Mamalilaculla is an abandoned First Nations community located on Indian Reserve land on Village Island in the Broughton archipelgo. The guidebooks all describe a community that was built on a midden about 12 feet high (i.e., there must have been at least intermittent habitation for thousands of years), and the village remained viable into the 1930s or so. Potlatches used to be held here, until The Man shut 'em down for good in about 1920. And "confiscated" all the potlatch goods - only some of which got repatriated or placed in museums. Mamalilaculla therefore seemed worth a stop to us, plus we had seen other such sites in places like Echo Bay (huge midden) and on Eden Island (little midden); and we'd even spotted the odd pictograph on cliff faces as we passed by in our boat. On the other hand, we knew that there was no longer any effort made to preserve or interpret Mamalilaculla for visitors; instead like many other such sites it is being allowed to return to the soil, so to speak, and turistas like us remain uneducated.
To hopefully better describe a clam-shell midden to folks who aren't from here; here's a photo of one from Eden Island with a cypress tree growing on top and its roots extending down into the clam shell soil. Hint: the cypress is younger than the absolute top of the midden. The midden (not including the cypress) is about 3 or 4 feet high above the tide line, and has a nice, flat, sloping beach in front of it just right for beaching light water craft & farming bivalves. A few steps away there's a freshwater stream, and the views are terrific - you can see everyone coming from miles away. Look at Gary here, surveying all the possibilities.
We were fortunate to anchor in one of the small coves near Mamalilaculla's broad shell beach, then take our dinghy, Grey Fox, over to the village proper for a look. Dinksters and kayaks are the only craft that can get there - the area directly in front of the midden is verrryyyy shallow. Interestingly, this abandoned village was one of the few locations in BC that appears to attract a relatively large number of fellow boaters and kayakers - everyone, it seems, wants to see Mamalilaculla. The problem is, seeing Mamalilaculla is getting increasingly more difficult. When we were there on June 24, the blackberry bushes and other flora were chest-to-head height, making onshore progress slow (and scratchy) once one climbed up the midden from the beach. (Did I mention the midden was 12 feet high?) The shell beach, itself, is not the pristine crushed white clam shells we have found elsewhere. Mamalilaculla's beach reflects longer habitation into modern times - the beach is of course mostly comprised of white shell, but it also has a heavy concentration of broken dishes and glass bottles, as well as rusting machine parts everywhere above and below the waterline. Bottom line: If it were possible to anchor right in front of Mamalilaculla, you wouldn't want to anchor right in front of Mamalilaculla.*
Climbing up the midden away from the beach, a number of us found one fallen, apparently late-era totem, depicting a snarling critter atop what appears to be a bear figure. Pretty cool when you've never before seen a totem in the wild; but with the moss and ferns now using it as a nurse log, in another few years I doubt anyone will be able to recognize it for what it is. I am sure some visitors have already walked right past.
Further into the dense growth of what once might have been an open, grassy field, and listening to bumblebees and hummingbirds going about their business, we found the ruins of a few 1920s-era small wood houses, close by the remnants of the front and rear support posts of a longhouse. Two other adjacent posts had become nurse logs - one sprouting a young cedar out of its top; and another one that is no longer able to encase the live cedar that has split the post from within.
Taken as a whole, and especially considering the influence of modern times on Mamalilaculla, the effect was very similar to poking about a ghost town in the American West. Except with more plant life. And rain. But, given that this is the biggest and apparaently longest-lived of the now-abandoned villages we have seen hereabouts, it looks like a pretty safe bet that the folks living at Mamalilaculla had been the winners in whatever conflicts may have occurred with the neighbors. After all: you don't build a 12-foot high midden unless you have staying power.
* "Bottom" line. Get it? I crack myself up.