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View Ancient Local History, Our Lake's Native Coastal Pictographs

'Every region has its local history, places, landmarks, visual delights that connect you to a place’s past. My lake is no different...'

I think some of these pictographs include a snake, (or serpent), a crab, a fish, a sun and a turtle.

Every region has its local history, places, landmarks, visual delights that connect you to a place’s past. My lake is no different, it has some fabulous cliff art, called ‘pictographs’ along a section of steep upward cliffs near one end of our freshwater lake not far from the connecting creek to the ocean.

I remember my father discovering them and showing us as children, though he called them ‘petroglyphs’, not ‘pictographs’. All my childhood I referred to them as ‘petroglyphs’, until I googled the meaning and found out their correct reference, which was ‘pictographs’. Correctly speaking, petroglyphs are carvings into the rock surfaces, wherein pictographs, are painted images, most usually, and in our case at the lake, in a red ochre substance. As to how long they have been there, or for what purpose I am afraid I do not know. Being a lake resident for over 50+ years, I can only go by the folk lore I was told, together with any information I can google.

My father told me once that this place marked a ‘rite of passage’ for young, Native Coastal males. He told me that this place was where native males were told to swim underwater across the section from land on one side of the lake to the other, that is, to the cliffs, (or visa versa), as a coming of age rite of passage. This is not a hugely wide stretch of water, and so I think it quite do-able for swimming across underwater. (Of course, that would be for a young, very healthy individual). This tale might be way off the mark, but who knows? It is common to believe that these paintings represent all manner of things from the sighting of animals and creatures, to Shaman visions, to traditional practices of the Native Coastal Tribes. I have also seen them, referring to this area as the Coastal Salish Territory.

Interestingly enough, I did manage to locate some interesting literature online, a very extensive and detailed accounting of recorded petroglyphs and pictographs of our Northwest Coast of BC called, ‘The Rock Art of the Northwest Coast’, by Doris Marion Lundy. The paper was originally her thesis paper for her B.A. in her Master of Arts program with Simon Fraser University, and she wrote it in 1969. I do not have permission to quote anything from the paper, but it is online for anyone who would like to view it. I will warn you, it is very lengthy, and explains the locations of hundreds of petroglyphs and pictographs all throughout British Columbia, Canada. I would also like to mention it includes explanations and illustrations of many of the shapes which may include, animal, reptile, bird, fish, crustaceans, man, the sun, the moon, and even some mythological shapes and forms. It is my belief, and, this is based solely from my own conclusions, that the lake pictographs at my lake include a snake, (or serpent), a crab, a fish, the sun and a turtle. There are many more, but the images have blurred over the years and so I am not sure.

These pictographs are blurry now after so many years...

For years, we have stopped by the cliffs to view the paintings, take pictures of them and show them to visiting friends and family. It is just one of those special things we have and like to share at the lake.

We take the boat to the area, then slowly idle below the cliffs, or shut off the engine and just drift (if it is not a windy time of day), for appreciation and viewing. We can get very close to shore, because the water is quite deep with the cliff’s angle steeply straight up and down along that section of the land where these are located.

I really wish I could share with you the real and true story of when and how these pictographs were drawn, but there is still the joy of a little mystery here. As a family and lake dweller, well, they are just a special little part of our lake history, one we can go to see, enjoy and share with others.

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