Log #58m An Eco tour in First Nations territory

August 31, 2014 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 58, The Logs

Blunden, Bay, B.C.
Aug. 21, 2014
Hi Folks,
Here is the first of two logs where I talk about experiences with local environmental experts about the Broughtons. We are back below (south of) Cape Caution , and expect to be back in Port McNeil tomorrow where I can send this, as we have been out of contact with phone service and internet for some time now. I will send this on the 23rd, as I have another earlier log ready to go out as well, and will send it a day earlier. We are now heading south as we have to be on Gabriola Island in the Gulf Islands for a presentation to an Ontario 32 Rendezvous on Sept. 13. We are still enjoying this fantastic coast of British Columbia and plan to spend next year going even farther north.
All the best,

Log #58m An Eco tour in First Nations territory

Fly Cove, B.C.

Aug. 20, 2014

In Echo Bay we had a couple of fascinating experiences with environmentalists: a crusty old timer, Bill Proctor who has been living in the area of the mainland islands all his life; and a wilderness sojourner, Nikki Van Schyndel, who conducts eco tours around the Broughtons.

Let me start with Nikki. After living on a remote island in the San Juans for a year and a half, building shelters, harvesting plants in the wild, hunting wildlife, and living off the land, she came to the Broughton area in 2007. There she built her own log house overlooking a point near Bill Proctor’s around from Echo Bay, and has been living there ever since offering environmental programs for guests and children and conducting tours in the wild under her auspices of Echo Bay Eco Tours.  NikkiWe first met her at Bill Proctor’s Museum, and again a couple of nights later at a presentation she made at Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina at Happy Hour. There she regaled us with tales of communing with and being at one with nature. She ended her presentation with a display of starfish she handled out of a water filled cooler.

We arranged a tour with her and she came over to Veleda late in the morning where we were anchored in Shoal Harbour to take us down to a couple of First Nations islands for a first-hand experience of harvesting natural plants for food, starting a fire with a bow drill, and serving us a delicious repast on scallop shells, eaten using mussel shell utensils. We stopped on one small island to gather sea asparagus, sea plantain and bladder wrack, and drifted in a kelp bed to secure long slippery leaves of dark green kelp which she was going to take back to dry out as nori.






Judy Sedum







Judy harvesting sea asparagus                                             Nikki gathering sedum


                  beside onion blooms






Drifting in a kelp bed

TreeMod On Village Island she showed us “culturally modified” trees; cedar trees from which wood strips had been cut for cedar boards and bark stripped for basket weaving and kindling by First Nations communities. As we trekked through the island she harvested black gooseberries, wild thimbleberries, nodding onions, fresh mint, and spruce needles for tea, talking all the time, explaining the uses and recipes for different plants.







We meandered through dense bush up the path which went through a deserted First Nations community, by the abandoned medical clinic, past a couple of overgrown houses, and confronted by a gigantic  cedar arch   which was the entrance to a “big house”, a First Nations   community house and meeting hall, the original house itself non-existent, decayed and overgrown by thick foliage. Cabin  In 1921 this island was the site of the “Christmas Potlatch”, the last of the legendary coast potlatches which were originally banned by the government in 1884, but persisted underground or unenforced until this one in 1921. Much of the regalia and masks were confiscated.  However recent efforts have recovered many of  these artifacts and the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay has an impressive display of them. The band abandoned the village for a newer community built on another island 40 or 50 years ago.











Potlatch masks in Alert Bay


Along the pebbled shoreline Nikki prepared a “meal in the wild” using chopped up sea plantain, sea asparagus, sedum, and nodding onion mixed with previously cooked rice and chopped smoked salmon she had caught.








Nikki preparing our stir fry

Nikki then started a fire using a bow drill she made, using a wooden spindle and a hard wood thimble to press the spindle onto holes drilled into a softer wood base. Slits were cut beside the holes to allow the hot burning embers to fall out. She prepared a ball of finely crumpled cedar bark into which she placed the embers.

BowDrill1 BpwDrill2






Bow drill and parts                                                            Using the bow drill

She then blew on the embers in the ball of cedar bark until it ignited, then placed the now burning ball under a pile of dry kindling and sticks to create a glowing bonfire.

NikkiFire1Nikki blowing on burning embers

NikkiFire2Nikki putting burning ball into tinder







NikkiFire3After sautéing the stir fry, she dished it out onto large scallop shells and gave us tapered mussel shells as spoons with which to eat it. Mmmm! Good!












Judy eating from scallop shell

We then had a mug of spruce tea before the fire was extinguished and the ashes thrown in the shallow water, leaving no trace of our meal or of our presence.

Nikki is a remarkable woman. I might have said young woman, as she looks in her late twenties, behaves with enthusiasm of her early twenties, but actually she is 41 years old! It is obvious from her appearance that her lifestyle has contributed to her clear blue eyes, smooth complexion, perfect white teeth, and a youthful yet knowledgeable enthusiasm for the wilderness. Thanks Nikki.

This account has taken up the entire log, so I will talk about the other interesting character, Bill Proctor in my next log. In addition I will describe the reasons for local opposition to the fish farm industry affecting the Broughtons.

PS – An interesting book Nikki wrote is Becoming Wild by Nikki Van Schyndel, Caitlin Press, 2014. Address is Caitlin Press Inc. 8100 Alderwood Road, Halfmoon Bay, B.C., V0N 1Y1, website www.caitlin-press.com

–      Nikki’s website is www.echobayecoadventures.com .

Eco tours in the area are also available through Aboriginal Adventures, a First Nations venture headed by Tom Sewid. E-mail tom.sewid@gmail.com or website at www.aboriginaladventurescanada.com .