Native Big House


My family had a house and the house had a name. It was Gox’goku-lege and was in the village of T’saxis which is on Vancouver Island near present day Port Hardy. In 1849 the Hudson’s Bay Company built Fort Rupert on the land of the Kwakwaka’wakw people of Tsaxis. The Company wanted to mine the coal found in the area and trade with the people who lived in the area for furs.

Life in Gox’gokulege in the mid 1800’s was very busy. Everyone had to work together to make sure they had clothing, blankets, food, dish-es, utensils, boxes for cooking and storing their food and belongings; drums, clappers and whistles to accompany them when they were singing; tools for carving and building. Before the Fort was built, the Kwagiulth (people of Tsaxis) had always made and prepared everything them-selves that they needed to survive.

General Store

1930s General Store – Laura & Crew

The General Store was usually a two-story frame building, and fronted by a raised porch for convenient loading and unloading.   They were historically a “one-stop” destination for rural or small-town residents shopping for the farm, home and business.

Storeowners stocked their shelves with the items customers needed the most and custom-ordered specialty merchandise.

Credit was extended to all who needed it, and payments were often made in trade (a chicken for a sack of flour, and so on).

The General Store acted as the centre of the community for many years. In addition to the usual assortment of dry goods, the store also served as the local post office, gas station and gathering place for local news and information

During warm weather, the porch became the social center as men gathered on a provided bench, chairs, or the steps, to talk weather, politics, the price of crops, and more.  The upper floor often served as the proprietor’s personal residence.

Emily Carr’s Caravan


In Emily’s words: “The roof seems low and heavy and the walls squeezing us. Yet the house is enormous after the van. But the van was so much nearer the big outside, just a canvas and a rib or two and then the world. And the earth was more yours than this little taxed scrap which is under your name.”

As a youngster, Emily dreamed of caravans like she read about in children’s stories. Her fantasies were horse drawn, never motorized. One day, her dream caravan materialized sitting by the roadside, heavy and grey like an elephant, with a For Sale sign. As it had no wheels, it had to be towed around to the various locations for Emily’s sketching outings.

Made of metal sheathing and partially covered with canvas, it measured only 6 1/2’ x 8’ and was about 7’ tall at its highest point. Her bed fit across one end and she had a shelf table along one side. On the other wall was a bench with boxes for her monkey, Woo, and four Griffon dogs. She fashioned a pulpit on part of the shelf by her bed where she wrote in the evenings. Her canvases and art equipment were stored under the bed and a coal oil lamp provided light.

Emily cooked outside on a make shift camp fire. The food was safety stored indoors. Sometimes she slept outside under the stars.

The roof of the Elephant was also metal sheathing and covered with canvas. It is folded back for the display so you can see how she lived with her monkey and four Griffon dogs.