National Treasures

Small Totem pole on local island. Photo by Dave Barnes

Small Totem pole on local island.
Photo by Dave Barnes

National TreasuresI have paddled to places with the dream of finding some remainder of the rich historical past of the west coast, but have not had much luck. Rumours of old long-abandoned native villages have had me on the paddle prowl up inlets and coves but with little luck. One such in the Nuchatlitz region of Nootka Island were myself and my paddling buddy crawling into impenetrable brambles, and over-growth in search of something that would remind us of those that had lived, and thrived on the ragged coast long before we showed up to improve things. The rewards for our efforts paddling into the wind for most of the morning were some scratches from prickly bushes and the heebie-jeebies associated with the finding of very fresh bear scat guarding the perimeter of the old site.

We could tell that at some point there must have been a clearing inside that wall of brush. A few alders grew as evidence of a once clear patch as these trees are somewhat opportunistic. We paddled home to our camp empty-handed with not one photograph of a totem pole. What were we thinking anyway? Even if there were anything still to be found the rainforest would have eaten it up decades ago. There it is, the dream of finding a crumb, an inkling of our history. Unseen and lost, ghostly.

You can imagine my surprise when paddling in my own backyard of the Gulf Islands, turning into a bay on someone’s private island to find a row of totem poles!

It is just a privately owned island and the owners have decorated. I did not get out of my kayak. The next time I pass by there I will take a closer look and possibly have a chat with the owners about the choices and meanings of the poles.

All in all, it made my day, and I floated in the pale green shallow bay watching for rocks and feeling the animal spirits casting their spells upon the waters and greeting any travelers. Coincidentally, or not far above my head soared three eagles. Two older ones with the youthful bird flying slightly below. A flying totem of good things, good fishing to come, fair winds and calms seas for my paddle home to Salt Spring Island.


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