sources (e.g. Kuhnlein and Turner 1991).

As noted above, 31 plant species used for food by Saanich Inlet peoples occur at Bamberton. These include greens such as the shoots of salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) and thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), as well as inner cambium bark of trees such as poplar (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) and hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla).

Root resources were formerly important staples in diets. Camas (Camassia quamash and C. leichtlinii) in particular, was highly valued and people planned their seasonal movements to coincide with the ripening of camas meadows (Figure 4). The harvesting and processing of camas was a cooperative venture, as camas, in order to be edible, must be processed in large earth ovens for periods of up to several days. Once cooked, it becomes highly digestible and very sweet-tasting and may then be dried and stored for winter.

Elders remember collecting camas or /spáanexw/ and Ernie Rice (October 16, 1996) identified the area south of the cement plant as a place where camas grows, noting that rocky bluffs are a good place to get camas.

/Spáanexw/ [camas] grows on other side of Bamberton, on an open hillside. Pick it and dry it like onions. Break it up, smash it and put water in -- use it like sugar. Camas is used like sugar. You can mix /xhoosim/ [soapberries] with it.

Subsequent field reconnaissance supports these observations. Camas occurs along the rocky bluffs on southeast facing slopes along McCurdy and Shephard points in association with Garry Oak and open grassland vegetation and on the near-shore bluffs just south of the cement plant.

As a point of interest, it is now widely recognized that the Garry Oak meadows of southeastern Vancouver Island are not "natural" but in fact, anthropogenic landscapes created and maintained by First Nations people through the use of landscape burning, selective harvesting and weeding to promote the growth of culturally important species, such as camas (Turner and Peacock in press; Norton 1979).

During interviews, several elders (Tom Sampson and Ernie Rice, October 16, 1996) made reference to landscape burning, noting:

You have to make sure the land is ready for spring. We burned the ground at one time to prepare the land. You burn camas areas to burn contamination. Our way of preparing things was different. In the interior of British Columbia, they [Native peoples] used to set up bush fires to kill bugs. It’s the same here. Who burns depends on what you’re preparing.

Although it was suggested that the camas around McCurdy Point "was not burned because it’s too rocky there", the old-growth forest in these areas show evidence of burning (Radcliffe et al. 1993). However, it is unclear at present whether this burning is the result of human activities designed to manage the Garry Oak meadows there or if it is related to natural forest fire activity.

The mouth of the Goldstream River was noted as a good place to collect plants and that people planted potatoes there (Roy Daniels, March 13, 1997). If the adoption of potatoes among the Saanich Inlet peoples follows patterns elsewhere for the Northwest Coast (e.g. Suttles 1951) then we suspect that this area was formerly used as family owned "gardens" for the cultivation of more traditional foods such as rhizomes of springbank clover and Pacific silverweed (Turner 1995; Turner and Kuhnlein 1982; Turner and Peacock, in press).

Berries were another important food source for the Saanich Inlet peoples and berries of all varieties were collected in large quantities, formed into cakes, dried and stored for winter. More than 10 species of berries, including saskatoons (Amelanchier alnifolia), salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) and strawberries (Fragaria sp.), occur on the Bamberton property. The Malahat area in general, is remembered as a productive berry picking area. Numerous community members recalled collecting soapberries, blackcaps (Rubus leucodermis), huckleberries (Vaccinium parviflorum) and "blueberries" or Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.) there.

Ernie Rice (July 16, 1996) noted that there used to be lots of soapberries (Figure 7) on Malahat Mountain and he used to come up, pick them, dry them and make Indian ice cream.

Now you can’t find them on the mountain, I don’t know what’s going on but you don’t see them anymore.

Similarly, Tom Sampson (July 29, 1996) recalled that soapberries used to be plentiful around the Malahat.

You could just go out and pick 2 or 3 jars in no time. Just grab the branch and all the berries would go in the jar.

His grandmother used to settle the kids down and make Indian ice cream and when the kids were eating, she would tell stories. This was a good teaching method because the kids were eating and they were quiet!

Wild blackberries, salal (Gaultheria shallon), black caps and strawberries used to be collected and traded (Elders group, December 3, 1996).

Medicinal Plants

The use of medicinal plants requires a sophisticated knowledge and understanding of the properties of each plant since the ingredients that make them active also makes them potentially fatal if not properly prepared and administered. For that reason, knowledge of medicinal plants tends to be more specialized than food plant knowledge, and is held within families and passed between generations, so that within any community, this knowledge varies with age, gender and life experiences of individuals. Furthermore, many First Nations people are unwilling to discuss their own particular medicines as this is seen to diminish power of those medicines.

Nonetheless, the ethnobotanical study identified over 60 medicinal plants utilized by the Saanich, Malahat and Cowichan peoples which occur within the Bamberton property. According to oral traditions, as the flood waters receded from the top of the Malahat, the Creator placed these medicines on the mountain for the people to use. Edward Thomas (September 5, 1996) explained, noting:

The medicines are on both sides of the mountain. Some grow on the sunny side, some in the shade. This shows that we own both sides of mountain.

He learned the traditional medicines by "going up on the mountain with the elders and they would show you all the trees and shrubs and herbs you’d need for medicines when you grow up" (Edward Thomas, July 16, 1996). There were specific times for harvesting each species -- some were good only in the spring, others were more potent in the fall. People also had preferred locations for collecting medicinal plants where some plants were considered more powerful or more effective.

As with all plant collecting, prayers were offered to plants before harvesting.

You have to respect trees, speak to them so they will understand and they give you their strength.

Ernie Rice, July 30, 1996.

When elders get medicines, they don’t just pick it. You thank the plant, talk and pray to it. You show respect for all things growing.

Ivan Morris, October 16,1996.

You have to thank nature and plants before you use them. You thank what you use.

Roy Daniels, October 16, 1996.

Each person has own place to go for medicine. To our people, everything is sacred. My granny thanked the tree before taking bark for medicine. After 2 or 3 days, you go back and see if the tree healed and if so, that means the person is healed.

Theresa Sam, March 13, 1996.

The previous tables list the medicinal plants found at Bamberton and which are used to treat a wide variety of ailments, from coughs and colds, cuts, bruises, sprains, to more serious complaints such as diabetes and tuberculosis. The specific uses and preparations of these medicinal plants are not detailed, to respect the wishes of those who share their information. Again, it is important to note that these medicines cured both the body and the soul. First Nations people recognized the link between spiritual and physical well being.

Given the privileged nature of medicinal plant knowledge, it is not surprising that the study was unable to identify specific harvesting locales on the Bamberton property. However, several elders recalled their parents collecting plant medicines at Bamberton (Audrey Sampson, Feb 3, 1997). Ivan Morris (September 10, 1996), for example, said his parents "used to come along the waterfront and get medicinal plants. They didn’t go to doctors, they used their own medicines".

During field outings, several elders commented on the abundance of medicines on the Bamberton property. Madeleine Morris (September 10, 1996) remarked that she’d "never seen a reserve so rich in medicines as this one [meaning the Malahat mountain]". Others noted that traditional medicines "are now outside of the reserves, that’s why areas such as Bamberton are so important" (Tom Sampson, September 10, 1996). Ivan Morris (September 10, 1996) said he wants to "find a way to save the medicines in the hills -- some are very scarce and we can’t find some of the things we were taught to use".

Plants as Materials in Technology

Trees, shrubs and fibrous plants also provided the raw materials for a range of products, including clothing, cooking utensils, baskets, storage boxes, fishing lines and nets, spears and hooks, canoes and housing. Species used in traditional technologies are listed in Tables 2 to 5.

Red cedar (Thuja plicata) was especially important in traditional technologies and is often called the "tree of life", the cornerstone of traditional Northwest Coast culture. Its bark, roots and wood were utilized for a variety of purposes. Elders recall canoes were made from cedars found along the western slopes of the Saanich Inlet.

My uncle built all his canoes from here [Bamberton] and to Goldstream. Eight canoes in his life. Now you can’t find red cedar anymore. Its logged out and when they clear the land, all the mud goes into the inlet (Solomon Harry, September 18, 1996).

Edward Thomas’ grandfather and uncle also made canoes. His grandfather "went away for two months and came back with a whole bunch of canoes. He cut them down and shaped them at Goldstream" (Edward Thomas, July 29, 1996).

Others recall the old people going up to get cedar bark for bailers at Bamberton. When harvesting bark, they would always take it off the east side, approximately a two foot square piece (Roy Daniels, March 13, 1997). Harvesting from the east side ensured the tree would heal.

Trees were not wasted, they were used all year round. They were used for [ceremonial] paint for the longhouse. Windfall trees, when shooting ducks, you use the branches to help hide. Pitch from trees was used for clam digging and wood for spearing. Torches, this is a hard pitch in the core of windfall trees, use it as a torch. The pitch is really red, the tree has to be dead for a long time.

Spiritual Uses

As indicated in Tables 2 to 5, at least 19 plant species found on the Bamberton lands have special spiritual significance to the Peoples of the Saanich Inlet. That is, they play a role in oral traditions, rituals associated with bathing and/or the longhouse ceremonies.

The arbutus (Arbutus menziesii), for example, is a sacred tree associated with the origin stories of the people and for that reason, is not allowed to be chopped down or used for wood (Ernie Rice, October 1996). Others are valued for their cleansing abilities, or for the strength they impart, or for their protective properties (eg. wild rose).

Plants also represent the connection between the land, the animals and the people. Elders commented on several occasions that the deer eat the medicines of the mountain and so, become in turn, medicine for the people (Edward Thomas, Tom Sampson). Plants, particularly aromatic species, also act as mediators between the natural and supernatural arenas, cleansing the individual by masking their human scent, making them acceptable to the spirits of the other world.

The Continuing Importance of Plant Resources

The ethnobotanical information presented here, although not exhaustive, is sufficient to recognize the depth and strength of relationship between the Malahat, Saanich and Cowichan peoples and the plant resources of the Saanich Inlet, a relationship developed through centuries of wise use and management. Approximately 75 different species have been recognized, named, collected and prepared for a variety of uses, ranging from foods, medicines, spiritual helpers and materials. Each is respected and is representative of the sacredness of the connection between the people and their land.

Changes to traditional diets, combined with the decline of traditional medicinal practices, has resulted in significant health problems for First Nations peoples throughout North America (e.g. Kuhnlein and Turner 1991), a fact widely recognized by the elders during the course of this study.

Elders attribute these problems, in large part, to the loss of their traditional foods and medicines as they are alienated from their land and forced to acculturate. A selection of the elders’ comments emphasize this point.

People become weak when taken off the land. Residential schools brainwashed people. The foods were terrible. Residential schools are the key to understanding why so many people are "down".

Theresa Thorne, October 3, 1996.

Foods -- it’s important to put people on the right track -- diabetes, cancer all stems from the wrong food -- that’s what’s wrong with Native Indians. We need to reintroduce traditional medicines, not doctors because that’s the wrong medications.

Theresa Thorne, September 5, 1996.

Now we all go to the doctor for prescriptions. If we all went back to traditional medicines, maybe we wouldn’t be so sickly.

Theresa Sam, March 13, 1997.

We go to the doctor, but they don’t have what we need. Traditional medicines are comfort for us. Medicines from the doctor often makes us worse.

Ivan Morris, September 5, 1996.

The elders strongly believe a return to traditional foods and medicines would be beneficial to the First Nations people. However, they recognize that this is becoming increasingly difficult as there are fewer and fewer areas available for harvesting plant foods or collecting medicinal plants. In the study area for example, large quantities of land have been lost to housing developments, others are polluted or logged (e.g the property south of Bamberton), and others are turned into protected areas (e.g. the Gowland Range) and provincial parks (e.g. Goldstream). The net result, these traditional plant gathering areas are all inaccessible to First Nations people of the Saanich Inlet. Again, the comments of the elders:

[There are] certain places for certain medicines and now we can’t go into private property.

Tom Sampson, March 13, 1997.

It’s hard to get native medicines today because of all the development; Medicines I saw five years ago are now wiped out. Now you have to go a long way to get what you need.

Theresa Thorne, September 5, 1996.

Everything’s against us and now we’re just about losing our land. We can’t roam around here like the old people used to, looking for medicine.

Edward Thomas, July 29, 1996.

Finally, the elders expressed concern about the continuity of these plant harvesting practices in the future. They worry that without a land base, their children and grandchildren will have nowhere to learn the medicines.

I have lots of concerns. There used to be lots of medicines around home [meaning on his reserve] now only up in the hills [Bamberton], so if Bamberton happens, where will we get our medicines? Have to travel way up to Duncan area now, I just collected some from there last week. But they’re destroyed at home and now we’re losing more of it. If they put those [houses] in there [Bamberton], then we have nothing. Our future for our young ones -- where will they get medicines?

Ivan Morris, September 5, 1995.

3.4.3 Terrestrial Mammals

The Saanich Inlet generally, and Malahat Mountain specifically, were traditionally the focus of hunting and trapping activities throughout the fall and winter when people settled in the winter villages around the Inlet. Various place names throughout the study area reflect the cultural significance of these activities (e.g. Gowland range = ‘deer hunting place’).

Elders interviewed readily recalled their people hunting and trapping on the Malahat, at Goldstream, along the Gowland Range and around Willis Point. Ivan Morris recalled his family hunting at Bamberton. His father would go up and hunt because there were no jobs and no welfare in those days. Young men used to gather at his house -- they all had guns -- and then they would head out hunting for food. When Ivan was a teenager, about 13 or 14 years old, he and his brother used to go hunting for deer on the Malahat. They hunted at Bamberton, along the water and up the hills, just south of the cement plant (Ivan Morris, September 10, 18 & October 3, 1996).

Similarly, Solomon Harry (September 18, 1996) said that as a young person, he used to go up the mountain every day hunting with his brother. This was in the 1950’s. Tom Sampson’s grandfather used to hunt bear on the Malahat and sell them to the Hudson’s Bay Company in Victoria (December 3, 1996).

Trapping was also an important economic activity. Edward Thomas (December 3, 1996) recalled:

My grandfather used to trap at Goldstream -- raccoon, mink, otter -- all over the Malahat and beaver at Spectacle Lake. When trapping, go out for a couple of days, camp with three or four people. One stays at camp and the others check the lines.

Tom Sampson’s grandparents also used to hunt mink and raccoon up the Saanich Inlet and sell the pelts to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

They’d get 10 to 20 mink at a time which was good money -- $200 to $300, one mink was about $45. That was about 40 years ago (Tom Sampson, December 3, 1996).

Hunting in the Saanich Inlet, then, provided families with meat as well as opportunities to trade with local grocers (eg. Slades) for produce such as oranges and bananas, while trapping provided a cash income, which was particularly welcome around the Christmas season (Tom Sampson, December 3, 1996).

It is important to note that hunting provides more than just physical sustenance to the Saanich Inlet peoples. Like plant resources, many game animals have a role in spiritual activities as well. Deer fat, for example, plays an important role in the winter ceremonies.

Unfortunately, hunting has become increasingly difficult -- if not impossible -- in most of the Saanich Inlet due to increased development pressures, a point commented upon by numerous people. Several also made direct reference to being "kicked off" the Bamberton property when hunting years ago. As Ivan Morris commented:

I’m being kicked out of places where I used to hunt. Now my sons and grandsons have to travel so far because now there are no deer here, too many houses (September 18, 1996).

A list of the animal species utilized by First Nations people of the Saanich Inlet is presented in Table 7.

TABLE 7: Terrestrial Mammals of the Study Area utilized by the First Nations People of the Saanich Inlet

Scientific Name Common Name
Canis lupus wolf
Castor canadensis beaver
Cervus elaphus elk
Loutra canadensis ssp. mira river otter
Mistela vison mink
Odocoileus hemionus ssp. columbianus black-tailed deer
Procyon lotor raccoon
Ursus americanus black bear

3.4.4 Marine Resources

Marine resources, as noted above, formed a fundamental component of traditional lifeways, and remain important to contemporary First Nations people. They are discussed in this study of the Bamberton project because, as mentioned in the introductory section, the peoples of the Saanich Inlet recognize the close relationship between the land and the sea. They, perhaps more than any other group, have witnessed first-hand the impacts of development on the marine resources of the Saanich Inlet, impacts which have directly and drastically altered their traditional lifeways.

Information obtained during community interviews reveals a wide variety of fish, shellfish and other invertebrates, waterfowl and marine mammals were utilized throughout the seasons. Those collected from the Saanich Inlet are identified in Table 8. Aside from their obvious use as food, marine resources also served as medicines and as ritual foods associated with ceremonial activities. The cultural significance of these resources is reflected in the places names associated with the procurement of marine resources throughout the Saanich Inlet (see discussion in Section 3).

TABLE 8: Marine Resources of the Saanich Inlet utilized by the First Nations People

Fish Species

Scientific Name Common Name
Anchoa spp. anchovies
Clupea harengus pallasi herring
Gymnachirus spp. “flatfish” - sole
Hippolglossus stenolepis halibut
Oncorhynchus kisuth coho salmon
Oncorhynchus nerka sockeye salmon
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha chinook/spring salmon
Oncorhynchus gorbuscha humpback/pink salmon
Oncorhynuchus keta chum/dog salmon
Ophiodon elongatus ling/green cod
Osmerus spp. smelt
Sculpin spp. bullhead
Sebastes spp. rock cod
Squalus oncanthias dogfish

Shellfish and Other Invertebrates

Scientific Name Common Name
Balunus spp. barnacles
Cancer spp. crab
Clinocardium nuttalli cockle clam
Crtassostrea gigas Pacific (Japanese) oyster
Mytilas spp. mussels
Octopus dofleini octopus
Ostrea lurida native oyster
Parastichopus californicus sea cucumber
Saxidomus giganteus butter clam
Strongylocentrotus spp. sea urchin
Tapes japonica manilla clam

Marine Mammals

Scientific Name Common Name
Eschrichtius robustus Gray whale
Eumetopias jubatus Steller sea lion
Orcinus orca killer whale
Phoca vitulina harbour seal
Phocoenoides delli porpoise


The reefnet fisheries described earlier in this report are outside of the study area, and will not be discussed further here. However, a number of fish resources, including herring, several species of cod, as well as coho, chinook and chum salmon, were the focus of fishing activity within the Saanich Inlet.

According to the elders, everybody fished. In fact:

Everyone had a spear in front of the house and if you didn’t have a spear and a canoe, you were considered "poor", and not part of the people (Tom Sampson, December 3, 1996).

Simon Smith (December 3, 1996) used to fish in the morning before he went to school. His grandmother told him he couldn’t go outside the bay because he might catch a big fish and get pulled way out to sea! His grandmother would sell the fish.

Herring used to spawn in the Saanich Inlet in early spring. The elders said someone would always watch the beach, waiting for their arrival, and would call out to the rest of the village to come and rake them. The herring were so numerous they would bump each other out of the water and so it looked like they were jumping right up on the beach. When this happened, whoever was around would go and catch herring (Georgina Smith, March 13, 1997). People also put out cedar branches to collect herring spawn, which was then dried and stored.

May Sam (February 3, 1997) said her mother and father "lived on herrings". At Stuart Island, just before day break, they’d jig with small hooks, 10 or 12 on a line, and keep doing this until they had collected a tubful of herring. The herring were left in the tub for 2 or 3 days until tender. They had a way of cleaning them that left the meat and tail and they were hung by the tail and smoked.

Flounder was speared at various locations in the Saanich Inlet, including Sandy Beach (Samuel Sam, Elmer Henry). In Cowichan Bay, in a large tidal flat area, the kids used to jump out of the canoes to step on flounders hiding in the sand and hold them until someone came to get them out (May Sam, February 3, 1997)

Rock cod and ling cod were also important resources collected in November, December and January from the waters of the Saanich Inlet. According to the elders, Todd Inlet used to be "great" for ling cod. At this time of year, they were spawning and easy to spear. Madeleine Morris used to go spearing with her Auntie when she was little and she "always got something. There used to be lots of cod fish eggs, now they’re gone. We used to eat them" (October 16, 1996). Ivan Morris (October 16, 1996) recalls spearing fish along the waterfront. Similarly, Elmer Henry used to spear fish when he was young right on the beach at Pacquachin. Now, he says, "you can’t see the bottom of the water, but it used to be crystal clear" (September 18, 1996).

