WILLIAMS, Judith




Author Tags: Anthropology, First Nations, Local History

“The hanging of the Tsilhqot'in Chiefs in 1864 is a tragedy which, if we are to move forward with respect and in good faith, must be recognized.” – B.C. Attorney-General Colin Gablemann

Near the outset of High Slack: Waddington's Gold Road and the Bute Inlet Massacre of 1864 (1996), Judith Williams describes the strange, jelly-like substance known as Bute wax that appeared on the waters of Bute Inlet and Toba Inlet during the winters of 1922, 1936, 1950, 1951, 1955 and 1956. Bute wax had absolutely nothing to do with Alfred Waddington's attempt to build a road to the Cariboo gold fields, commencing at the end of 48-mile Bute Inlet, and nor does it explain why six Chilcotin Indians were hanged for the murders of fourteen members of Waddington's road crew and seven other whites in the area. But Williams introduces Bute wax to serve notice she intends to explore the murky middle ground of history in the realm of creative non-fiction: Everything can’t be explained and mystery is an important part of life.

After describing her own explorations of Bute Inlet — mentioning a Homfray Channel sea serpent and petroglyphs — Williams recreates a journal kept by surveyor Robert Homfray whose Hudson’s Bay Company contingent of six visited Bute Inlet in the winter of 1861 with only two muskets and one canoe. Shivering beneath 13,260 ft. Mt. Waddington’s ice fields, 100 miles northwest of Vancouver, Homfray's expedition was easily over-powered by “six half naked Indians.” Homfray was rescued by the local chief of the Cla oosh tribe who guided them to the Homathko River. Relying on Aboriginals for food, protection and transportation back to Victoria, Homfray was barely able to complete his two-month journey—whereupon the Admiralty in London, in its wisdom, named Homfray Channel, near Desolation Sound, in his honour.

Looking for vestiges of Waddington's infamous road, Williams enters the Homathko River at high slack. “High slack, when the tide has risen to its highest point and pauses before it ebbs, is not just a good time to fish. I have used it as a metaphor for a pause in ideological currents, a time to collect ourselves and perceive, not just what we have been taught to see and know, but to imagine what might be if our socially acquired filters evaporated.”

Halfway through the book, the author has yet to describe the so called massacre of 1864. Instead we learn tidbits about Alfred Pendrell Waddington. Born in 1804 in England, Alfred Waddington was educated in France and Germany. He arrived in Victoria in 1858 and published the first book to be published by a named author in the new Vancouver Island Colony. Waddington helped draft Victoria’s charter and was a superintendent of schools. The Canadian government bought his surveys for a cross-Canada rail route designed to terminate at Bute Inlet. Waddington obtained a contract from Colonel Moody in 1862 to construct a mule trail from the head of Bute Inlet to the Fraser River, to be completed in 12 months. Waddington's spent his final years in Ottawa, where he died, trying to convince the federal government to build a transcontinental railroad. The government of John A. Macdonald subsequently began construction of the CPR, taking a route to Burrard Inlet instead of Bute Inlet. Today the highest mountain in the province is named in Waddington's honour.

In April of 1863, Waddington's 91-man party of roadbuilders left Victoria for Bute Inlet aboard the steamer Enterprise. After members of Waddington's road crew were butchered in their sleep after they had reached their destination, news of the attack shocked Victoria. Governor Seymour issued a proclamation calling for volunteers to help apprehend the perpetrators, dead or alive. Nearly 150 men, including many Indians and Governor Seymour, chased Chilcotin through the mountains until white vengeance was satisfied. Williams indicates the Chilcotin were justified in defending their territory from Waddington’s business plan, according according to her representation of Homfray's journal, “The terrible massacre was caused by the ill treatment of the Indian women by Mr. Waddington's party who were making the road.” This is the central thesis of Slack Tide. Conjuring forth an operatic chorus of weeping women, Williams notes that dozens of male participants in the events of 1864 can be named, but it is difficult to track the names and fates of any women involved. “Both historical and contemporary native statements,” she concludes, “force one to attend to the claim that the sexual abuse of the daughter of a chief caused the war.” In the summer of 1993, the Nemiah Band of the Tsilhqot'in Nation (the Xeni qwet'in) demanded from the Province of British Columbia an official pardon for the hangings overseen by Judge Begbie. An official apology was delivered. Williams’ book arose from an invitation by Rosa Ho, curator at the UBC Anthropology Museum, for Williams to create an installation of paintings, sculptures and “book works” generated by her upcoast and archival explorations in and around Bute Inlet. Williams, Ho and Greg Brass also organized a symposium of 150 people at UBC First Nations House of Learning in 1994 called “The Tsilhqot'in War of 1864 and the 1993 Cariboo Chilcotin Justice Inquiry.” Cumulatively High Slack is like a mural. A variety of elements are depicted and it’s up to the eye of the beholder to determine where emphasis ought to be placed. Different readers will make different interpretations.

