Thaywun – Bowker Creek Songhees History Cairn

Bowker Creek and it’s salmon run are marked by a cairn on Cadboro Bay Road where Bowker Creek passes beneath it and Foul Bay Road. The cairn is crowded by a narrow sidewalk, businesses and parked cars. It, like Bowker Creek, is walled in and controlled by a modern world in a rush towards prosperity. In some ways this seems like appropriate symbolism for the Songhees First Nation way of life that has been heavily constrained by the settlement of their lands. Although, and as the cairn says, the endurance of the creek in the face of such pressure can be understood as an appropriate tribute to the endurance of the Songhees culture in the face of the same pressures.

What on earth is with this alien, and why is he the same colour as recreation Oak Bay in the background? Trying to blend in, or something. In any case, it is less alien in my Hollywood informed culture than the settlers must have seemed to the Songhees two hundred years ago. In the picture above on the other side of the street, the cairn is off the rear bumper of the parked car and Bowker Creek is below the railings.

The inscription on top of the cairn reads:

For thousands of years the salmon of Bowker Creek, (Thaywun: coho salmon stream), supported thriving indigenous populations. First peoples living in this region fished for salmon, herring and rockfish and collected a variety of shellfish and plant materials. They hunted deer and elk, and antlers were beautifully crafted into tools and works of art. The creek endures as a tribute to the traditions of the ancestors.

Oak Bay Heritage,  Artwork by Charles Elliott, Temoseng,  BC 150 YEARS

The content of this inscription seems a bit out of place for this location well inland. I wonder if the original plan when it was written was to place the cairn near the mouth of the creek in Willows Bay.


This view is less pressured and overbearing, but I had to get very close and take a panorama of shots which are joined together to reduce evidence of the busy world all around.



Bowker Creek next to the monument.

As with my other posts about the Songhees cairns, this one is listed in the first post I made, and its information is updated on the map.




10 thoughts on “Thaywun – Bowker Creek Songhees History Cairn

  1. Thanks for the great information! I am planning a First Nations Bike Tour for my group Victoria Cycling Adventures on May 9th. This section of your blog and the map of the cairn and other locations has been very helpful to me. Do you cycle? It would be great to have you along as you seem to have a great deal of knowledge in this area. Here is the tour map, still under development: Click on the i symbols for that particular stop. Your feedback and participation would be most welcome!


    • Hi Simon. Thanks for the invite. I don’t ride much anymore, and likely will be out of town at that date, so I won’t join your ride. I hope it goes well, and am very glad that these posts have helped you organise it. Let me know if you have any questions – my email address is on the about page.


    • Hello Simon, Sounds like a great bike ride. For additional interesting sites, see the just published brochure “Guide to the First Nations Monuments of Oak Bay” (paper copies available at the Oak Bay Municipal Hall, 2167 Oak Bay Avenue). There are eight FN Monuments described and plotted on a walk/bike/drive tour, which might be a nice fit with yours. The original cedar carving art that is cast in bronze on the Monuments is also on display at the Municipal Hall. Cheers, Mike


      • Hi Mike – thanks for the information, it was very difficult to find when I put this series together – it is nice to see more information and interest out there.


  2. Pingback: Sahsima and Chikawich – Cairns marking Songhees places in Oak Bay « burnt embers

  3. Pingback: Songhees History Cairn, Anderson Hill Park « burnt embers

  4. Amazing to read information hidden away except to photographer and research. Totally irrevelant, but this placque is perfect astrological sign of Pisces (my birthsign).:-)


  5. Too bad the creek abuts that wall. It looks impossible to explore the shoreline which probably has many things happening along it. The art on the cairn is beautiful. Simple and understated. I like those qualities as well as the patina. Thanks for sharing the story.


    • Hi Doug, thanks for coming back. The creek runs in a culvert in many parts of Oak Bay, but is open in some people’s back yards. Mostly its highly controlled and much less than it would have been, but it is accessible in a few places. Even so, someone of your skills for photography of small things and night time photography could show the world a lot about Bowker Creek that is unexpected by those of us that walk the paths without really looking closely. The creek is pretty far from my house, so I doubt I will be spending much time poking around it, but perhaps I should visit the open areas with my camera and see what is to be seen.


      • I should also say that I too like Temoseng Charles Elliott’s plaques on these monuments. They are simple and subtle in many ways. My understanding is that he carved them in redcedar (the traditional medium for much of northwest coast art) and the bronze (or are they copper?) plaques were cast from his wood originals. Tomorrow’s plaque on the Anderson Hill cairn has his signature on it , which appears to be mirror image from this process and suggests that all these plaques are reversed from how he prepared them.


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