An exceptional crop of Garry oak, Quercus garryana, acorns


2018 September 16 Garry oak acorn, Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park, Salt Spring Island

Garry oak, Quercus garryana, is the oak species native to Western North America with the largest distribution: from a small corner of south-western British Columbia to a small corner of northwestern Baja California. On the northern margins of West Coast Quercus, in drier areas around the Salish Sea, Garry oak, and associated meadows dominated by forbs and shrubs rather than grasslands, is more often associated with a fire-dependent ‘disclimax’ the total area of which has shrunk under fire suppression. Current and historic data suggests that Garry oak on its northern margins is highly variable, from year to year, in the extent of acorn production. After progressively warmer, drier and longer summers, more similar to those in the centre of this species’ distribution, this year saw exceptional levels of acorn production, at least on the Gulf Islands. Unfortunately, the tree that has produced this particular acorn is also stressed from sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.

blooming chokecherry trees, Hwmet’utsun Conservation Area, Salt Spring Island

blooming chokecherry trees, Hwmet’utsun 2018 May 3

One of the loveliest of the relatively uncommon groves of chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, the only tree (and fruit tree) that is native to every province and territory in Canada (and the northern half of the continental USA). While small clumps of chokecherry trees are common across Canada, they are uncommon on the BC Coast. The other part of the West Coast where this species occurs is in Mendocino Country in Northern California. This grove in Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve in the Hwmet’utsun Conservation Area on Salt Spring Island, has relatively old trees, verging on more than a century, along with large fallen trees, and saplings.

The bark is the source of the medicinal in traditional cherry cough drops and the berries are good to eat (for both humans and crows). While I have seen no other large groves such as this, there are many young trees on Salt Spring Island most likely because the species is poisonous to deer which here is often in relatively high numbers because of predator suppression.

trunk of older chokecherry tree in exceptional grove in Hwmet’utsun Conservation Area, Salt Spring Island 2018 May 3

This grove of chokecherries is in a landscape with archaeological sites going back well over 5,000 years and Salish (Cowichan Tribes) presence continuous until well into the 20th Century and ongoing harvesting of some food resources. The sites with the chokecherry trees have signs of historic food processing.

The lines of holes in the bark are from woodpeckers and are common for the older trees.

younger trees in exceptional West Coast grove of chokecherry, Hwmet’utsun Conservation Area 2018 May 8

flowers of Pacific dogwood, kwit-xulhp [Cowichan – Island Hul’q’umi’num’], Cornus nuttallii, in Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve, Humet’utsun conservation area, Salt Spring Island

2018 May 3 Pacific dogwood – Hwmet’utsun – photograph by Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram


2018 May 3 Pacific dogwood – Hwmet’utsun – photograph by Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram
2018 May 3 Pacific dogwood – Hwmet’utsun – photograph by Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

edible rice-root, Fritillaria affinis, at the northern end of the Cowichan village site on Burgoyne Bay

2018 April 23 blooming of edible rice-root, Fritillaria affinis, at the northern end of the Cowichan village site on Burgoyne Bay, Salt Spring Island

In rural-suburban interface areas, such as Salt Spring Island, populations of these rice-root are now too low for traditional Salish food harvesting.

leaves of Pacific dogwood, kwit-xulhp [Cowichan – Island Hul’q’umi’num’], Cornus nuttallii, in Lhukwlhuwus, Fly-Away-Place, Humet’utsun, Salt Spring Island

leaves of Pacific dogwood, kwit-xulhp [Cowichan – Island Hul’q’umi’num’], Cornus nuttallii, in Lhukwlhuwus, Fly-Away-Place, Humet’utsun — in the southern parcel of Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve — The bark was often used in medicines. These leaves appear to be the second leafing of 2017 perhaps associated with the first rains in nearly three months.

W̱SÁNEĆ & Hul’qumi’num clam garden, Russell Island, Gulf Islands National Park

This site is barely two kilometres south of KEXMIN field station and is being restored through cooperation of W̱SÁNEĆ governments and Gulf Islands National Park.

Nathan Cardinal, manager of resource conservation at Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, said he discourages the view of parks as pristine or untouched. “All these landscapes were actively managed by First Nations for millennia,” he said. One of his goals is to “change some of the common perception of Indigenous people as people who were hunter-gatherers to people who were effectively resource managers, just as I’m doing today,” he said.

