Today we have a guest blog post by Tracy, who attended the 2019 Provincial Fair in Victoria.
Editor’s note: Billy Proctor’s books are linked in the text to IndieBound, which allows you to search for stock at an independent bookstore near you. We do not get any funds from sales purchased through these links, we just love supporting independent bookstores.
The Human Encyclopedia of the Broughton Archipelago
Billy Proctor is often called the “heart of the community” in not just the island he lives on, but the coastal areas around him as well. Billy is a well-known figure in the seas of northern Vancouver Island, and has been fishing in the Broughton Archipelago for over 7 decades. When he was young, he worked as a logger, trapper, and commercial fisherman, and has now dedicated himself to preserving marine ecosystems.
In his small residence in Echo Bay, Billy opened “Billy’s Museum,” the name of the museum spelled out with pink salmon lures. It’s a small wooden lodge, filled with interesting things Billy found while beachcombing, each specially labelled and classified. Artefacts range from old glass bottles to ancient spearheads to multiple species of animal tooth. “They’re not garbage,” he laughs when asked to explain. “It’s a hobby, eh?”
Not far from “Billy’s Museum,” Billy has also carefully hand-built a logger’s shack, and a schoolhouse from the 85th School District. The logger’s shack was built exactly the same way a logger would have built it, complete with rusted boots and a pair of dirty socks. The schoolhouse is tiny, with only enough room for three desks and a small piano. Beside the schoolhouse is a small bookshop where you can buy some of the books Billy has written, including Full Moon, Flood Tide and Heart of the Raincoast.
Before we left, I had the chance to flip through Full Moon, Flood Tide, which is a guide to the Broughton Archipelago in Billy’s experiences. There are stories of many famous people, throughout nearly 100 small villages scattered around the area. And I was awed by how the Indigenous Peoples used the full moon, flood tide to trap salmon.
Salmon protection is a big issue for permanent residents like Billy. Most of Billy’s profits in the bookshop go to protecting wild salmon, and both he and Captain Bruce, the owner of Paddler’s Inn, are concerned about salmon farms. “Most of the farms are placed near important migration routes,” Bruce says. He’s worried about parasites and diseases that come from farmed salmon spreading to the wild. Already the wild salmon population has seen a decline, and with that decline the orca population in the Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound have seen downfall as well. Now only 250 orcas roam the Broughton Archipelago.
What do we do to help the wild salmon? “Take the farms away,” Billy states bluntly. But if the salmon farms are removed, we’ll have to depend solely on the wild salmon population to feed the people, which will most certainly cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem. What do we do? I feel that Billy Proctor and Captain Bruce are feeling unsure as well.
Billy Proctor’s Museum in Echo Bay is only accessible by boat or kayak.