Tom Sampson was taught by his grandfather how to spear codfish, how to see them underwater. According to Tom,

The trick is to spear them when they’re pointing uphill, towards the beach because this means they’ve spawned. If they’re facing downhill, they’re not ready to spawn and when they are sideways they’ve picked a spot but not are ready yet. If you try to spear them when they’re facing downhill, into the deeper waters, they can get away easier. So if you wait until they’ve spawned and are facing uphill, then you’re more likely to catch the fish [therefore there is no waste], and you also ensure continuity of the resource [since it is finished spawning] (Tom Sampson, September 18, 1996).

Ling cod is one of those resources valued for both its nutritional and medicinal properties. Tom Sampson (October 16, 1996) recalls that his grandmother used to stuff the "long tubes" inside the cod like sausages, while the heads and bones were boiled into a broth. Ernie Rice noted that this broth was a medicine.

Salmon were perhaps the most important marine resource to the peoples of the Northwest Coast. Their abundance and the predictability of their arrival in spawning streams made them the cornerstone of seasonal subsistence activities. Several species of salmon, including chinook, coho and chum, spawned in the Goldstream River, the largest salmon stream in the Saanich Inlet, and the return of these fish to the river in late summer and early fall drew people to this area.

Elders interviewed recalled that as small children, fishing was conducted by the entire family. Men and women, grandmothers and grandchildren all participated. Elmer Henry (September 10, 1996; January 28, 1997) remembers fishing in a canoe at Goldstream with his grandfather. "There were lots of fish then," he said. "We’d be out for two or three days".

As a young child, Theresa Rice fished with her grandmother. After catching the fish, they would skin them and use ferns to clean them. Cedar was cut into sticks which were used to hang the fish in the smoke house to preserve it for winter (October 16, 1996).

Then, people began to enter the wage labour market and commercial fishing operations. In the early days, the fish resources were plentiful, and there were markets for the catch, which was often traded at local grocers’ for staples such as flour and sugar (Elders’ group, December 3, 1996).

Theresa Sam (March 13, 1997) remembers her father returning with his boat full of fish. Her brothers also fished. "There were still lots of fish then", she said, referring to a period approximately 50 years ago. "You could see springs jumping up and down in the water in the old days".

Edward Thomas, who was a commercial fisherman most of his life, also spoke on several occasions of the early days, about 50 years ago, when commercial fishing was profitable. He learned his fishing skills from his father. His father owned the first car in East Saanich. It cost $275 new and he paid for it with the money he earned from selling fish, digging clams and trapping muskrat (December 3, 1996).

However, as more and more non-Native fishermen entered the business, First Nations peoples found themselves pushed to the sidelines of what was once their traditional livelihood and they watched as large commercial operations depleted fisheries stocks. As Tom Sampson (December 3, 1996) explained:

When you get forced out of a regular lifestyle of fishing, you get forced into commercial fishing with rules and regulations. We’re losing our rights and even if we had our rights, we have nowhere to go to practice them, so we’re being put out of business.

The elders all expressed concern over the drastic reduction in the salmon resources and other marine species of the Saanich Inlet.

Today, the bluebacks have disappeared. There used to be lots of them. They’d show up in January and February. April was the best time. Eagles would just grab them. Now you don’t see any fish (Edward Thomas, December 3, 1996).

Killer whales used to go up [the Inlet]. You’d hear them at certain times and the old people would know the chum salmon was coming. Murrs by the thousands, now not one. Blue blacks, now there are none, there used to be thousands. Now we don't see flounders or herring spawning. The old people used to get excited and holler "herring" in our language and get ready and lay down branches and the roe would be about 6 inches thick and really white. Now there's hardly any and it’s yellowy. Cod fish -- the old people used to love it. (Samuel Sam, January 18, 1997).

Shellfish and other invertebrates

Invertebrate resources were also important contributors to subsistence economy of the Saanich Inlet First Nations and most of the elders interviewed participated in digging for clams, harvesting mussels or collecting other species such as sea urchins, sea cucumbers and chitons. In all, elders identified 12 species harvested in the Saanich Inlet (Table 8).

