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On Fear And Chief Kwah: "Trespassers Will Be Beaten"

Updated on November 5, 2011

My friends and I were driving through north-western British Columbia this summer, on our way to a provincial park: Paarens Beach Provincial Park. We ended-up getting lost and driving through a little town a couple of times. The second-time around, I put-down my window and asked two younger Native girls (which happened to be walking-by) if they knew where the park was. I knew they were Native because we were on a Native Reserve of the Carrrier people and they certainly looked like locals.

After a couple of giggles at the confused tourists, one of the girls showed us the road we had to take and told us to turn-off at the second bridge. I was happy because those are the kinds of directions I like to be given: “Head to the first light make a right, go down the road, make another right after the second bridge and then follow that road until it’s all forest on the left and …” My buddies laughed and told me that I have no clue of how I intend on getting to where I want to go as usual but nonetheless followed the instructions we were given. We eventually made it to the provincial park right before dusk and we had an awesome time there (

While driving through the little town though, I happened to notice a small sign which was pointing down a dirt road … well, it was more like a “bush-road” because the grass was growing pretty high on it. The sign read: “Chief Kwah Grave Site”. So before we planned to leave that area of British Columbia and head more south-east, I decided I wanted to visit the grave-site. I figured that since I was on a Native Reserve and I had thoroughly enjoyed my time there, I wanted to pay my respects to Chief Kwah.

Now, if you have never heard of Chief Kwah, there is a lot to learn about him. I cannot possibly go into many details here because this will turn into an article about the Chief and not on what I initially intended on writing about. Nonetheless, Chief Kwah (or Kw’eh) was pretty famous in his own time and terms. He was born somewhere around what is now the town of Fort St. James, British Columbia in 1755 and died in 1840. The Carrier people began trading with the Northwest Company (it was Hudson’s Bay Company later) and thus, Fort St. James came to become an important location in the fur trade. Before the arrival of traders and explorers, Fort St. James was called Nak'azdliheand and it was a rather tiny community. As trade volume increased so did the relationship between the Carrier people and the non-Natives. Chief Kwah's popularity grew after a successful raid on another band, the Naskhu'tin who were responsible for the death of his father. History books tell us that he also met the explorer Simon Fraser, who ventured up into the Carrier people’s lands. The Chief was a well-known and respected person in his part of the world for many reasons.

All in all, if there was a sign pointing to the Chief’s resting area … I thought I would go by. One of my buddies who does a lot of traveling with me through Canada, knows that I often come-up with unorthodox ideas and plans. He has been on the road with me enough to learn that as a general rule, he either comes with me or waits for me – usually he comes. My other buddy though, who had just returned from South Korea where he was teaching at a university, I guess forgot about my spontaneous nature and when I told him that we were going to take a short detour, he was not very happy.

The jeep had to go slow even though it was quite high off the ground. The road seemed barely wide-enough for it to go through: a one-way sort of road and on both sides there were high bushes and shrubs. After about a hundred feet, the road opened-up into a very large clearing. There was a small house on our right, which we drove past and after perhaps another three hundred feet or so, the road ended. To the right was a very large field - just grass. Ahead was what looked like a marsh with a forest behind and to the left, there was another house. Right beside the front door, was a big wooden-sign which read: “Trespassers Will Be Beaten”. To the right of the house, further back I saw another small sign which read “Chief Kwah Grave Site” and there was an arrow pointing to the woods.

My buddies did not focus on the second sign at all because the sign beside the door consumed all their attention. My one friend who was already uneasy about the entire plan on visiting the Chief’s grave-site, let-out a “Wow!” and said something along the lines that we better turn around and leave before … something or other.

I suppose even my good friend who always tags along on my nutty adventures, was a little worried and he began turning the jeep around. I had moments to think … choices: leave and then walk back, or leave and not come back, or just investigate the situation right there and then … I had to decide fast because either way, I did not want to just have three guys sitting in a jeep on someone’s front lawn, looking all confused and worried. My buddies indeed looked worried.

I was glad that the driver was the guy who doesn’t act-out on his emotions right away. After he did his three-point turn, I told him to wait for me because I wanted to see if I can walk to the grave-site.

My one compadre from the front passenger seat turned around with a look of disbelief in his eyes:

“You’re cracked, man! Can’t you read that sign?! I don’t care - if anything … we’re flooring it.” And then he laughed – I was happy that the car offered him enough security that he could laugh.

