Sunday, October 24, 2010

Qualicum -- Land of Many Stumps

If ‘Nanaimo’ is a Native word meaning “land of many malls,” then ‘Qualicum’ could be interpreted as “land of many stumps.” And I’m not referring to the charred leftover stumps of industrialized logging that destroys entire ecosystems and leaves only death in its wake, but massive free standing stumps, remnants of ancient giants scarred with notches marking their last days, yet still holding strong to the forest floor and standing with dignity, supporting new life.

Having explored the Gnome Forest, where a 1000 year old cedar stump remains surrounded by a perfectly intact coastal rainforest ecosystem, I ventured to the Brown Property, as locals call it, or Heritage Forest as the signage suggests. It’s on the other side of the village, near the golf course. In its centre is a bulletin board outlining its history, starting in 1913 when “General Money bought the property,” then sold it to Jim Lowery of Home Oil who sold it to Bobby Brown who maintained a family farm which was sold to the City. Luckily one day a woman, Anne Klees, discovered plans to ‘develop’ the forest, turn it into a subdivision, and the community rallied and raised over 2 million dollars to preserve it as it is today.

One small problem. In this forest, and in the “Community Forest” closer to town, there’s clear evidence of indigenous culture. Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs), with strips of cedar bark removed and woven into baskets and clothing, stand in these forests as reminders that people lived and worked and played in these woods for thousands of years prior to the real estate crowd’s arrival. Just how did General Money come to buy these woods, I wonder? How many native people were slaughtered, or died with disease, before the General plunged his flag into the earth and proclaimed the land as his? Was there a treaty process to transfer land ownership? Did the indigenous people who signed it really understand what they were entering into?

I think it’s wonderful that the citizens Qualicum Beach feel so strongly about keeping their community green and natural that they pooled their resources and bought the Heritage Forest. If I were an indigenous person, I’d be grateful that some white folk are also able to appreciate the value of a standing, intact ecosystem. But I’d sure like to be remembered as part of the history of the place.

You can take a virtual walk through Qualicum Beach and surroundings by clicking here.