In Aboriginal cultures pictographs have a variety of functions, from signaling occupation to authenticating an event. In 1998, Dzawada’enuxw artist Marianne Nicolson scaled a vertical rock face in Kingcome Inlet to paint the 28 foot x 38 foot pictograph to mark the continued vitality of her ancestral village four miles away on the Kingcome River. Her pictograph is a modern and comprehensible work that incorporates traditional iconography taught to her by her uncle. Specifically, it contains the image of Kwadilikala, a wolf origin figure still considered an ancestor of Gwa’yi villagers. This new pictograph is located 100 metres from rock art done by Mollie Wilson, at Petley Point, in 1921 and 1927, to commemorate an illegal potlatch. Specifically, the Petley Point painting depicts Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonial ‘coppers’ confronting cattle bought from Ernest Halliday, founder of the oldest white settler family in Kingcome Inlet, whose brother William Halliday was the local Indian Agent charged with enforcing the potlatch ban. After Marianne Nicolson invited Judith Williams, a former Fine Arts instructor at UBC, to observe the process of creating the first new Kingcome pictograph to appear in 60 years, Williams wrote Two Wolves at the Dawn of Time: Kingcome Inlet Pictographs, 1893-1998 (2001).

Judith Williams is also the author of Dynamite Stories (2003), a collection of oral history tales about how dynamite played a role in the lives of people in the area of Redonda Island and Refuge Cove where Williams befriended longtime resident Doris Hope. This collection includes a detailed description of the purposeful destruction of Ripple Rock on April 15, 1958, the most famous explosion in B.C. history.

Since 1989, Judith Williams has travelled along the West Coast in her two boats, Tetacus and Adriatic Sea, leading to Clam Garden (2006), an examination of Aboriginal mariculture that was informed by Klahoose elder Elizabeth Henry's descriptions of the clam terraces at Waiatt Bay on Quadra Island. Williams has looked at clam gardens in the Broughton Archipelago, Waiatt Bay and Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island to challenge the notion that pre-Contact Aboriginals on the coast were exclusively hunter-gatherers.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
High Slack: Waddington's Gold Road and the Bute Inlet Massacre of 1864


BOOKS:

Williams, Judith. High Slack: Waddington's Gold Road and the Bute Inlet Massacre of 1864 (New Star, 1996).

Williams, Judith. Two Wolves at the Dawn of Time: Kingcome Inlet Pictographs, 1893-1998 (New Star, 2001).

Williams, Judith. Dynamite Stories (New Star, Transmontanus 11, 2003).

Williams, Judith. Clam Gardens: Aboriginal Mariculture on Canada's West Coast (New Star, 2006). 1-55420-023-7 $19

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2006] "Local History" "Anthropology" "First Nations" "Indianology"

Two Wolves at the Dawn of Time (New Star $28)
Article



In 1998 Dzawada’enuxw artist Marianne Nicolson scaled a vertical rock face in Kingcome Inlet to paint the 28 foot x 38 foot pictograph that marks the continued vitality of her ancestral village on the Kingcome River.

Pictographs are rock paintings most commonly done by Natives. Many pictographs are indecipherable even to ancestors of the artist. Knowledge becomes scarce when elders die, leaving no written explanations of the intricate and iconographic designs.

