The Loss of a Way of Life

Please read through E. Pauline Johnson’s retelling of “Deer Lake” who she first heard orally from Chief Joe Capilano. Then follow through Chief’s journey again using the following map I made. You may click on the pins to read snippets of the first Chief Capilano’s story. Again: please see this map!!

The story “Deer Lake” by E. Pauline Johnson is about the first Chief Capilano losing his ancestors’ elk-bone spear while hunting the “very king of seals” (Johnson) near the coast currently known as Point Grey. He then spends the following months looking for the mighty seal, his reliable rope and his precious spear. A year later, after following an ominous red reflection in the sky, Chief Capilano finds his lost things still attached to the carcass of the seal near Dear Lake, surrounded by a forest fire.

What struck me the most about this story while reading it was how the Chief journeyed alone through the Lower Mainland. As he canoed through quiet streams and churning rapids and as he walked through trails between ancient trees, he never mentioned seeing another soul. If someone was to undertake a similar adventure across Vancouver today, they wouldn’t be able see the same silent forests, enticing rivers, or even watchful sky. I compared the two Vancouvers, the one from the past and the current one, by overlaying Chief Capilano’s journey over modern street maps with conforming and strict straight lines to show the unrecoverable ancient Vancouver.

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Through mapping one story of one individual, I was also able to see how intricately woven the stories of First Nations are embedded in the land. When zooming out of the map, the captions, pins, and tracks become indiscernible. Considering the many Aboriginal stories ingrained in just one small area, it becomes glaringly pronounced how much culture we have lost through colonization.

An immense part of Aboriginal culture and heritage is tied to the lands which we live in; and through irreparably modifying these borrowed lands to fit our standards, we have not only diminished the lives of First Nations people, but have lost a whole civilization.


Works Cited

Johnson, E. Pauline. Legends of Vancouver. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1913. Print.



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