THE ADVOCATE 131
VOL. 80 PART 1 JANUARY 2022
By David Roberts, Q.C.*
The government of Sir James Douglas, which administered the two
colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, ran an administration
that struggled with the growing pains of a new province and the crime, commerce
and disease that accompanied a massive influx of prospectors, all
bent on wresting fortunes from the gold that had been discovered in the
Yukon and in Barkerville. This was the heyday of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Douglas himself was originally a Hudson’s Bay factor and then governor
of Vancouver Island. Though he was viewed by many as a capable
administrator, his administration also acquired a sinister reputation among
the Haida people.
My wife, Gill, and I were keen to visit Ninstints, the old abandoned Haida
village just north of Cape St. James, nestled on Anthony Island. The old
Haida name for what is now a UN heritage site is S’Gang Gwaay Llanagaay.
The Darwin Sound, the ketch, which had brought us down the coast,
dropped anchor off Anthony Island and we and our daughter, Kate, rowed
ashore. It was quite evident why this miraculously peaceful place had
become a world heritage site. Between the high tide mark and the forest,
scattered among the trees were dozens of weather-beaten totem poles and
some mortuary poles. Many poles had collapsed, worn away by the
weather. Some were leaning over, destined soon to join their mates on the
ground, before they slowly rotted and gave themselves back to the earth
whence they had originated. Some still stood proud of the ground, the visages
carved into the trunks gazing fixedly out to sea. Those of the mortuary
poles that still stood erect cradled small coffins near the top, waiting to
* David Roberts, Q.C., is a former editor of the Advocate.