Haven With a View

An idyllic anchorage brimming with natural beauty and tranquility, Mound Island is like a live landscape painting.

  Sitting on deck absorbing the warm summer sun, we couldn’t imagine a more peaceful anchorage than the one situated between Mound and Harbledown islands to the west of Blackfish Sound, in the Broughton Archipelago. Framed by fir trees dripping with Old Man’s Beard, small fish are breaking the mirror-like surface and Mt. Thomas stands proudly to the east.

The approach is from the east and unobstructed with the exception of the charted islets and rocks near shore to starboard. The anchorage is well protected from summer westerlies. When Arlene and I arrived earlier in the day, only three boats rested on the hook, so there was plenty of room for Easy Goin’ in 15 to 40 feet over a good-holding sand and shell bottom. We like to set the hook as deep in the bay as possible, so we can keep an eye out for wildlife in the small meadows at the west end of the anchorage.

After an alfresco lunch we launched the dinghy and headed out for a few hours of exploration. The white shell beach on the west end of Mound Island made a perfect dinghy or kayak landing spot. Higher up, rich black soil speckled with white shell and bone fragments form a midden, indicating many thousands of years of prior use. Archaeological research has shown that the site was probably a summer village for as many as 400 people.

Just upland is a summer kayak campsite with a frame shelter in small, flat, grassy clearing. Just inside the forest are 14 depressions in the earth, which were the site of a big house. There is a trail that leads through the forest to an old-growth forest that was once a native burial site. The deceased were placed in boxes and placed up in the trees.

Wandering through the forest, walking softly on its sponge-like floor, I noticed cedar trees with long vertical scars. These culturally modified trees were used by First Nations people who “farmed” cedar bark in strips for use in hats, clothes, baskets and more.

Mound Island is not an Indian Reserve even though the signs of long-term use are obvious. It stands at the heart of the traditional territory of the Mamaleleqala Que’Qua’Sot’Enox band of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations. The name of the territory is Hee La Dee: “The Land of Plenty.” Hee La Dee was the heart of a successful aboriginal economy long before it was visited by European settlers.

Jumping back into the dinghy, we set out to explore a few nearby islands. At low water the clam gardens and sun-bleached middens pinpoint the site of native villages and food gathering areas.

Our other objective was to locate the Chief’s Bath on the north side of Berry Island in Village Channel. The site is marked by a pictograph of the Hanasta, or cannibal spirit, which protects it from evil spirits and unwanted visitors.

As I motored near, I spotted the heavy eyebrows of the Hanasta staring down at me from about six feet above the high-water mark. The painting seemed to retain its power to bless or curse. Incoming chiefs were required to sit in the bath four times a day for four days as the cold waters of the tide washed in. With respect for the spirits and First Nations People, I captured a few pictures and we pondered what it was like to live in another time and culture, before we returned to Easy Goin’.

It is a privilege to visit these First Nations traditional locations, and visitors are reminded to treat these sites and any artifacts they find with respect.

That evening we sat on deck and enjoyed our favorite beverage and a vibrant sunset while a couple of bald eagles floated effortlessly overhead and three black-tailed deer appeared in the small meadow at the end of the anchorage. The scene made a fitting ending to the day in this land of plenty.