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BEST OF THE CITY: Enjoy a self-guided tour of Oak Bay’s First Nations monuments

Monumental 13-kilometre trek can be made shorter by bike or vehicle
The stone monument overlooking Loon Bay, near the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, holds place No. 1 on the Oak Bay walking tour. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Black Press)

Official events in Victoria frequently now acknowledge their presence on the traditional territories of the L’kwungen speaking peoples known today as the Esquimalt and Songhees nations.

Oak Bay has taken steps toward reconciliation as well, and a guide to First Nations monuments offers a good example for people looking to connect with the area’s roots.

Patches of Snow, reads a stone marker not far from the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and accessible from Beach Drive. It’s marked No. 1 on the guide and is as good a place as any to start a walking tour.

Tsartlip master carver Temoseng Charles Elliott designed the stone monuments, strategically installed at culturally significant places throughout the community: Loon Bay (Sungayka), Willows Beach (Sitchanalth), Bowker Creek (Thaywun), Turkey Head (Spewhung), Anderson Hill (The Guardian), McNeill Bay (Chikawich), Trafalgar Park lookout and Harling Point (Sahsima).

Hitting all those sights on one walking tour is a bit of a long haul, but if augmented by bicycle or vehicle it can be quite manageable. Some points offer central parking spots to hit a handful of the cairns.

Start with the easy-to-miss monument in a small green space at Loon Bay and envision the village that existed there. It also served as a defensive site for the Lekwungen-speaking people.

Each monument tells a small story, to help the visitor imagine what once was.

After a hop across Cattle Point and down the stairs to Esplanade, make a second stop at Willows Beach, looking out toward Discovery Island. The neighbourhood is well-documented with archaeological sites where longhouses lined the shore. QR codes affixed to the monuments offer additional information for those with a smart phone and a free app.

Breeze through a few cairns, then stop at Anderson Hill, a place with plenty of parking. The hill itself boasts enough space to spend some time, relax and enjoy the view, while the breeze rustles Garry oak leaves.

At the southwest boundary of Oak Bay and Victoria, find the Harling Point monument near the Chinese Cemetery. It tells the Songhees story of Hayls the Transformer, who, with spirit companions Mink and Raven, came in his canoe and frightened away a seal that being stalked by a harpooner. When the hunter rebuked them, Hayls turned him to stone, leaving him to protect the seals there forever.

As we approach the sparkling shoreline and look across to Trial Island you see the hunter standing just off the rocky shore – still protecting the seals.

A Guide to the First Nations Monuments of Oak Bay includes eight monuments and two other displays, each offering insights into the L’kwungen people and historic land use. The guide can be found at Oak Bay municipal hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave. where Elliott’s artwork for each cairn is also on display.

It’s also a great starting point for the 13-kilometre tour, that takes roughly five hours walking, two hours by bike or 90 minutes by car.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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