Sunday, 14 July 2013



Mary Ebbetts and her sisters
The tiny First Nations village of Tsaxis, or Fort Rupert, lies at the remote northern end of Vancouver Island. It was in its idyllic natural harbour that two outsiders happened to meet, Anislaga (or Mary Ebbets) and Robert Hunt. 

The daughter of a powerful Tlingit chief from Alaska, Anislaga was travelling with her father on a trading trip to Victoria. 

Robert was the Hudson’s Bay representative and was to establish a fort to establish the British presence in this important part of the colony. They married and started a family that, in the subsequent 150 years, produced over 1200 ancestors.

Exactly who was Anislaga? What treasures did she bring with her when she settled in Kwakwakwala territory and where are they now? How was it that she was accepted by the people of a foreign tribe, steeped in their own traditions and sense of place?  How did the fort influence the region and how did she come to be the one running it? 

Through interviews of family members, historians and anthropologists, this 20-minute film will answer these questions. Items from personal collections will be revealed, such as stunning engraved bracelets and the powerful coppers that are synonymous with status in potlatches. Museums will open their doors to show intricate blankets she painstakingly wove in the secretive art of Chilkat weaving, an art reserved only for those of nobility. 

A quest will be launched to locate possessions that have gone missing.  Various members of the family will tell their connection to their ancestor with stories recounted to them by their elders. Traditional ceremonies will be conducted to honour her place in the Big House. The beauty of the region that enchanted Robert and Anislaga will be shown in its splendour.

In the process of defining this powerful woman, the Hunt family members will talk about what it means to reconnect with their traditional roots as Kwakwaka’wakw people, their complicated lineage from this mixed race union, the power of their ancestors who traded as equals with the British, their place in society as some of this country’s most respected artists and their sense of place as strong and proud members of the Canadian mosaic.

In July 5-7, 2013, a celebration will take place in Fort Rupert. It will gather the members of the Hunt family and commemorate Anislaga. Of the hundred or so family members that are artists, many will contribute to projects such as carving a great totem pole to become a grave marker for the matriarch. An exhibit will display items from her treasure box. Archival photographs from 100 years ago will be displayed on location. Dances will be performed, some from her ancestral home in Alaska. A feast and family events will be held to allow people to renew connections or perhaps meet each other for the first time. This special event will be documented in order to be shared far beyond the walls of the Big House of this small but fascinating village.

Anislaga and Robert Hunt’s story set in the heart of Kwakwaka’wakw territory, is in many ways a quintessential Canadian story. It is the union of two immigrants who integrated with the people and place they settled in, creating a legacy of commerce, art and culture.  Anislaga’s life was rich in history, intrigue and power, as she carefully shaped the generations to come. One and a half centuries later, her descendents pay homage to her.


Corrine Hunt, Producer

Corrine is a designer and engraver, combining a contemporary esthetic with her ancestral cultures of the Komoyue and Tlingit First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.  Notably, she co-designed the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic medals in Vancouver. Her work includes designing coins for the Canadian Mint, a major exhibit of coastal art in Dresden, Germany, installations in hotels, corporate offices and homes the world over, and of course, her jewelry. She has a deep commitment to aboriginal issues, and is dedicated to promoting peace and a sense of spirituality through sharing and engaging with people of every background. She was born in Alert Bay, near her ancestral home of Fort Rupert, but is as comfortable in her village as she is in Berlin.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Monday, 8 July 2013


Elasmosaurs swam the seas for over 130 million years, feeding on the plentiful fish and shellfish. They used grit and gastroliths in their large stomachs to break down their seafood diet.

Gastroliths – round, polished stomach stones – have been found amid their bones. These stones would have been swallowed to help grind down their catch and lower their natural buoyancy. In their selection of these pebbles, elasmosaurs displayed, at times, a remarkable geological discernment.

The Puntledge elasmosaur from Courtenay, British Columbia, for example, had a yen for basalt. When the fossilized skeleton was excavated, the stones in its abdominal cavity were all basalt, an indication that this particular elasmosaur had somehow learned to discriminate between basalt stones and all others.

Basalt, as any geologist will tell you, is harder (and therefore longer lasting as a grinding material) than many other rocks. Yet over time, even basalt will erode, particularly when subjected to the digestive juices of such an enormous creature. From the elasmosaur’s long neck and bulky body, paleontologists have concluded that that their fishing technique was probably a sudden snake-like strike with the head, sweeping the meal into their cage-like mouth long before the tell-tail body loomed in sight through the depths.

Swimming beneath a school of fish, they would have been hidden by their dappled camouflage, allowing them to swing their toothy mouths up into the schools and capture hapless fish to be swallowed whole. Less stealth was probably required to hunt ammonites – free-swimming shellfish that jetted along like armoured squid. During the Jurassic, ammonites, distant relatives of the chambered nautilus, populated the seas.

The ammonites’ heavy protection would have meant that their backward-looking view of the world was no problem when dealing with most predators, but the marine reptiles of the day were a fatal exception to the rule. Ammonite fossils with clear teeth marks have been found, putting both elasmosaurs and mosasaurs at the scene of the crime and solving murder mysteries millions of years old.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013