Archaeological Field Work Aug 2022

Because the plaque event in July was so successful and because the rains and winds prevented us from visiting clam gardens on that day, we organized another inter-community event in August – this time to visit the clam gardens and fish traps between Higgins and Wolf Islands in False Bay.  About 20 community members from Tla’amin and Qualicum and about 60 Lasquetians attended.  Some of these First Nations community members had attended the plaque event in July, but many were here for the first time.  In fact, there was a long wait list of Tla’amin folks who wanted to make the trip, but there wasn’t room in the water taxi.  The doors between our community and our neighbours’ communities are opening.

Gathering on the intertidal for drumming, singing, speeches, and appreciations of communities in the past and in the present

We chose False Bay as the location for this outing two reasons: it is relatively easy access (and not so weather-dependent) and it gave us a chance to appreciate the huge Indigenous community that lived in False Bay in the past. The bay is lined with significant shell middens formed into terraces on which houses sat.  We are grateful to the landowners who graciously and enthusiastically invited us on to their property this summer to record the extent of those settlements and to determine how old they are (stay tuned!).   

The clam gardens on the False Bay side of the Higgens and Wolf shoreline, and the huge fish trap between the two islands, are part of the elaborate food infrastructure system that supported the Indigenous town located in the bay.  From our vantage point on the intertidal, looking back at the dock, we imagined the thriving community that lived there for millennia. While imagining these connections undoubtedly feels different for the descendant First Nations, recognizing those past lives enriches all of our connections to this place -- and helps open our hearts and minds to each other.

Marveling at the fish trap - engineered by the ancestral people of Xwe'etay

Repeatedly on Xwe’etay, we are presented with the privilege to witness the social transformations that are brought about through people’s interest and curiosity about the past. The archaeology of Xwe’etay is extensive and remarkable -- and recording and recognizing it as we are doing in XLAP gives us a chance to honor the deep Indigenous history it represents.  Recognizing the richness of that history opens us up to a variety of emotions, including fear for some, but also humility, awe, and deep respect.  When new understandings of the past are embraced, rather than seen as a threat, healing happens. Here on Lasqueti, the healing happens through shared appreciations, through many small conversations, and through mutual respect for the past inhabitants of Xwe’etay and thus for all the people who are connected to the island today.

There is indeed much to be grateful for.