Tsawout Nation Belly-Rising-Up site, Saanich, British Columbia 24 April, 2005 photo by Gordon Brent Ingram
The ‘Belly-Rising-Up’ site is on the Tsawout First Nation lands on the east coast of the Saanich Peninsula on south-eastern Vancouver Island just north of Victoria, British Columbia. Belly-Rising-Up is part of an Indian Reserve negotiated in the early 1850s as part of one of the few Douglas Treaties. Belly-Rising-Up is an extremely important location not only for Canadian and West Coast history and politics but for cultural and social futures.
This seemingly natural ecosystem has an exceptional array and density of food plants crucial to Salish communities — that can only result from careful protection, harvesting and management. Belly-Rising-Up was one of the subjects of the Douglas Treaty negotiations in part because of the importance of these (agri)cultural sites to the Tsawout people. But in the ensuing century and half, knowledge and appreciation of these food production landscapes, indeed of Salish agriculture in general, has largely declined. The remaining knowledge of the Tsawout is as precious as are the demonstrative features and genetic resources of the site. So the strategic importance of the Belly-Rising-Up site, that continues to be protected and managed by the Tsawout First Nations, extends to new research and as an example for new land management initiatives that more squarely acknowledge and actively involve the leadership of aboriginal stewards and governments.
Tsawout Nation tea-house and treaty sign, Saanich, British Columbia 23 July, 2004 by Gordon Brent Ingram
While I visited the beach area adjacent to this rock and marsh since I was a young child, I did not actually visit the Belly-Rising -Up site until about 2000. An older friend, celebrated artist Michael Morris, grew up on the east coast of the Saanich Peninsula and mentioned to me of his encountering a Salish healer at Belly-Rising-Up decades back. This person spoke of the rough English-translation of the Tsawout name and the cultural importance of the place.
So while new to this Tsawout protected area, my formative experiences were a few miles due west on the west side of Central Saanich: adjacent to and inside of the Tsartlip First Nation‘s Douglas Treaty lands in Brentwood Bay. So being introduced at a young age to traditional Tsartlip land management, for food plants especially the last of highly site-specific burning, there was something strongly familiar with what I found at Belly-Rising-Up; a quality about the place that was sometimes garden-like.
The proper spelling of the name of the Saanich people is,
in their language, which is most correctly spelled,
in which the name of the Tsawout people is spelled,