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Jervis Inlet & Vancouver Bay

Pictograph - Vancouver Bay 1

Pictograph - Vancouver Bay 3

From Granville Bay, heading east 5.6 miles (9.2 km) you arrive on the east side of the mouth of the reaches of Jervis Inlet.  Heading north you enter the deepest fjord in British Columbia, measuring 2402 feet (732 meters) deep.  Quite dramatic when you consider some of the walls of the fjord rise over 5900 feet (1800 meters) almost straight up out of the water.  Like the other inlets in the area, Jervis Inlet was carved out by glaciers following ancient river valleys to the sea.  It is made up of three arms or reaches – Prince of Wales Reach, Princess Royal Reach and Queen’s Reach.  Each reach makes an almost right angle turn from one to the other.

Princess Louisa Reach is a side inlet off Queen’s Reach.  At the end of Princess Louisa Reach is Chatterbox Falls, a popular tourist and boater’s destination.  Near to Chatterbox Falls is James Bruce Falls, thought to be the highest waterfall in North America at 2755 feet (840 meters).

Heading north up the mouth of Jervis Inlet 7 miles (11.24 km) you will find another set of pictographs about 40 feet (12 meters) above the waterline.  Another mile further is the entrance to Vancouver Bay.  On the north side of the bay is Marlborough Peak, 5905 feet (1800 meters). Turning into the bay offers a beautiful view of Mount Churchill, 6562 feet (2000 meters) and the Vancouver River Valley.

Vancouver Bay 4

Mount Churchill and the Skwákwee-em Healing Center in Vancouver Bay

Vancouver Bay was another seasonal village of the shíshálh’s (Sechelt’s) and was known as Skwákwee-em.  As with other village sites in Jervis Inlet, Skwákwee-em was located where there was a good beach, a supply of fresh water and favourable conditions to be able sustain a village i.e food supply and flat, open space.  In the 1860’s European settler’s started to move in and Catholic missionaries arrived to ‘improve’ the lives of the locals.  Unfortunately, one of the first things they brought was a smallpox epidemic that wiped out 90% of the native population.  By the 1881 census only 167 members still survived.  It was thought it was best to gather the remaining members to one central location (Sechelt).

Father Paul Durieu converted the remaining band members to Catholicism and started the now controversial residential school system.  In 1904 a residential school was built in Sechelt and native children were taken from their homes to attend.  The children were only allowed to speak English (even to their parents) and weren’t allowed to go home.  Parents could have a supervised visit only once a week for an hour or two.  The school operated right up to the 1960’s.  All traditional native artifacts were destroyed and native ceremonies were banned.

In the meantime, the new white arrivals realized the economical benefits of the old growth timber all along the inlet shore.  Logging camps started up and the most logical sites were the Indian villages. In most cases the native habitations were razed and the camp was built over the site.  Sympathetic attitudes towards native culture was sadly lacking during this period.  I’ve read accounts of logging companies bulldozing and flattening 30 foot middens to build camp work yards.  Skeletons and artifacts from native burial sites and villages were taken with little thought and sold or given to museums.  This continued right up to 1960 when the British Columbia Archaeological & Historical Sites Act came into law.

Vancouver River Valley

The Vancouver River Valley

In Vancouver Bay the first logging camp was started in 1889. By 1905 there was a narrow gauge railroad running up the Vancouver River Valley to haul out logs.  Between 1926 and 1930 more than 700 men with their wives and children were living in Vancouver Bay.  By 1980 the logging was done and the valley is quiet once more.  Vancouver Bay is still part of the shíshálh (Sechelt) reserve system and in 1983 a native healing centre was started there.

Vancouver Bay 5

The mouth of Vancouver Bay

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