Dominic Charlie (1866 -1972)
(The late Dominic Charlie or Tsee-Qawl-tuhn of the Capilano Reserve gave an interview to Olga Ruskin printed in the Vancouver Sun in 1971 and part of the following
text is based on it.)
When asked (in 1971) how old was he Dominic replied that he was 86 which
would make his date of birth 1885. On the other hand he remembered Jerry
Rogers who had a logging camp at Jericho but Jerry had died in 1877. This
calls into question his actual date of birth. In the book ‘Squamish
Legends’ compiled in 1966 from tape recordings made by Dominic and Chief
August Jack Khahtsahlano his date of birth is given as 1866. But perhaps the
dates don’t matter so much as the memories of days that Vancouver will never
Dominic’s father, Jericho Charley, used to run freight for Jerry Rogers.
The camp had been started in the mid-1860’s at a cove in English Bay which
became known as Jerry’s Cove and which later turned into the name Jericho.
It was a good spot to have a logging camp, Dominic said, because the sandy
beach helped the logs to slide into the water easily. Freight for the camp
(oats, barley, food) was packed by canoe in from the Hastings Mill store
near what today is Gore Ave. (Find Hastings Mill store today as a museum at
the foot of Alma.) Dominic used to accompany his father and mother on these
trips, sitting in the stern with a small paddle. "It was a great big canoe around 40 to 44 feet long and could carry
over a ton of freight. My father lived at the end of the beach. He had a
log house which could hold over 1,000 people." When there was a potlatch his
father could feed and house this number for a month. The guests would eat
dried salmon, dried venison, rice and fresh goat meat, seal and porpoise.
When he was older Dominic would help out with a potlatch. He’d go hunting
and in two days bring back 100 ducks.
A favorite food with Dominic was dried salmon roe which his cousin
Jimmy Jimmy used to prepare for prospecting trips. Eaten with salmon berries
Dominic described it as "real good stuff." The food the Indians ate then was
a lot different, Dominic said. "We used to eat what’s on the beach. There
were four or five different kinds of grass on the beach. There were
mussells, sea eggs, cockles and lots of clams where the Lions Gate Bridge is. He remembered Vancouver as "all timber" from Point Grey to the head of
Burrard Inlet. "There was elk at Point Grey. The elk would swim across the
bay. Everything was plenty. Deer, bear, duck. The Indian never got hungry."
As for Vancouver itself, Dominic said there was "a big change". He
remembered the Hotel Vancouver as a "small, little building." After Burrard
Street was cleared of timber he used to watch horse races there from a big
stump. He also remembered sailing ships being loaded with lumber at
Hastings Mill through a hole in their bow, and the daily stage which ran to
But there were unhappy memories as well. A hotel Maxie’s stood by the
present Second Narrows bridge where the grain elevator is now. The white man,
Dominic recalled, traded with the Indians giving whisky "in a barrel and jug,
not bottle" in exchange for game. This led to unfortunate consequences. "A
lot of Indians drowned in the Inlet when they got drunk," he said.
Of his own present family there was his wife Josephine who was 67 and the
two of them were much in demand to cook salmon at barbeques. "I had about
five girls and I don’t know how many boys but only one boy alive now - Steve
Charlie." Add to this 47 grandchildren. Dominic Charlie was also called upon
for seasonal weather forecasts by the media and these were amazingly
By 1971 the Vancouver of his youth had changed . He remembered the
prediction of a white man Jim Fraser who said that one day "there would be
white men up the side of the mountain - everywhere. Everything he said is
And it continues to be true today.
Vancouver’s past for Dominic meant remembering Vancouver pioneers
such as Jonathan Miller, Gastown’s only constable, Navvy Jack Thomas, West
Van’s first white settler, and Qua-hail-ya, Gassy Jack’s second wife who
returned to the Squamish Reserve on the North Shore.
Dominic Charlie died September 9, 1972. Missed but remembered on the
One of the people that knew Dominic Charlie was the late Chick
Chamberlain of the Tomahawk Restaurant in North Vancouver. The restaurant
founded in 1926 is well-worth a visit not only for food but for its
outstanding collection of North Shore and West Coast Indian artifacts.
However, there is more to the story. Chuck Chamberlain who carries on today his
father's restaurant explains that the Tomahawk was a place for social
gatherings in the old days before the Lions Gate Bridge was built. The road
in North Vancouver ended at Capilano Road and further into West Vancouver it
was a dirt road.
Dominic Charlie lived under the Lions Gate Bridge and like
others visited the Tomahawk. Chuck said Dominic was known as the pied piper
as children followed him enchanted by the stories he told. He was also known
as the weatherman and was contacted regularly by the media for weather
Chief Dominic Charlie's name is on the menu as are those of
other First Nations Chiefs such as Chief Augustus Jack. Chick Chamberlain
named the burgers after the various First Nations Chiefs he had known to
commemorate their memory after they had passed away explains Chuck. (The
only one so not named was Simon Baker (Kind Heart) who considered it quite an
honour to have a burger named after him while he was still alive.) For
more on the history of the Tomahawk and what it serves see http://www.tomahawkrestaurant.com