Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Saturday June 13, 1998 - Stewart-Cassiar Highway

The Nisga'a lava bed
Cloudy day

I left Prudhomme Lake as early as I could and drove to Terrace, then up to the Nisga'a Lava Beds. This is a lava flow from a few hundred years ago before Europeans arrived in the mountains. It is a large area that covers some former Nisga'a villages, it was eerie to think about how this lava flowed over the land and destroyed existing villages. Today very little grows on the lava bed, it is still pretty barren. There is lava gravel and a few tiny trees and a lot of yellow lichen.

I wanted to see this lava bed because years ago when I lived in Ottawa I went to a talk by a Nisga'a chief about the land claim treaty talks being conducted then. He said that this lava bed was an important piece of evidence in the Nisga'a land claim because they had oral stories handed down about how this lava bed was created, the first time that oral stories were counted as evidence of a claim. In the story, the lava flow was retribution for some young Nisga'a boys mistreating salmon in the river.

Kitwanga totems
After walking around there a bit I drove back to Terrace, bought gas and headed for Kitwanga, on the Stewart-Cassiar highway (Highway 37). This highway goes from Terrace to the Alaska Highway in the Yukon. It does not start in Stewart or go to Cassiar, in fact you can't drive to Cassiar now at all. But that is what they call this road.

Kitwanga totems

I have been reading Emily Carr's journals and I know that she spent time in Kitwanga and Kitwancool drawing and painting the totem poles there. Most of the poles have been moved to a single location in a field by the road. When I got there the light was not great but I tried to photograph them anyway.

Kitwancool totem painted by Emily Carr: "the Totem Mother"
I have become quite familiar with Carr's paintings and thought I recognized some of the totems. There was a First Nations fort on a hilltop which was similar to old pioneer forts. the campground there was just a big empty yard with picnic tables and gravel which didn't really appeal to me so I continued driving up the road until I found a small lake I could park by. There was a truck with a big horse trailer already parked there but it was late and no one was about. I could hear the horses in their trailer snorting. When I went to bed it was drizzling out.

More Kitwancool totems

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