The little-known hiking trail that built Canada


According to archaeologist Joanne Hammond, the scattering of the obsidian shards I found is known as debitage (toolmaking waste) and they are quite common. “You are looking at nearly 15,000 years of continuous occupation on the [British Columbia] coast, it is more than 500 generations of people who make stone tools. This leaves a lot of stone tool debris, ”she said.

There are no volcanoes in the Broughton Archipelago, but Hammond explained that this is where the grease trails come in. “Despite the fact that there are only a few springs, obsidian has been marketed widely throughout BC Canada, ”she said.

Curious about which path obsidian must have taken, I planned to hike a bold trail. The most obvious competitor was the Nuxalk-Carrier. It begins at what was once the region’s largest eulachon trail (the Bella Coola River) and crosses what is now known as Tweedsmuir (South) and Kluskoil Lake Provincial Parks to reach Besbut’a or Anahim Peak, one of only two places in British Columbia where obsidian is found. From there it continues to the Blackwater River, just west of the town of Quesnel.

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My other reason I chose the Nuxalk-Carrier is that, unlike so many other fat streaks, it still exists.

While no one knows the exact number of these ancient trade routes that once crisscrossed British Columbia, it is believed there were hundreds of them. But according to Hammond, they are now mostly gone, and only a handful are in their traditional state. “The smallpox epidemic of 1862-1963 unfolded along the same trade routes that provided indigenous peoples with wealth and goods,” she said. The epidemic has killed around 60 to 90% of an estimated 200,000 people, and according to Canadian magazine Maclean’s, it has resulted in “a crisis that has left mass graves, deserted villages, traumatized survivors and a collapse of the world. society and, in a real way, created the conditions of today’s British Columbia ”.