Video projection (no sound)
4:00 duration (loop)
The Douglas fir stump pictured in the video is the remnant of a “bearing”, or “witness”, tree. Witness trees were used to mark property boundaries in the province of British Columbia’s early colonial period (1843 - 1871). The stump carries blaze marks from the 1859 surveys conducted in the Districts of Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley on south-eastern Vancouver Island.
Commissioned by the newly-formed Crown Colony of British Columbia, these were amongst the first land surveys in the province. The land, still to this day the unceded territory of the First Nations Cowichan Tribes, was sold by the colonial government to European settlers who were contractually obliged to develop the land into productive farms at the expense of the indigenous ecosystems.
The stump of the witness tree is located along the boundary of the Somenos Garry Oak Protected Area, which is one of Canada’s last remaining Garry oak ((pxwulhp/Quercus Garryana) ecosystems. Prior to colonisation, Garry oak ecosystems were managed by First Nations peoples to produce a food crop from the root of the camas lily (spe:nxw/Camassia Quamash) plants that grew within them.
Though intended as a method for demarcating the boundary of newly commodified land, the stump also bears witness to the destruction of fragile ecosystems and indigenous rights through the process of colonization.