Húy̓at, like much of our territory,
is marked by the remains of our ancient and more recent settlements. In fact, many of our historic homes are built on the remains of ancient houses extending back millennia. We use the expression “Smokehouse Days” to refer to the time in the last century when our people regularly visited Húy̓at to harvest and process salmon and other foods. One of the ways our community today connects to Húy̓at is through our Elders’ stories of being in Húy̓at as youth during Smokehouse Days.
Oral traditions and our traditional place names, in combination with archaeology, provide information about the lives lived in our ancient, ancestral settlements; the memories of Elders provide rich details about life in Húy̓at in the early 20th century. Through these memories, we get insights into the range of tasks, the stories told, and the lessons-learned in Húy̓at.
Heiltsuk place names in Húy̓at.
Excavating an Ancient House Floor
We imagine that many aspects of day-to-day living in the more distant past were similar to life in the early 20th century – with significant differences. For instance, cedar baskets and hearths were used for cooking rather than metal pots and pans and wood stoves; woven cedar mats served as mattresses; knives were made of stone rather than metal, and our clothes were made of woven inner cedar bark rather than cotton. And, importantly, in the more distant past, we lived in Húy̓at year round, rather than only during the summer and fall.
In ancient times, in addition to marking our territory with impressive houses, we also carved and pecked imagery (called petroglyphs), and drew imagery with red ochre (called pictographs), on rocks near our homes. Although the meaning of this rock “art” is now not fully understood, it almost certainly conveyed – to both residents and visitors – the connections between the house owners, their ancestors, and a particular place.
Rock carvings in the vicinity of an ancient settlement. Rock carvings and rock paintings are found throughout Heiltsuk territory. They are both a distinctive presence and a mystery in that their meaning is not fully understood and they are of unknown age. Rock carvings and paintings, like all evidence of ancestral presence throughout the Heiltsuk homeland, are considered sacred and sensitive by the Heiltsuk and are protected under the BC Heritage Conservation Act against theft, damage, or defacement.