As a 'dormant anarchist', Jim Christy frequently debunks conventional interpretations of history -- the shoot-out at the OK Corral, for instance -- and proposes alternative role models, such as writer Blaise Cendrars and the British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton. Inviting controversy in his book Between the Meridians, he claims Spanish conquistadors visited Keremeos prior to the 19th century. "According to the history books,"; Christy writes, "the first white man to penetrate the southern interior of what is now called British Columbia was the fur trader David Thompson in 1811."; In a story called 'West of Keremeos', Christy summons his strengths as a maverick researcher and adventurer to argue that Spanish explorers reached the Similkameen long before David Thomson.

First, Christy finds Ernie Joseph, a 78-year-old Indian, in a bar. According to Similkameen oral history, members of Ernie Joseph's tribe massacred Spaniards near their Indian village of Keremeos and buried them in a fabled 'Spanish Mound'. There are rock carvings, petroglyphs, to prove it. But Ernie Joseph tells Christy he has to find the petroglyphs for himself. Christy then recounts his roundabout route to find the rock carvings near Hedley. We learn the Spanish launched more than 150 coastal expeditions from Mexico in search of gold and the 'Strait of Anian', a mythical passage that supposedly split the North American continent. "It seems preposterous to insist that no European reached the southern interior of British Columbia until the 1800s,"; he writes. "By the latter part of the 16th century, Cabeza de Vaca had already traveled overland from Florida to the Pacific Northwest."; Christy also cites the travels of a Greek mariner named Apostolos Valerianos. While Valerianos was using various pseudonyms--including Juan de Fuca after which the Strait of Juan de Fuca is named--Valerianos apparently sailed north three times to the Pacific Northwest for the Viceroy of Mexico in the late 1500s. According to Michael Lok, an Englishman who financed Martin Frobisher's three trips to Baffin Island, Valerianos claimed he made a journey across the North American continent from west to east. This leads Christy to his hard 'evidence' of Spanish inland infiltration. 1. Historian Bill Barlee has observed that the appearance of the Similkameen band is different from neighbouring tribes (they're taller) 2. The Similkameen are the only Interior band to pronounce a pure 'r', a predominant letter in Spanish 3. Armour made from heavy copper has been found in a native burial ground identical to Spanish mail (and neither the Spanish or anyone else wore armour in the 19th century). 4. The only piece of turquoise ever discovered in an Indian grave in B.C. was found near Okanagan Falls (and is now displayed at the Penticton museum). Christy visits the pictographs and provides his analysis. 1. There are men on horseback with peaked hats (like the helmets worn by the Spanish) 2. The are four standing figures attached by a line drawn through their necks (like prisoners chained together in the Spanish fashion) 3. The prisoners are guarded by dogs with open mouths (like the vicious guard dogs the Spanish were known to have used).

Dismissed out of hand or regarded as a troublesome crank by academics, Christy has persisted. "Over the years I have returned to the spot, studied it, and, consequently, gathered more pieces of information. For instance, the iron neck collar the Spanish placed around their prisoners was called a cerebance. On each visit, I had been particularly intrigued by the care with which the helmets were drawn. Not only was the brim, or lip, of the helmet distinct, the peak, as mentioned, was rendered just-so. I often thought of it. I learned the helmet worn buy conquistadors, and shaped exactly the same way, was a morion. But my primary discovery occurred in Mexico, near Cuernavaca, on a cliff wall in country not unlike the dry land above the Similkameen River. I located an ancient pictograph that shows a soldier on horseback wearing a morion, and in front of him are five Indian prisoners guarded by dogs and chained at the waist."; Glenn Douglas, a native researcher and librarian in Keremeos, is also convinced that the legend of the 'Spanish Mound' is for real. "If the story wasn't true,"; says Douglas, "it wouldn't have been handed down as truth from generation to generation."; A photograph taken by Christy of the Hedley pictographs adorns the cover of his book Between the Meridians. "History, you know, is really a lie and changes its mind every day. Blood red lines drawn on protected cliff walls will last through millennia. In the end, the only historical truth is in the blood of the people. That's the secret of my own special place.";

[BCBW SPRING 2000] "Spanish"