On our trip I have learned a lot about Canadian history, First Nation history, and the natural history of the area of Victoria and Vancouver Island. The coolest thing we learned about were Red Wood Cedars trees. We saw some in Tofino (on a hike), some in Ucluelet (on the Wild Pacific Trail) and learned about the uses for them in the Royal Canadian Museum in Victoria. On our walk we only saw them in small groups in the most isolated of areas, having grown there undisturbed for hundreds of years. One of the reasons that Cedars live so long is because of their bark. It is very thick and most importantly, fireproof and waterproof!
Clusters of Red Wood Cedars are scarce in both Tofino and Ucluelet. Yet back when the First Nations still controlled the land, these trees were huge assets to have, both for trading and for industrial purposes. There used to be lots of Cedars in the area, but recently they have been dying off, due to the climate getting warmer. It is unfortunate because they played a major role in the survival of the First Nations, as well as early ship building and construction.
In the Royal Canadian Museum, I learned that the First Nations used the Red Wood Cedar for making many different tools and articles of clothing. Some of which are: robes, articles of clothing, rugs, bowls, hats and most importantly, canoes. The reason for using the Red Wood Cedars for making cloth, instead of animal skins, is because the cloth made with the Cedars was waterproof, and the animal skins are only water resistant. To make this miracle cloth, First Nations would weave together the fibres into a coarse “yarn” or thick strings. After that they would weave the “yarn” into cloth that was both warm, sturdy, and waterproof.
To make a boat that was water tight, the First Nations would take a whole tree, cut it in half, hollow it out, and then put on all the needed fittings that made it a real boat. Some of their larger boats would be 5-8 feet across, to be able to fit two First Nations side by side to paddle the large boats. All in all, the Red Wood Cedar is pretty amazing, so I can understand why the First Nations needed it so much. I was pretty amazed with all the things you can make out of Cedars, and now I know what to do if I’m lost in the woods; look for a Red Wood Cedar tree.
I have included some photos of a Christmas tree display in the Empress, enjoy!