Gabriola Roots -
The Land Provides
Exhibit and Film
The Museum is pleased to announce the theme of the 2015 exhibit and film
Gabriola Roots: the Land Provides.
The exhibit of 6 poster panels, artifacts, and a 20 minute film tells the multi-faceted story of how Gabriola has met the spiritual and physical needs of its inhabitants through the ages.
The Land Provides
The Land Provided
People have lived for thousands of years on the island we now call Gabriola.
Jose Cardero, artist on the 1792 Spanish expedition to the Strait of Georgia and Gabriola Island, drew this depiction of a Snuneymuxw “chief of Descanso Bay”. It is the earliest known image of a Gabriola Islander. Credit: Museo Naval, Madrid
In 1792, Spanish sailors landed on the island they would call Gaviola, later corrupted to Gabriola.
The traditional land uses practiced by the Suneymuxw had enabled the natural resources of Gabriola to sustainably support a substantial population – for a very long time. From an historical perspective, the last 150 years of European settlement and land use are a recent anomaly in the history of Gabriola Island.
The Land Pre-empted
In 1854, Vancouver Island Governor James Douglas negotiated a treaty with the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
1880s map of Gabriola showing land pre-emptions. Credit: Gabriola Archives.
The Snuneymuxw Treaty of 1854
Source: Snuneymuxw First Nations
What Led to the Treaty
What is the Meaning of the Treaty
How Has the Treaty Been Used
What is Happening Today
The Challenge of the Land
The first European settlers to Gabriola were attracted by the prospect of cheap farmland that could supply a growing market of hungry miners and workers in Nanaimo.
Gabriola only has a few small pockets of good soil.
The Land Developed
By 1960, life for Gabriola’s approximately 450 residents was changing.
The Land Will Provide
From 1950 to the mid-1970s, Gabriola farmland had more value as recreational and residential development than it did for growing food.
“Our vision is to create a working permaculture family farm: one that produces an array of healthy food for the community, nurtures the soil and surrounding environment, and provides a venue for community involvement, participation, and education.”
Pollen Heath and Lisa Butler, Stephen and Caylie Levesque – Watercliff Permaculture Farm
“The future of agriculture on Gabriola is looking mighty good. We have an amazing generation of young farmers living dynamically with healthy purpose, raising yet another generation with power and magic. All farming with love for our earth.”
Rosheen Holland; Good Earth Farm.
The Business of Farming
By the 1930s and 40s, Gray’s grandson, Robert “Dorby” Gray, was operating the family’s farm – noted for its prize Aberdeen Angus cattle.
Today, Gray Farm continues to produce mutton and wool. The original Gray farm house is still standing, overlooking Degnen Bay.
Somerset Farm rapidly grew into Gabriola’s largest commercial agricultural operation. Today Eric Boulton still manages the farm’s herd of grass-fed Limousin cattle that are marketed locally on Gabriola as well as in Nanaimo.
Eric’s daughter Alexa, the third generation of Boultons to farm on Gabriola, studied at Alberta’s Olds Agricultural College. She runs Somerset Farm’s modern abattoir, the only facility of its kind on the island.