SOOKE HISTORY: A Whiffin Spit welcome 1990

This 1990 photo by Steve Savoie shows T’Sou-ke nation paddlers as they greeted the re-enactment vessel SS Sylvia portraying the 1790 journey of Princesa Real as she entered Sooke Harbour.

This 1990 photo by Steve Savoie shows T’Sou-ke nation paddlers as they greeted the re-enactment vessel SS Sylvia portraying the 1790 journey of Princesa Real as she entered Sooke Harbour.

Elida Peers | Contributed

When the bicentennial re-enactment vessel SS Sylvia rounded Whiffin Spit to enter Sooke harbour on June 23, 1990, she was met by this canoe paddled by members of the T’Sou-ke Band.

While the T’Sou-ke chief of the day, Larry Underwood, stood with regional director Bob Clark and Spain’s emissaries, Antonio Jose Fournier and the Count of Guemes, Revilla Gigedo, along with our Town Crier Mike Thomas, to officiate at the welcome, T’Sou-ke band members demonstrated their paddling skills.

You could almost say the canoe was manned by chiefs, as in the canoe we see Jack Planes (elected chief the next year, 1991) his sons Andy Planes (later elected chief) and Gordie Planes (current elected chief). Others paddling are Rick George, Tim Underwood, Stephen Planes, Joey Planes, Damien George, Claude Routhier, Jimmie and Frankie Planes.

Sooke harbour was an impressive sight that day, with the flotilla of participating vessels. HMCS Oriole, under command of Lt. Cmdr. Ken Brown, represented the Royal Canadian Navy in the festivities, and the SS Duen, a wooden ship similar to the Sylvia played a role as well.

Sooke’s longboats, the Dona Rosa and the T’Sou-ke, were active participants, as was the North Star of Herschel Island, another wooden sailing vessel, captain Sven Johansson. Others whose vessels contributed included Jack Egland, Frank Mitchell, Jack Homer and Sooke Marine Rescue Society, all working in conjunction with Ray Vowles and Doug MacFarlane.

As the SS Sylvia played its re-enactment role representing the original vessel Princesa Real, her master was Capt. Les Bolton, of Aberdeen, Wash., who was to become well-known to Sooke folk through his trips to Canada in the replica galleon brig Lady Washington.

The Nuu Chah Nulth canoe in our photo was loaned by the Royal British Columbia Museum, as the T’Sou-ke Nation did not at that time have a suitable canoe. It has been fascinating to watch the canoe program that was developed at the T’Sou-ke carving shed in the years since. Fred Peters was the first canoe carver engaged in the 1990s, and was followed by Jonathon Ryce, who is the chief carver today.

Among the T’Sou-ke canoe fleet today are the 38-foot Elder Spirit, and the 52-foot Kawq a Yuk, which we believe is the largest carved cedar canoe on the Pacific coast today. A smaller canoe, the Sia-o-sun, was given by the T’Sou-ke to CASA and for the last decade has graced their grounds on Wadams Way.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum