The Cowichan of the past, like today, were anchored in our families. Through kinship, we are related to friends and neighbours throughout our traditional territory. – from the Cowichan Tribes website, November 2019.
Known as the People of the Warm Land, the Cowichan are a part of a larger First Nations group referred to as the Coast Salish People. The Kwa’mutsum village of Qw’umqwiimut, where these house posts were created, was on Cowichan Creek near the present-day city of Duncan on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
Puykwilum’s house had stood for a long time at the end of the village beside Cowichan Creek. When the house collapsed about 1903, the posts were moved to an adjacent house owned by his son Edward Paul and installed on the outside walls. Over time, changes were made to the house and to the posts.
When the house collapsed about 1903, the posts were moved to an adjacent house owned by his son Edward Paul and installed on the outside walls. Over time, changes were made to the house and to the posts.
When Edward Paul's house was taken down about 1935, the five house posts were acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Corfield and erected near their store, The Canoe, at Koksilah near the city of Duncan north of Victoria.
The Corfield family operated an auto camp and picnic grounds and sold groceries, hardware, and Indigenous arts and crafts in their store. But they specialized in the sale and promotion of Cowichan sweaters, working with many Cowichan area knitters to support and market this art form, which has become a symbol of British Columbia and of Canada. In 1944, Mr. and Mrs. Corfield gave the house posts to the Royal BC Museum.
Four of the posts (RBCM 5705, 5706, 5708, 5709) now stand together, facing Belleville Street, in the large window on the main floor of the Exhibits building. One of the posts (RBCM 5707) is on loan to the Simon Fraser University Museum of Ethnology and Archaeology in Vancouver.
Although removed from their home village and stripped of their traditional context, Puykwilum’s house posts still speak powerfully of Coast Salish art and culture, still express Kwa’mutsum history, and are still connected to the people of Qw’umqwiimut village. Contemporary Coast Salish artists are studying traditional works like these Kwa’mutsum house posts and adapting the style for new monumental carvings throughout the territories of the Coast Salish peoples.
The Sampson Family
This section was a combined effort on the part of:
Anthony Sampson Jr – LENECTET – Age 12 – Pacific Christian School – Grade 6 - Coast Salish (Songhees/Tsartlip – Nez Perce)
Aaliyah Sampson – TTASELWET – Age 11 – Pacific Christian School – Grade 6 - Coast Salish (Songhees/Tsartlip – Nez Perce)
Tom Sampson – TTASELEK - Coast Salish (Tsartlip) – Nez Perce
Under the Guidance of Sheila Sampson, Collections Assistant at the Royal BC Museum.
While researching the project, it wasn’t just about listening to the history. We actually went to visit the sites where some of the houses were. This gave us a better insight and understanding of our history culture. The grandchildren went to four of the language classes to receive a better understanding of how important the language is! This has been an inspiring project and a good learning lesson for us all!
Explore a curated selection of Royal BC Museum objects and contemporary photographs that inspire this community member to continue working in the tradition.
Coast Salish through history did not have totem poles. They had house posts which identified families by who they were. Symbolisms on the pole not only identified families, but also history for names, relations/family. But also, the birthright for ceremonies.
Attached are photos of a site we visited in Halat, where houses stood and we discussed the history of the land; names, relations. The meaning for Halat, is carving on the walls; which meant that everything that needed to be known was carved into the wall at the house, so members of the family would always have that as a reminder.
Totem poles are contemporary and they still have symbolism which tells a story/meaning of the pole. Example: Two totem poles were carved; one for New Zealand and the other for Victoria. Delegation was sent to New Zealand for the raising of the poles which were raised simultaneously at the same time with it being televised. This connects the two cities for the commonwealth games - sister cities. One Pole was carved by C. August, which sits on the legislative lawns and he is from Cowichan Tribes and the other was carved by Tim Paul from the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation.
Anthony Sampson Jr
It's what today's generation is doing. It is the new idea of the First Nation's people.
The carvings:it's our culture, it's the way it is with the carvings inside of the bighouse.
There weren't poles like this in this new generation.
There outside is the marker for the bear, wolf, the lightning/thunderbird.
This is how our sacred beliefs are in our sacred ceremonies.
Now today, they show the totems outside, not inside.
"lt's the marker," my relatives told my great grandfather of Halalt.
There are a lot totem pole markers that are outside.
Everything was inside of our homes, the big house.