Clam digging was an important year-round activity and like fishing, was conducted for subsistence purposes by the entire family. Winter tides and those of late summer were especially good for clamming. Beaches farther from home were harvested in the summer, when it was easier and safer to travel, while those closer to home were used in the winter.

Traditionally, clams were collected in large quantities, processed on the beach, dried and stored for winter. Elders interviewed fondly recalled clamming as small children. Elmer Henry, who would spend days digging clams with his grandparents, explained the process:

When the tide goes out, make a big fire with big rocks on the beach and dig the clams right away. The fire is to steam the clams. When the stones get hot, throw the clams on top of fire and steam them. Cover them and once they’re steamed, take them out of their shells and thread them on a stick about four feet long and then dry them by fire. When they’re dry, thread them on cedar bark to store them for the winter (September 18, 1996 and January 28, 1997).

This type of cooking, according to Margaret Henry, is called /tskwais/, which means "pitcooking".

May Sam (February 3, 1997) also spoke of collecting and preparing clams on the beaches. According to May, the women made a fire on the beach while the men dug the clams. They’d boil the butter clams in a bucket. Her mother would scoop the clams with a wooden scoop with a wide handle. Then, they would dry them on cedar strips, on pointed stakes. Once the clams dried, they were put on ferns fronds and flattened out. The ferns were used to flavour the clam and to keep them for storage.

The beaches at Bamberton are remembered for their abundant clam beds. Theresa Sam (March 13, 1997) recalls,

The beaches there always used to be full of clams. Now its a hard time to get any. In the early spring, that was the time to dig clams. You could camp at Bamberton and prepare them there. People used to dry clams and trade with the US folks for Pendelton blankets and soapberries. The Yakima people consider dry clams a delicacy -- they wear necklaces of dried clams. This was about 35 or 40 years ago.

Interestingly, several elders noted that this consistent selective harvesting of clams enhanced the resources. As Simon Smith (December 3, 1996) explained,

Our people used to say you "cultivate" a beach when you’re digging clams because as you dig, you turn over sand and remove only the largest individuals. If you only take the big clams and leave the little ones, these grow really quick after beach is all dug up.

In essence, this the same principle as "cultivating" a garden. Simon points to Towner Bay, where digging has been banned, noting that the beach "just stinks" and is unproductive. He attributes this to the lack of on-going management of those resources through First Nations harvesting. This process of "cultivating" clam beds and mussels has been recorded elsewhere on the Northwest Coast (e.g. Baker 1992; Blackburn and Anderson 1993; Mirschitzka 1992)

As First Nations peoples entered the wage labour market, clams, like fish, assumed economic importance as sources of cash income. Many of the elders interviewed dug clams as children to sell to the various clam buyers (Tom Sampson, Simon Smith, December 3, 1996). Families from all of the reserves would harvest clams throughout the Inlet, from Goldstream to Saltspring Island.

In Todd Inlet, there were manilla clams and littlnecks. Four or five families used to dig there every year, they never dug it out. In the 1950’s, we used to dig 20 sacks a day, just my family [there were five of them). We earned $1.75 for a box [apple crate] of butternecks and $3.00 for a box littlenecks (Tom Sampson, December 3, 1996).

These operations were quite lucrative. Ernie Rice, for example, once went as far as Bainbridge Island to dig clams. He made about $1000 between six of them, which was good money and it lasted all through the winter (December 3, 1996).

Clamming was especially important in early December as families were preparing for Christmas.

There is a good tide before Christmas and everyone used to go down and dig clams. We used to use this for Christmas money. Now we can’t dig clams anymore, so people just wait for welfare (Theresa Rice, December 3, 1996).

The waters of the Saanich Inlet also provided a variety of other invertebrate species which also served as subsistence items in traditional diets and later as contributors to the household income. Octopus, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and chitons were all collected and consumed, although not in the same quantities as fish and shellfish resources.

