Much of the Sunshine Coast, including Sechelt Inlet and Jervis Inlet to the north, is the traditional land of the shíshálh (Sechelt) First Nation. There are many archaeology sites in the Inlet and just about anywhere there is a beach and fresh water archaeologists can find signs of shíshálh habitation. One interesting remnant are the pictographs that can be found up and down the waterways on the Sunshine Coast where the shíshálh travelled between seasonal villages.
Pictographs are paintings done on rock faces, usually 10 – 20 feet above the high tide line. The medium used was mercuric sulphide or cinnabar as it is more commonly known. Cinnabar has the ability to penetrate into the rock surface up to two inches and that has allowed these very old paintings to survive. In most locations the reason the painting was put there has been lost. It is thought that this was because the paintings were done by shíshálh medicine men (See-ay-uhk) for their own particular purpose which they kept to themselves. Other sites are known to be initiation sites. While the reason for the paintings may be gone some of the symbolism remains and legends have arisen from those.
The first pictograph I photographed was about 40 years ago (now that’s a sad thought) when a friend found it about ¾ of a mile north of the Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. This image was about 12 feet above the high tide line in a fairly deep niche in the rock. It was very difficult to find and could only be seen if you were head on to it. This is NOT a traditional pictograph. While the colours are what we usually associate with native art, this piece appears to have been done with an oil based paint. Five years ago it was fairly discernible and last year it was almost entirely gone. Like other pictographs, the mystery remains.
The second pictograph is a traditional painting done in the typical red coloured cinnabar. It is located at Four Mile Point, a little less than a mile north of the last painting.