In Native cultures pictographs have a variety of functions, from signaling occupation to authenticating an event. Nicolson’s pictograph is a modern and comprehensible work that incorporates traditional iconography taught by her uncle. It contains the image of Kwadilikala, a wolf origin figure still considered an ancestor of Gwa’yi villagers.

Nicolson invited Judith Williams, author of High Slack and Dynamite Stories, to observe the process of creation during several visits. Williams, a former Fine Arts instructor at UBC, considers Nicolson’s work to be the largest and most finely painted pictograph on the coast in Two Wolves at the Dawn of Time (New Star $28).

After spending much time in the last remaining fully occupied Kwakwaka’waka inlet village called Gwa’yi, Judith Williams was also able to speak with a Gwa’yi man who attended the (illegal) potlatch that a 1920s pictograph commemorates. Molly Wilson allegedly undertook this large, two-part work in 1921 and 1927. (Potlatching was banned by the federal government in 1884 and actively suppressed as of the 1890s. This ban was dropped from the Indian Act legislation of 1951.)

The 1921 face of the pictograph portrays a Native copper. “It’s a cross between a gold brick and a bank note,” says Williams, “and it functioned as both an aesthetic piece and a system of currency in the Native economy.”
The 1927 side shows eleven white cows approaching the copper—an oddity for a culture that didn’t keep cows. Williams unravels the story of this painting as the flashpoint of Native-White relations in the middle of the potlatch ban.

Williams believes that studying the limited information available on pictographs might lead to an enhanced ability to interpret other pictographs not yet dated or understood. Her concerns are both artistic and potentially political.

“I was delighted to find work in the wilderness,” says Williams. “Pictographs are conceptually interesting—and not just as Native iconography—but as paintings period.”

After studying many paintings all over B.C., Williams discovered she could never stay fixed on the image; she was always looking back and forth between the image and the surface. “The art is embedded in the landscape; embedded in the stone,” she says. “Observing pictographs, I find myself wondering where one goes with painting in contemporary art, with the notion of the flip between image and ground.”

Born in Vancouver in 1940, Judith Williams has been a member of the Refuge Cove Land and House Co-op since its inception. In High Slack (1995) she explored the conflict between Natives and newcomers in 1864 when entrepreneur Alfred Waddington tried to build a road from Bute Inlet to the Cariboo gold fields. 0-921586-78-7

[Lisa Kerr / BCBW 2001]


High Slack: Waddington's Gold Road and the Bute Inlet Massacre of 1864 (New Star $16)
Article



At the beginning of Judith Williams' High Slack: Waddington's Gold Road and the Bute Inlet Massacre of 1864 (New Star $16) we learn a strange, jelly like substance called Bute wax appeared on the waters of Bute Inlet and Toba Inlet during the winters of 1922, 1936, 1950, 1951, 1955 and 1956.

Bute wax has nothing to do with Alfred Waddington's attempt to build a road to the Cariboo gold fields, commencing at the end of 48 mile Bute Inlet. Nor does it explain why six Chilcotin Indians were hanged for the murders of fourteen members of Waddington's road crew and seven other whites in the area.
But Williams introduces Bute wax to serve notice she intends to explore the murky middle ground of history in the realm of creative non fiction: Everything can't be explained and mystery is an important part of life.
After describing her own explorations of Bute Inlet — mentioning a Homfray Channel sea serpent and petroglyphs — Williams recreates a journal kept by surveyor Robert Homfray. His Hudson Bay Company contingent of six visited Bute Inlet in the winter of 1861 with only two muskets and one canoe.
Shivering beneath 13,260 ft. Mt. Waddington's ice fields, 100 miles northwest of Vancouver, Homfray's expedition was easily over powered by 'six half naked Indians'. Homfray was rescued by the local chief of the Cla oosh tribe who guided them to the Homathko River. Relying on Indians for food, protection and transportation back to Victoria, Homfray was barely able to complete his two month journey. The Admiralty in London named Homfray Channel, near Desolation Sound, in his honour.
Looking for vestiges of Waddington's infamous road, Williams enters the Homathko River at high slack. “High slack, when the tide has risen to its highest point and pauses before it ebbs, is not just a good time to fish,” she writes. “I have used it as a metaphor for a pause in ideological currents, a time to collect ourselves and perceive, not just what we have been taught to see and know, but to imagine what might be if our socially acquired filters evaporated.”