My other friend who was driving knew that I had made-up my mind and just gave me a quick concerned look. He said nothing. I knew he would wait and even if he did not, I would not have cared much. When I have something that I chose to do, I usually do it – one way or another.

I had medicine herbs in my left hand which I wanted to leave at the grave-site. I was not very happy that a piece of wood with letters scribbled on it, would try to interfere with my plans. For a second, I thought that it would be simply shameful to not even try to see if I could get to Chief Kwah’s grave-site since I was already there. And then, on top of that to have a painted piece of wood try to push me away was simply unacceptable.

I can feed on fear. Fear projected towards me gets internalized and understood. Many times, I add some of my energy to its energy and then, I send it back (with a “thank you” note). It all depends on the sender I would say and the reason that it was sent to begin with. Fear is nothing but a feeling. I do think one should be aware of their feelings but to act-out on feelings alone would not be very wise. There are in my opinion, logical and illogical fears. Both kinds should be understood for what they are. Fear is necessary as a brief feeling. It is a warning but as all warnings, some are valid and some are not and clinging to fear of any kind is highly detrimental, I would say.

For example, if one finds himself/herself in the path of a herd of elephants, a feeling of fear would be beneficial – just not to get stomped. Fear in such a case, I think helps the spirit of survival and it is important. On the other hand, to be afraid of spiders (as just another example) … I am not sure what to say about that, other than that such a fear is irrational and should be confronted as soon as possible. (My sister is afraid of spiders and she is a real pain about them because she does not even want to begin overcoming her irrational fear.)

I moved a little far from my story but I wanted to explain my attitude to fear, in order to better understand why I would decide to walk around someone’s property when there is a “Trespassers Will Be Beaten” sign, in plain view. It’s not that I am completely crazy … or maybe I am. Either way, I saw that sign as irrelevant to what I wanted to do. It had placed itself there for those who care about such signs – I personally do not.

So, I got out of the car and glanced around. There was nobody. I tried to listen for any human sounds but I did not hear anything. I searched the Spirit World for any negative energy where I was and again, I found nothing to be wary of. All was calm and serenity settled. My intentions were clear and the Universe granted me permission to do as I wished – there are always signs. I was thankful.

I must say that fear is contagious. I was probably more annoyed that the fear, especially emanating out of my one buddies in specific, was trying to creep-up on me. Once outside though, I did feel much better and I began walking towards the house in question. The second “Chief Kwah Grave Site” sign, which I had seen was a little past the house, to the right. I wanted to take a closer look but since at that point I was for sure walking around on someone’s property, I thought I would go to the door and knock first and let whoever was there know that I intended on viewing the grave-site and perhaps to ask them if I was on the right track.

When I got to the door, I heard no noise inside. I knocked a few times and waited. Nothing. I knocked again and waited a minute then, knocked a few more times. “Nothing comes of nothing”. I was a little disappointed. I was perhaps even willing to ask about the need for that sign by the door but there was no answer.

As I left the front of the house and tried to walk around to my right, to where I had seen the sign to the grave-site I was looking for, I realized that I started walking in the margins of the marsh. There was high-grass growing and the ground was at first just soft and muddy but then, it turned to almost all water. I tried walking around but there was no “around” really. To that entire side of the house, it seemed like it was all part of a swamp. Perhaps that is why our road ended there and did not go further. I was indeed frustrated. I even thought about taking my shoes and socks off and trying to walk through but I really didn’t know how deep that marshy water would get and then, I was totally unhappy about leaving my two buddies there by themselves. I was fine there but they were not.

With a little bit of sorrow in my heart, I thanked Chief Kwah for having us over on his Reserve, I thanked the Spirit World for guiding me and I scattered the medicine herbs around. That made me happy. I returned to the car where the anxiety level was pretty high and I told my friends that we were done there and that we could go. They told me that they kept the car in “drive” for the whole time – I found that pretty funny. Then, they showed me the video that they took of me walking up to the house and all. I asked them if they took photos of the house and the sign and they assured me that they took a whole bunch. (The second photograph is one taken by one of my friends.)

