Column: Hilary Stewart map deserves a proper home

Hilary Stewart was a Northwest Coast archaeological legend who passed away in 2014, at the age of 90

The large document slid out from between a pile of metal plates and film remnants into my hand.

There was a black and white drawing of a great blue heron on the bottom corner, an edge turned up. Just below it I saw, ‘Quadra Island, named for Don Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, 18th century Spanish Explorer.’

I paused.

I looked again and saw, ‘Copyright, Hilary Stewart 2004.’

Little tingles pranced on my skin.

I pulled the document out carefully. It was about 18 by 24 inches. It was a map of Quadra Island, with pieces of Cortes, Read, Maurelle and Sonora Islands and the Campbell River shoreline.

Hilary Stewart.

The map is exquisite. I don’t know where she got the original outline. But the details she obviously applied by hand are fabulous. She whited out some parts and added sketches of wildlife.

There are wolf and deer drawings in the northern part of Quadra. Deer, raccoon, chantrelle mushrooms and salmon berry in others.

All along the left side are cut and pasted pictures of winged creatures, from the Kingfisher to the Raven and Golden Crowned Sparrows.

There is a legend of roads and logging roads and trails and canoe routes.

And a miles to kilometers conversion table, half hand-drawn.

This was all done without a computer. This was all cut and pasted into place by hand. A meticulous effort that must have taken so many hours. And then she brought it in for printing.

Hilary Stewart.

She was a Northwest Coast archaeological legend who passed away on June 5, 2014, at the age of 90. She is remembered for her groundbreaking studies of First Nations culture on the West Coast with books such as Cedar, Artefacts of the Northwest Coast and Indian Fishing. She was a cultural anthropologist, lecturer, artist and free spirit whose books and drawings of Native culture have been studied all over the world.

And then there was this map.

I am now employed at RH Printing and the new owners needed to cull the files of more than 20 years of printing. Owner/operator Chelsea and her husband General Manager Mike asked if I would go through the files and “recycle everything possible.”

I suppose they might have been surprised at the vigour with which I attacked the task. I did so because I knew there was a rich and interesting history there.

It meant painstakingly separating plates and negatives, stripping the negatives from the masking plates. One customer at a time. Through those countless hours nuggets would pop out now again. But nothing like the Hilary Stewart map.

(There was, of course, the tin plate of the cover of Van Egan’s book The Shadows of the Western Angler, but Chelsea and Mike have generously given that to me. No value, except sentimental.)

The map, however, deserves a proper home. Perhaps through this column in The Mirror someone out there will suggest the best place. The Museum? The Quadra Island Cultural Society? Or are there family members still around that have inherited the copyright?

If you are an interested party, please email print@rhprinting.ca.

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