Prince Rupert’s tourism catch phrase is “Where Canada’s Wilderness Begins.” It is definitely a place where wild animals outnumber humans. Prince Rupert is located on the scenic north coast of British Columbia with a population of 15,000. This area is a great destination for wildlife viewing and outdoor recreational activities. Prince Rupert has a First Nations history that dates back 10,000 years.
It was an overcast day when I embarked on my adventure trip to Pike Island which is home to several First Nations archaeological sites. I strolled down the pier to meet my Tsimshian First Nation guide who was going to lead me on a 5-hour walking tour through the old sites on Pike Island. We boarded a small passenger ferry that took us across to the island. It was a 20-30 minute ferry ride weaving through the small, secluded islands in Chatham Sound.
Prince Rupert is said to have 150 archaeological sites, the highest number in North America. Today, I was about to explore 5 of them on Pike Island. It was home to the Tsimshian First Nations people who occupied this area. Visitors can explore and find evidence of village remains and learn about the culture that once occupied lush rainforest island. This small island has five archaeological sites and 2 of them were last occupied just 1,800 years ago.
Before I began my 1½-hour historic walking tour, my guide, John, sang me a Tsimshian welcome song. This was the wonderful beginning of my historical adventure. As I walked on the well-kept wood chipped trail, he pointed out various plants that the Tsimshian people used for medicinal purposes. For example, if one had constipation, they could eat skunk cabbage. Now I know what to eat when I go camping.
We made our way down to the sandstone beach, where John showed me ancient petroglyphs, picture carvings on rock surfaces. He pointed one that looked like a sad face and another one that had an interesting pattern. Petroglyphs date back thousands of years and they usually communicate a message or story. It’s amazing that it is still there for people to enjoy and observe.
We walked back onto the trails which led us to the village sites. My guide bent down and pushed back a bush and showed me the depressions where the long houses once stood on the forest floor. He pointed out more evidence of an active village that once existed in Laxspa’aws, meaning, “island of sand.” What’s unique is that Pike Island is in the heart of the Coast Tsimshian Territory and is one of the oldest continuously occupied regions dating back 10,000 years. Even after all these years, traces of evidence are still noticeable.
I ended the tour at the recreated traditional longhouse with a warm fire waiting for me. I sat on the benches and gobbled my BBQ salmon lunch with all the trimmings. The salmon was caught that morning in the Chatham Sound by one of the local First Nations residents. My guide John ended our tour as he began it, with a Tsimshian song. His voice was soothing and his words told a story of his people. Even though I may not have understood his language, I felt the conviction of what he was singing about.
100 1st Ave East
Prince Rupert, BC
Tel . 1 (800) 667-4391 / (250) 624-5645www.seashorecharters.com