Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Cariboo Wagon Road by A.M.Westerling

During the early days of the Cariboo Gold Rush in British Columbia, getting there presented a serious challenge to the miners as Barkerville was located 400 miles north and east of Yale. Thick underbrush clogged the mountainous route and some of the mountain passes still had five feet of snow in April. Parts of the journey north were extremely dangerous and horses and their owners would often fall to their deaths over the mountains or drown in the swift and deep waters of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers.

However, the success of the gold fields and the great influx of people made it necessary to improve access. The governor at that time, Governor James Douglas, determined that a safe road was required and the Royal Engineers were engaged for the task. In October of 1861, Colonel Richard Clement Moody recommended that the Yale to Barkerville route through the Fraser Canyon be built for the benefit of the country. The Royal Engineers assessed the route and suggested it be built in sections: Yale to Spuzzum, Spuzzum to Lytton, Lytton to the Lilooet Junction, Lilloet to Fort Alexandria, and Quesnel to Barkerville.

When it was completed, some people called it the "Eight Wonder of the World."

While doing research for the book, my sweetie and I took a bit of a road trip through the Fraser Canyon. You can still see a portion of the original road in the Skihist Campground, just outside of Lytton on the Trans Canada Highway. 

We followed the highway all the way through the Fraser Canyon and stopped to take these photos at the summit of Jackass Mountain. Far below you see the Fraser River.

Rose and Harrison meet on the final section of the road between Quesnel to Barkerville. It was a particularly difficult section to construct because of mud, swamp and fallen trees. 

For more information on the Cariboo Gold Rush, this is a wonderful website:  

You can read all about Rose and Harrison's gold rush adventures in Barkerville Beginnings, available at your favourite online store HERE

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Caribou & Men

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The aboriginal people of NWT were hunter/gatherers when the European colonists "discovered" them. The 1st Nations were already on the land, and many said that Creator had shaped men from the mud that was found between the caribou's toes.  In those days, men and animals journeyed through an immense landscape every year, following the caribou that fed and clothed them. Every bit of what they killed was used, every scrap of sinew and hide and meat.

The great herds moved unobstructed across the land like water and wind. The people followed. They original inhabitants didn't kill for "fun;" they killed by necessity. Sometimes, when the game traveled on new path or their numbers declined (for one reason or another) the people starved. In the old days, the human population cycled up and down along with that population of prey animals.

The Woodland Caribou is a kind of specialist, different from the Barren Ground Caribou--the one you see on long harrowing journeys if you watch wildlife shows. The Woodland Caribou live and feed in old growth conifer forests where lichens and mosses grow. Trees of 85 to 150 years of age are the perfect hosts for the aerial and ground plant life on which these caribou depend. This means that undisturbed old growth forests are of prime importance to their survival.

Mining exploration had been going on in the NWT since earliest times, ("Yellowknife" refers to the gold blades some members of that tribe once made) but it wasn't until the 1990's that the digging began in earnest now with heavy loud modern machinery. The data shows it is not coincidental that this is the time when the numbers of the Woodland Caribou began to diminish. Mining didn't begin in earnest until the 1990's. It is not coincidental that this is the time when the numbers of the caribou began to diminish.

Toxic waste is a typical by-product of mining; moreover, that industry does not have a good record of cleaning up after itself anywhere, but logging at first seems to have been the hardest on the caribou. Not only noise, dust and continuous human activity, but the clear-cutting of the ancient forests--both the soil disruption and the removal of the trees -- cut severely into the supply of lichens and mosses, (some aerial, some ground dwelling) upon which the woodland caribou depend.

Roads, pipelines, seismic and now hydro lines create clear highways along which predators such as Lynx, Wolf & Bear can travel deep into what were once once (nearly) impenetrable forests. Now these predators hunt the Boreal Caribou where they have long been accustomed to resting, feeding or giving birth, times when they are particularly vulnerable to attack. This kind of habitat fragmentation affects all migratory animals which now share a planet with humans.

Caribou are named for the places the places where they calve. One herd that is failing spectacularly--much to the dismay of the 1st Nations people whose ancient way of life is threatened--is the Bathhurst herd. Once as many as 500,000, now there are less than 10,000. The numbers continue to fall.

This year there is a proposed permanent road north, again through what was once boreal forests, an extension of Highway 3 north to Whati', the haven in the wilderness for which my characters, Sascho and Yaotl, search after their escape from the Residential School. Families who live in Whati' year round now will be benefited with cheaper goods, but once again, their ancient ally, the caribou, will suffer -- and diminish.

Noise will be another as yet not much studied factor -- which affects the caribou and the other animals who are accustomed to living in the area of the proposed Whati road. Studies done in 2012 by the University of Idaho showed that simply broadcasting a recording of road noise--in this case of a heavily used climb in Glacier National Park--was sufficient to drive animals away. Some bird migrations that were documented as common in the roadless test area used by the "phantom road" study completely ceased. We humans don't have to do much it seems to disrupt Nature's once perfect balance.

Things don't have to be this way. Governments, industry and communities could work together to create local plans and solutions. Federal budget incentives could be used as both carrot and stick to assist caribou recovery. Sustainability must become the mantra for all who live and work in the NWT, if they want the caribou and some part of their ancient way of life to remain. 

~~Juliet Waldron

Volumetrics, Why noise pollution is more dangerous than we think by David Owen, May 13, 2019, The New Yorker

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Broken Talkers", the Maliseet, by Diane Scott Lewis

The second First Nation's people of New Brunswick, Canada, that I included in my novel, On a Stormy Primeval Shore, were the Maliseet:
This tribe is Algonquian speaking, called Wolastoqiyik or "People of the Beautiful River"; but the Mi'kmaq (showcased in a previous blog) named them "Maliseet" or broken talkers because their language sounded like a broken version of their own.

Maliseet making camp, c. 1864, Canadian Encyclopedia
Indigenous to the Saint John River Valley, Maine, and Quebec's St. Lawrence River, the Maliseet fished and hunted these areas for thousands of years. They considered the Mi'kmaq their allies. Eventually the Maliseet turned to farming as well. They lived in wigwams in walled villages. They made tools out of wood, stone, and ceramics. Canoes, weapons and eating utensils were also created. The Maliseet have a rich cultural history, similar to the Mi'kmaq, such as decorating clothing and baskets with painted porcupine quills.

The Maliseet bands were governed by one or more chiefs who sat on tribal councils with representatives from each family.

Drums played an important part in their ceremonies and united their communities.

When the European settlers arrived, first the French in the 1600s, then the British in the 1700s, the natives has their agricultural territory on the river confiscated, and they were pushed to the less fertile parts of the country. In the nineteenth century, they were sent to Reserves, but later filed land claims to recoup their losses; some were successful.

While the Europeans tried to convert the natives to Christianity, many clung to their original beliefs. "Smudging" -- the burning of sweetgrass to cleanse the spirit -- is one. Their Creator, Gici Niwaskw, is not assigned a gender. The Creator formed the entire world, but taming the landscape is performed by the cultural hero, Gluskabe.
Gabriel Acquin, Maliseet hunter, c. 1866: Canadian Encyclopedia

Today their distinctive language is fading out, but efforts are being made to preserve their language and culture.
Source: Canadian Encyclopedia
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 Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.