Toba Inlet is a remote fjord roughly 180 kilometres north of Vancouver. It is geographically closer to Campbell River, though the trip is an hour and 45 minutes by water taxi. A recently discovered arborglyph, believed to be a trail marker, suggests this area was not so isolated in pre-colonial days. Deep Roots story producer Roy L Hales interviews Michelle Robinson and Ken Hanuse, from the Klahoose First Nation, and local historian Judith Williams about the trail from pre-contact Toba Inlet to the rest of British Columbia.

The Trail

by Roy L Hales | Deep Roots Island Waves

“When I went up to the site to take a picture of the tree as I was looking around trying to see if there was a trail between the two markers, I had noticed an indentation in the ground. In my inexperience I assumed that whoever carved the face could have had a lean to or shanty and lived in that indentation … It would be interesting to see a team go up there and  maybe discover the trail, or discover that indentation in the ground; to do an archaeological dig or survey.”  - Ken Hanuse, Klahoose First Nation

There was this web of trails, throughout the whole west coast. If this in fact marks a trail, it would indicate one of the webs of the trail. And these trails went from tidewater, from Toba, all of the inlets, certainly in Bute and Knight Inlet. These trails went inland . often with trade materials. They are called grease trails, but they traded more than that. These arborglyphs and other marking symbols like this indicate paths the people took for probably thousands of years. Trading inland; Meeting up with the higher trails; You could go from But Inlet all the way to Bella Coola on this trail web. People often do not think of the degree of trading that went on in the different First Nations, but people have been doing more and more work with the markers that helped them map the trails. … They indicate a kind of commerce nothing else and interaction between tribal groups.” - Judith Williams, Professor Emeritus form the University of British Columbia

Photo Credits: (top) A trail (actually on Cortes Island) - Roy L Hales photo; The Klahoose Arborglyph, beside what is believed to be the pre-colonial trail from Toba Inlet to the Upper Squamish Valley - Ken Hanuse photo.


Roy L Hales is the President of the Cortes Radio Society (CKTZ 89.5 FM), where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He lives on Cortes Island and is a research junkie who has written about 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982.