Octopus, which was once plentiful in the Inlet, was collected in Brentwood Bay and around Pauquachin (Elmer Henry, January 28, 1997). May Sam (February 3, 1997) said she used to scoop octopus with a long pole with a hook. "You have to do it fast", she added. To prepare octopus, May hit it against a rock to make it tender, then boiled, floured and fried it. Tom Sampson remembers that up until the 1950’s, his grandmother used to exchange octopus at the grocer’s in Victoria for vegetables and potatoes.

Sea cucumbers were a "real delicacy" for the elders, according to May Sam (February 3, 1997). "They thrived on them". To cook them, "cut one end right away and get the ink out and then put them in a bucket and boil them". She ate them when she was young.

Sea urchins used to be plentiful at the reef at Coal Bay, but they’ve been over-harvested by divers (Edward Thomas, July 29, 1996 and December 3, 1996). Another elder, Georgina Smith (March 13, 1997) recalls that her uncle, Isadore, in the late 1940’s, would have two canoes -- one full of sea urchins and the one he was paddling. He’d come around the corner in the canoe singing and everyone would come and have a feast. He harvested these off the Pat Bay marker, where they used to be abundant, but are no longer found.

Finally, when the tide was low, people used to collect /xhelem/ or chitons. Knives were used to pry these off rocks. The whole thing was boiled in water. As it was boiling, it was hit with a wide stick to tenderize it. It took about 10 to 15 minutes to cook (May Sam, February 3, 1997).

Unfortunately, the rich shellfish and invertebrate resources of the Saanich Inlet are no longer available or accessible to the First Nations peoples. Of the clam digging areas traditionally utilized, only two remain open. Many were shut down several decades ago. The increased pollution of the Saanich Inlet poses the biggest threat to the resources and long-term health of the people, but over-harvesting by non-Native fishermen of virtually all marine resources -- fish, shellfish and other invertebrates -- has contributed to the problem as well. Tom Sampson stated that he once saw non-Indians using pressure washers to remove clams and in the process, destroyed an entire beach (April 23, 1996).

Marine Mammals

Although today there is a general paucity of marine mammals in the Saanich Inlet, the elders remember when whales, sea lions and seals where much more plentiful.

According to Ernie Rice (October 3, 1996), sea lions used to come into the Inlet before the Bamberton cement plant was constructed. The sea lions were chased with canoes, speared and the meat dried for winter. He recalls seeing them in 1926 but says they stopped coming into the area because the cement plant polluted the bay.

Elders also recall that killer whales were frequent visitors to the Saanich Inlet. According to oral traditions, people always see whales going up the Inlet, but never see them coming back out. For this reason, there is believed to be a tunnel to the west coast which was used by the whales. One had to keep quiet when going past the mouth of the tunnel, located near Willis Point (Elmer Henry, September 10, 1996).


A variety of waterfowl also contributed to the seasonal subsistence of the Saanich Inlet peoples. Ducks were hunted for food, as well as for their feathers and down. Duck soup remains a favourite dish, and feathers were used for mattresses, pillows, blankets and for ceremonial hats.

Unfortunately, waterfowl, like the other resources of the Saanich Inlet, are not as plentiful as they once were. According to Theresa Sam (March 13, 1997),

Everything is starting to go. There used to be lots of different ducks when I was a girl. Now, you’re lucky if you see four. And there used to be so many. My uncle had big smokehouse gathering and had to hunt and so he got a whole boatload of ducks with 6 shells. That’s how many there used to be about 50 years ago.

Sea gull eggs were collected in the early summer, around May. May Sam (February 3, 1997) said that she was always told to leave a few, one or two there in the nest, so that the gulls would continue to lay. "Our elders knew when to go. It was a treat. The eggs are large, they fill up a pan!"

3.4.5 Summary

In the preceding discussion, we have reviewed ethnohistorical data, shown a close and continuing connection between Malahat, Saanich and Cowichan first peoples to land and resources of the Saanich Inlet and deep spiritual ties with Malahat Mountain, /Yaas/.

The report now turns to an examination of the archaeological record of the region, to get an appreciation for the time-depth of these activities, remembering, of course, that not all activities represented here are visible in the archaeological record. Thus, the archaeological record provides only a partial picture of past land use activities.

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Last Updated: 9/1/98