Saturday, March 10, 2012


We started the day with a dance performance – Professor Steve Lane and his wife, Deborah, our hosts,  took us to see their little girl, Emily, dance a duet at her club’s show. Later, we went on an introductory tour around Nanaimo – we drove downtown, saw the harbor, and learned some interesting facts about the city’s history and about some of the surrounding islands. We also visited the Petroglyph Provincial Park, where we saw some pretty amazing ancient First Nations rock carvings of mythological creatures such as sea wolfs and of human-like figures, likely depicting shamans. The actual petroglyphs were all covered in moss in such a way that some of them were more visible because of the bright green tracks, but the rest were almost completely obscured. Fortunately, you could see all of the carvings in casts, along with possible interpretations, even though you still had to look really hard to see the pattern.

Nanaimo Court House.

At the Petroglyph Provincial Park.

Some of the Petroglyphs.

Another important point in our tour was a visit to the Snuneymuxw First Nations territory situated along the Nanaimo River. The Snuneymuxw are a First Nation of the Coast Salish People, and also one of the largest First Nation population in British Columbia. They used to inhabit a large territory on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, but now they are squished by the river and have the smallest reserve land per capita in the province. We drove a bit through their land, but most of it was closed to outsiders and we didn’t want to intrude. There is quite a big conflict between the Snuneymuxw and the Canadian state, because of the mistreatment of the 1884 Treaty which was signed so that the settlers could establish a mining town, Nanaimo, the name of which comes from the name of the People. In exchange, the Snuneymuxw land was supposed to be protected and left intact. Obviously, that didn't happen. Perhaps that's why nowadays the Snuneymuxw are so particular about tresspassers.

Sign at the Entrance to the Snuneymuxw Territory.
When we got home, Deborah lent us a book of Snuneymuxw stories written by Ellen White, one of the band’s elders. The also told us several interesting facts about them. Apparently, a couple of years back there was a construction site next to the beach not far away from where we're staying, but the workers discovered bodies of First Nations people, beheaded and with their hands tied behind their backs. The construction had to be stopped and the burial place was left alone, with only a metal fence around it to mark it. Now, no one knows what to do with this piece of land, as it obviously can't be built on, but nothing else is being done about it either. Also, we learned a lot more about this closely knit community by browsing through their websites. You can access the first one through the link above, and the second, dealing more with culture rather than just general political and economic information, can be found here: Voices of the Snuneymuxw.

Snuneymuxw Totem Pole at the Entrance to the Administrative House.
In the evening, after a splendid dinner, we went back to VIU campus, to the Malaspina Theatre, for a play staged by the Theatre Department students, entitled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to theForum”. For a student production it was really well done and well acted, and we laughed really hard. :D

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