Sunday, 26 July 2015

Thursday, 16 July 2015


During the early Triassic period, ichthyosaurs evolved from a group of unidentified land reptiles that returned to the sea.

They were particularly abundant in the later Triassic and early Jurassic periods before being replaced as a premier aquatic predator by another marine reptilian group, the Plesiosauria, in the later Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


George Hunt, Mary Ebbetts (Ansaq / Ansilaga)
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, Anisa'laga (or Mary Ebbets) and Robert Hunt. 

The daughter of a powerful Tlingit chief from Alaska, Anisalaga 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.

Anislaga / Anisalaga, Ansnaq / Mary Ebbetts belonged to the Raven phratry of the Kyinanuk Tlingit of Tongass / Larhtorh/Larhsail at Cape Fox. Raven brings the first salmon run of the year.

Chief Hamdzidi from Xwamdasbe', who married Lucy Omhid, a Kwakiutl, was a Raven of Tongas. Hamdzidi died tragically at sea with several Nahwitti warriors when their canoe was attacked by a killer whale they had wounded.

 (Kanhade Gitaranits) along with Kyinanuk and Anadzurh. Ansaq's sister belonged to the Wolf. They were both descendants of Chief Shaiks, the Stikine and the Head-Chief of Wrangell. 

At the time of her birth in 1823, life was very different in Tongass, Alaska. She led a traditional Tlingit lifestyle while navigating under the rule of Czar Alexander I of Russia. Ansaq was a skilled weaver from a long line of Chilkat weaving Masters — some originally Tsimshian of Wrangel now family through marriage. When she was fourteen, she was put in seclusion according to the old Tlingit custom. A native painter was engaged to put up a painted cloth behind where she worked. An elder woman then described the figures as they were being painted in the manner of old Chilkat design.

Without looking, Mary would reproduce them into her own work. This might be a Raven on each side of the design, the Killer Whale under and the Grizzly-Bear in the centre with faces of other bears to illustrate the Bear Mother story — or include other traditional designs — but always with a central figure to showcase when the robe was danced. She was taught to prepare all of the materials for weaving — gather and split the cedar bark, traditional dying of mountain goat wool with bark, copper and urine. Over the years, she grew to become a very skilled weaver and Master of the Chilkat tradition — an art she guarded from outsiders but shared with family and those closest to her. She worked in bold yellow, turquoise, black and white — including an abstract design in the bottom corners that is her signature. 

Ansaq married Robert Hunt of the Hudson's Bay Company on the Nass River while staying with the Tsimshian. They lived in the north then relocated to Fort Rupert where they had eleven children — seven daughters and four sons. One of their sons, William, married Annie Wilson and together they had (Robert) Vivian Hunt, my great grandfather. The Hunts you meet on the west coast are their descendants. She brought Tlingit songs, stories and the Chilkat weaving tradition from the north to the coast into traditional Kwakiutl country. Through the Ravens of Tongass, her marriage and move to Fort Rupert Ansaq brought Kyinanuk totem pole carving traditions to both Fort Rupert and Alert Bay — influencing their use of the Thunderbird, the Raven, the Sun, the Cannibal Tsonokwa, the double-headed serpent of the Sisiutl and the Sea-Lion.

A replica of Ansaq's mother's Tongass pole — erected on her mother's grave at Tongass, southern Alaska — was raised in Fort Rupert — a visual symbol that the Hunt family had come from the north but equally honoured both the Tlingit and Kwakiutl nations — and looked to mend past conflicts and historical animosity.  

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

Tuesday, 14 July 2015