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Xwaaqw’um XI
oil on birch panel, 48″ x 32″

Once a rich food source for the Sqw’uts’um (Cowichan) people – a clan belonging to the Hul’qumin’um First Nations treaty group on Vancouver Island – with the advent of European settlers in the 1800s, their ancient rights to Xwaaqw’um (Place of the Merganser) which we now call Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park, on Salt Spring’s south end, were rapidly undermined.

The first pioneer, James Shaw, was unsuccessful in his bid to homestead this lush valley, being chased off by the owners. John Maxwell, the second white man to lay claim, was more astute; in 1860 he married a woman from the Clemclemaluts settlement, thus gaining putative title to the land. After bearing seven children, the woman history knows only as “Mary”, left John and moved back to her village at the head of the Cowichan River.

While some descendants of Mary and John Maxwell still live on Salt Spring, little is known about Mary of Clemclemaluts. On an aerial map of the park, I named all the fields, paths and accesses, and I named the prettiest, wildest meadow, “Mary Meadow”, in her memory. The view here is looking through the uncut grasses of Mary Meadow to the baled hay in Lunney Field beyond.

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