Signs of Lekwungen

Butch Dick with Spindle Whorl. Source:

Created in 2008, The Signs of Lekwungen consist of seven unique site markers that designate culturally significant sites to the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations along the Inner Harbour and surrounding areas. The markers are bronze castings of original cedar carvings that were conceptualized and carved by Coast Salish artist and master carver, Butch Dick.

Each marker is about 2.5 metres high and weigh close to 1000 pounds. The markers depict spindle whorls that were traditionally used by Coast Salish women to spin wool and were considered to be the foundation of a Coast Salish family.

Photo by Bryan Myles, 2011

1. Songhees Point | p’álәc’әs
Songhees point at the entrance to Victoria Harbour.

Meaning “cradle board”, PAH-lu-tsuss was a sacred point that cradles were placed after an infant had learned to walk. The point more recently had a settlement located here and subsequently, an Indian reserve that traded with Fort Victoria, which was on the opposite shore of the harbour.

Spindle Whorl Theme: Four Seasons of the Salmon Family

Photo by Bryan Myles, 2011

2. Fort Victoria
North side of Malahat Building on Wharf Street

The site of Fort Camosun (later named Fort Victoria), was built here by the Lekwungen men and women in exchange for trade goods. In order to build the fort, a large forested area of traditional Lekwungen land was destroyed. This marked a drastic change in traditional ways and traditional sustainable land use.

Spindle Whorl Theme: Walk in Two Worlds

Source: user ngawangchodron

3. Outside City Hall | skwc’әŋíłč

skwu-tsu-KNEE-lth-ch, or “bitter cherry tree”, is named for the willow lined berry-rich creeks and meadows that led down to the ocean, and the paths made by bark harvesters that bordered the waterways. Bark from the bitter cherry was used to make a variety of household objects. The uneven ground of the Market Square area was caused by these creeks that led back to the food gathering areas now contained by Fort, View, Vancouver and Quadra streets.

Spindle Whorl Theme: Seim Speaker. A person regarded in high high esteem who speaks for the people.

Photo by Bryan Myles, 2011

4. Lower Causeway | xwsзyq’әm
Lower Causeway of Inner Harbour

whu-SEI-kum, or “muddy place”, marked wide tidal mudflats and the location of some of the best clam beds on the coast. The Empress Hotel was constructed on this site and subsequently these flats were buried. This place was also one end of a canoe portage, which was used to avoid the harbour entrance during heavy seas by cutting through from the eastern side of what is now Ross Bay Cemetery. Along the route, arrowheads and other stone tools are still found, reminding us that the lowlands were rich for hunting.

Spindle Whorl Theme: Four Directions of the Eagle


5. Beacon Hill | míqәn
Off Circle Drive in Beacon Hill Park.

The name of this hill means “warmed by the sun” (MEE-gan). This seaward slope was a place for rest and to play a field hockey-like game called Coqwialls. Camas bulbs, a starchy food similar to potatoes was collected here. A defensive village was located on the point below the hill, and it was occupied intermittently from 1,000 until approximately 300 years ago. The settlement was here for defence during times of war, and it was also important for reef net fishing.

Spindle Whorl Theme: The Cairens, or rocks placed in circular patterns to signify ancient burial sites.

Photo by Bryan Myles, 2011

6. Royal British Columbia Museum | q’emásәŋ
Corner of Government and Belleville Streets

The objects, carvings and art of the Lekwungen people have been loaned to the Royal British Columbia Museum so that the unique cultural objects and traditions from this area can be shared as the Lekwungen people share the land. Some of these objects are on display inside.

Spindle Whorl Theme: Celebrate Diversity

Photo by Bryan Myles, 2012

7. Laurel Point

This carving marks a nineteenth century First Nations burial ground. Small burial shelters with different carved mortuary figures, including human figures, were placed in front of the graves and stood here until the 1850s. No traditional name is known for this area.

Spindle Whorl Theme: Four Winds


City of Victoria: Official Website
Songhees Nation Website:
Lkwungen Art Project Blog:

Keddie, Grant. 2003. Songhees Pictorial: A History of the Songhees People as seen by Outsiders, 1790 - 1912. Royal BC Museum, Victoria.