Halfway through the book, the author has yet to describe the so called massacre of 1864. Instead we learn tidbits about Alfred Pendrell Waddington.
Born in 1804 in England, Alfred Waddington was educated in France and Germany. He arrived in Victoria in 1858 and that year published the first book in the Vancouver Island Colony, The Fraser River Mines Vindicated. As Vancouver Island's first author, Waddington helped draft Victoria's charter and was a superintendent of schools. The Canadian government bought his surveys for a cross Canada rail route designed to terminate at Bute Inlet. Waddington obtained a contract from Colonel Moody in 1862 to construct a mule trail from the head of Bute Inlet to the Fraser River, to be completed in 12 months.
Waddington's life is not examined any further. [He spent his final years in Ottawa, where he died, trying to convince the federal government to build a transcontinental railroad. The government of John A. Macdonald subsequently began construction of the CPR, taking a route to Burrard Inlet instead of Bute Inlet. Today the highest mountain in the province is named in Waddington's honour.]

Waddington's 91 man party of roadbuilders left Victoria for Bute Inlet in April, 1863, aboard the steamer Enterprise. We are led to conclude that if Waddington hadn't stubbornly pursued his unrealistic 'business plan', Interior Indians would not have been aroused to defend their territory. Specifically, according to Williams' representation of Homfray's journal, “The terrible massacre was caused by the ill treatment of the Indian women by Mr. Waddington's party who were making the road.” This is the central thesis at the heart of Slack Tide.
Conjuring an operatic chorus of weeping women, Williams notes that dozens of male participants in the events of 1864 can be named, but it is difficult to track the names and fates of women involved. “Both historical and contemporary native statements force one to attend to the claim that the sexual abuse of the daughter of a chief caused the war.”

After members of Waddington's road crew were butchered in their sleep, news of the attack shocked Victoria. Governor Seymour issued a proclamation calling for volunteers to help apprehend the perpetrators, dead or alive. Nearly 150 men, including many Indians and Governor Seymour, chased Chilcotin Indians through the mountains until white vengeance was satisfied.
In Chapter Five we are told that in the summer of 1993, the Nemiah Band of the Tsilhqot'in nation (the Xeni qwet'in) demanded from the Province of British Columbia an official pardon for the hangings.
B.C. Attorney General Colin Gablemann is later quoted in chapter eight, speaking at a 1993 meeting with Cariboo Tsilhqot'in leaders, “The hanging of the Tsilhqot'in Chiefs in 1864 is a tragedy which, if we are to move forward with respect and in good faith, must be recognized.”
Williams values oral history as much as written accounts. In her third chapter she attends her husband's Sliammon Seven Aside Soccer Tournament and questions elders. Coastal expert Jim Spilsbury is also included, recalling cutting shakebolts above Homfray Creek in 1924 with his brother.
High Slack grew from an invitation by Rosa Ho, curator at the UBC Anthropology Museum, for Williams to create an installation of paintings, sculptures and 'book works' generated by her upcoast and archival explorations in and around Bute Inlet. Williams, Ho and Greg Brass also organized a symposium of 150 people at UBC First Nations House in 1994 called “The Tsilhqot'in War of 1864 and the 1993 Cariboo Chilcotin Justice Inquiry.” Upon viewing the exhibition called 'High Slack', New Star editor Terry Glavin invited Judith Williams to expand her Bute Inlet findings into a book for his Transmontanus series.
Cumulatively High Slack is like a panoramic mural. All the elements are depicted and it's up to the eye of the beholder to determine where emphasis ought to be placed. Different readers will make different interpretations.

[BCBW 1997]