History of Cordova Bay
Our present-day community of Cordova Bay has been built on the much more ancient village site called ȾEL¸IȽĆE, in SENĆOŦEN (the language of the W̱ SÁNEĆ communities of Tsawout, Tsartlip, Pauquachin, andTseycum), or c̓əlíɫc in ̌Lək̓ ʷiŋínəŋ (the language of the Lekwunge communities of Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations). The original name(pronounced something like tsul-ilh-ch though not all the sounds in these languages are found in English) was glossed by the late Elder Dave Elliott Sr. as meaning ‘place of the defeated’, alluding to events that happened here deep in the ancient past. This is a place with many important stories.
ȾEL¸IȽĆE is the ancestral village site located in Cordova Bay and occupied for at least 1000 years (a date which we know from mid-depth radiocarbon sample run on a salvage archaeological excavation done at a property in Agate Lane in 2008). Spanish naval maps from 1792 show two longhouses at this village, and by 1852 Governor Douglas signed the South Saanich Treaty with W̱ EȾÁM¸ELTW̱ and his followers who lived at this village, in response to settlers taking logs from the Cordova Bay area.
The Cordova Bay waterfront was a centre of community life for the people who lived at ȾEL¸IȽĆE, including house sites, burials, fishing and harvesting areas, an intertidal fish trap, camas meadows, and impressive monumental cedars. In spite of the South Saanich Douglas Treaty, no Indian Reserves were surveyed in Cordova Bay, yet W̱ SÁNEĆ peoples have continued to exercise their fishing and other rights in the area well into the 20th century. Our Cordova Bay Local Area Plan celebrates this history, and points to a new direction for our community with honours and upholds these Indigenous ancestral places.
Article Courtesy of:
Dr. Brian Thom
Provost’s Engaged Scholar
Associate Professor and Honours Advisor, Department of Anthropology
University of Victoria
A Connection to Emily Carr
In the early summer of 2009 the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) was able to apply some of it’s art acquisition funds to purchase a rare painting by Emily Carr: “Shore and Forest (Cordova Bay)”. The work, painted in 1931, was done during one of Carr’s many sketching trips. In this case Carr was travelling with another pioneering woman artist Edith Hembroff-Schleicher. In May of 1931 Carr took a three week long trip to Cordova Bay. She and Edith stayed at Edith’s family cottage which was situated halfway between the beach and the road. Also along for the trip were five dogs and Carr’s pet monkey Woo. Similar to many of Carr’s paintings at the time, “Shore and Forest” is a work of oil paint on paper and demonstrates Carr’s vibrant approach to capturing the forests and landscapes of Vancouver Island.
Stephen Topfer, AGGV Manager of Collections and Exhibits