Songhees History Cairn, Anderson Hill Park

The cairn on top of Anderson Hill is my favourite of all of the Oak Bay cairns about Songhees history. It feels more part of the natural landscape than any of the others as it is well within Anderson Hill Park, you have to walk up hill and across rocks and dirt to get to it and it has a stunning view of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, Olympic Mountains and Trial Island. If you are going to visit only one of these cairns, and are able to walk on a slightly rough trail, then this is the one.  The entrance to the park is off Island Road, which joins with Newport Avenue near to Beach Drive not far east of the Kitty Islet cairn. If you have limited mobility I would recommend the King George Terrace lookout cairn as it is next to a parking area and has a good view as well.

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The cairn does not give any Songhees place names for the hill, or surroundings. Nearby cairns include several names for the landscape in this view, including Tlikwaynung (Trial Island), the Sahsima transformer stone location (Harling Point), Chikawich (village site in McNeill Bay) and Kitty Islet (only visible from some parts of the park).

The image above shows Tlikwaynung and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

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The inscription on top of the cairn reads:

Anderson Hill provides excellent views of the surrounding waters, and was likely used as a lookout by the indigenous people living in the area. People once sat here making stone tools, perhaps while watching for approaching enemies during warfare, or locating groups of sea mammals needed for food. Bulbs of blue camas, valued for food and trade, were gathered in nearby lowlands.

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

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This panorama is looking at McNeill Bay and Chikawich with the location of Sahsima on Harling Point to centre left.

In earlier posts I bemoaned the lack of information about these cairns. I had the idea to check out Anderson Hill as a likely spot and wondered if it would be worthwhile to explore the ends of streets that lead to the waterfront near the Yacht Club because that area was mentioned in the Cattle Point sign. Before I went exploring I accidently found a second article (now for sale only) in the Oak Bay News which mentions the three cairns I had not yet discovered. At the time of writing in October 2010 most of these cairns had been built with the sixth, Anderson Hill, recently finished and seven planned. The seventh and last cairn Sahsima (harpoon rock) was constructed and finished September 17, 2011. I first saw it that day with a dated sticky note warning of wet concrete; a sighting that launched me into this search for other cairns.

So, with Sunday’s post about Loon Bay and yesterday’s describing Bowker Creek, I will have finished this project to document the Songhees history cairns and their information. Perhaps there is another sign more like the one at Cattle Point that I will find out about and document in this series. Indeed there used to be a similar sign on the outside of the change room at Willows Beach Park with details about the archaeological site. It was put up about 1990 but the last time I viewed it a few years ago it was very faded and tagged with graffiti. It must have been removed about then and unfortunately was not replaced.

Over the course of this project my feelings about the local government’s acknowledgement of Songhees history have warmed a bit – these cairns are an enduring testimony to the Songhees and their use of the land. They tend to be well placed and will attract many views over the years. Mostly, I saw people walk past them without looking. Many will have read them on some earlier visit and some will just be suffering from cairn fatigue, as I came to (do you have any idea how many cairns there are in Oak Bay? Does anybody? I would say more than a hundred, possibly two hundred, some small, some big like the one visible on the highest point of Gonazales Hill in the background of the above photo).

While photographing the Anderson Hill cairn on Saturday 10 or 20 people came by and the well worn paths indicate heavy use of the park (perhaps too heavy for this fragile ecosystem). A mother read out parts of the inscription to her young children and discussed its meaning, with giggles about a statement of the obvious (“likely a lookout”) and interest in the idea of making stone tools up here. And, an elderly but wide ranging hiker came by and we chatted about the fantastic view and our experiences hiking in the Olympic Mountains. He finds the cairn perfectly placed to hold onto while completing excercises necessary to keep “hip replacements and similar operations” at bay. A different kind of cairn fatigue, and I am sure one not anticipated by the people (who are you?) that designed these monuments and chose their locations.

While I am impressed by these cairns and the effort that surely went into them, I remain dismayed by the lack of information about them. The hard to find articles in the Oak Bay News did not come up on any intuitive internet search phrases. I would expect the municipality to be promoting these cairns on their web site as part of an Oak Bay heritage walking or biking route when in fact there is virtually no information on their website. Hopefully this will change.

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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.

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