Solidarity with indigenous communities engaged in their territories on Salt Spring Island

Mr. Robert Birch
XXX McLennan Drive
Salt Spring Island V8K 1X3

2017 June 12

RE: Forms of solidarity for supporting indigenous governments as part of living on the Salt Spring Island

Dear Robert,
‘Nice to receive those notes about working with First Nations with territories on Salt Spring Island. Below are a few additional points.

There is no generic ‘Unesco status’ but rather a number of Unesco-related programmes such as

World Heritage Sites (such as the Ninstincts Villages on the West Coast of Gwaii Haanas National Park / Haida Nation) and

Biosphere Reserves (that include Clayoquot Sounds [and has provided little or no additional protection] and part of the Salish Sea with some small islands north of Nanaimo up towards Parksville).

All that work is coordinated by Canadian committees, coordinated from Ottawa, advisory groups that have been increasingly partisan in its politics. I’ve worked with both programmes both in Paris and in Ottawa — and I don’t expect any new WHSs and BRs around the Salish Sea in the coming years partly because…

There are a host of new ‘joint management’ protected areas efforts being initiated / re-asserted and led by First Nations. And there was a planning process begun in 2005 that involves much of the wild West Coast of SSI in treaty negotiations. And all these initiatives could move much more quickly once BC signs on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of. Indigenous Peoples (if the New Democrat / Green government were to form).

As someone who grew up in a First Nation with territory at the Deep South-East of Salt Spring, I’d like to caution people in reaching out to the five First Nations (involving two Salish languages as different as English and German) — without first engaging in some self-reflexive research and studying the important work that is already going on.

The historical and contemporary relationships of these very different FNs to Salt Spring are asymmetrical and fluid. The Cowichan have made a deep commitment to living and teaching back in Burgoyne Bay part of the year (and it was only a summer village) and will hopefully put a houseboat in there. I have been working with the Cowichan Nation on protecting the Hwmet’utsum (Mount Maxwell) cultural landscapes spanning the two provincial parks and the ecological reserve. The Tsawout keep tabs on the federal lands reserved for their large, historic W̱EN,NÁ,NEĆ village site that extended east to Bridgman Road (and will crack down on dogs in the coming years). Similarly the Chemainus, Penelakut, and Lyackson are increasingly involved again with the north end of SSI. So the best way to ‘work’ with FNs elders and governments is to engage in deep research and learning about what’s already going on.

The three most important ways to work with these five First Nations (and remember that the W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) were broken up artificially into five communities with historic ties to Salt Spring so we’re up to 10 different FNs offices) is to provide solidarity around:

1. reassertion of First Nations’ joint ownership of large portions of public lands on Salt Spring;

2. reassertion of food gathering and related land management (already going on) of large portions of public lands on Salt Spring; and

3. (with an acute indigenous housing shortage on all sides of Salt Spring) accelerating indigenous repopulating and diversified housing options on Salt Spring Island (for folks that haven’t felt too welcome on this island for the last century and a half).

All of this work is already being pursued by FNs in relationship to Salt Spring. Elders and FNs administrators will call on broader support and resources when they need it and want it — support from people who have done enough intellectual and personal homework to be fully trusted.



First day of blooms of Salish crabapple, Malus fusca, at the Cowichan village of Xwaaqw’um, Salt Spring Island

photograph by Alex Grünenfelder & Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram

This was the first or second day of the bloom of the grove of Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca, at Burgoyne Bay, Salt Spring Island — on May 6, 2017 (in an unseasonably cool and late spring). Part of the Cowichan village of Xwaaqw’um that is increasingly used as a tribal educational site, this grove persists through millennia of Salish land stewardship, propagation, and ownership. Today, this crabapple grove more often goes un-noticed and is vulnerable to sea level rise.

This is the only North American crabapple species that is in the primary gene pool of Eurasian apple landraces and cultivars with a distribution that extends along the North Pacific from central California to just north of Japan.

At KEXMIN field station, we are studying traditional small-tree stewardship and harvesting as well as both Salish and modern propagation approaches.

This is another Pacific crabapple blossom, at the same grove as above, at the old Cowichan village of Xwaaqw’um, Burgoyne Bay, Salt Spring Island on May 11, 2017. (photograph taken jointly by Jan Steinman, Ecoreality Cooperative & Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram, KEXMIN field station).

salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis, blossom

a relatively late blossom (in a late spring) of salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis, just above the high-tide line at Burgoyne Bay just north of the Cowichan village, Xwaaqw’um, Salt Spring Island 2017 April 25 * photograph taken jointly by Jan Steinman, Ecoreality Cooperative & Gordon Brent Brochu-Ingram, KEXMIN field station