The only photograph I took at that spot was the one which shows the sign off the main road, reading: “Chief Kwah Grave Site”. I did not take my camera out of the car because I did not go there to shoot photos. My experience was more spiritual. I wanted to respect it as such. That day will forever live with me: the Spirit World welcomed me when the three dimensional perspective was questionable. I am most grateful for that.

If I were to listen to the fear instinct, we would all have floored it out of there on a dime but putting fear aside, allowed for a beautiful experience to take place. At least that was the case for me anyhow. I cannot say the same about my other friends. One thinks I am more or less clinically insane and the other just cannot be bothered too much with spiritual matters - to each their own. Regarding fear, I for one do not let it bother me. I use it momentarily, when it comes as a useful warning. Other times I just play with it because I understand it for what it is: a feeling and a most unreasonable one at times. I would have missed-out on many amazing experiences in life if I would have given-in to fear. I honor my Dacian ancestors as much as I can and chose to be fear-less as they always were.



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    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Greetings again Dennis,

      perhaps if the sign kept the trouble makers away, then it did its job. It certainly did not keep me away because I had no negative intentions. I had only good wishes and thoughts in my mind after spending time in that region. I wished to visit the site as a sign of respect and by no means did I want to bother anyone.

      I want to thank You for explaining the reason for that sign there. I honestly thought at one point that it was perhaps a sign made by kids as a joke. Or You know, like those signs that say "Tresspassers will be shot, Survivors will be shot again" - funny but perhaps a bit on the dark humor side ...

      I really appreciate You taking the time to talk to your friend and let me know about the details. Many thanks - I wish You all the best and I also wish I can perhaps return to that beautiful part of Canada at some point. Cheers!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I talked to my friend who lives at this house and she said that people had broken into her house. The sign was meant for those trouble makers, not for people visiting Chief Kwah's Grave site.She said she was sorry about the misunderstanding and she has since removed the sign.

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Greetings Dennis,

      I had a great time all over British Columbia and Alberta and everyone I met was hospitable, helpful and kind. That sign was indeed a little out of place in my opinion but I suppose it can keep away ill intentions to an extent and after all, I guess that was someone's property - they can put-up any signs they wish.

      I just wanted to leave an offering to Chief Kwah for the hospitality which I encountered. I would like to return for sure. That was my first time on the west coast and it was a big tease (lol): there is so much to see, I will have to return. I only had about two weeks to spend ...

      I love the Mountains there! Words cannot describe my feelings ...

      Thank You for taking the time to read and comment. May Wakan Tanka guide your path! All the best.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I live here and know the people who live there. They are nice people so I wonder why they had such a sign. I will ask when I see them. I usually paddle to the site from cottonwood park in my kayak and never see anyone. There is a lot of great history here and the carrier (dakelh) people are awesome. hope to see you again.

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hello Mr. Spirit Whisperer, thank you for the read and for the comment left.

      I generally move past human signs with little concern - signs from the Universe on the other hand, those I pay full attention to. Physically, I did not reach the grave site but I reached it with my Spirit and that is why I was happy in the end.

      The ravens constantly guided my steps ... and they still are. Cheers!

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      9 years ago from Isle of Man

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub and your talk about fear. I was wondering if you had considered alternative perceptions about the sign. The word "beaten" here could mean defeated and perhaps you were because you didn't make it to the grave! I like how you respected the spirit of the Chief Kwah and his resting place and I suspect the sign does a good job in ensuring this. Thank you.

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hello Mrs. Tlpoague, thank you for reading my story and for leaving a comment.

      I was really not concerned about snakes at all - I never thought about that but I guess that is because in Canada we don't have many poisonous snakes. Most are just your regular garden snake and they are rather harmless.

      I think I was more worried about getting wet, muddy and dirty. Being on the road, stuck in a car driving would not have been too much fun if I had gone-in too deep in that marsh.

      All the best!

    • tlpoague profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      That is great that you were able to experience a trip like this. I fear I would not have ventured into the swamp for fear of snakes and such. It sounds like you had an enjoyable adventure. Thanks for sharing it.

    • arksys profile image


      9 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      yep the fulfilled feeling is what counts at the end of the day. :)

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      9 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hello Arksys, thank you for taking the time to read my story. I did try to find a quick-way around the swampy area because as I wrote above, I was already there and I am not sure if I will ever get to go there again.

      Maybe there was excessive rain there before and that part of the land was just flooded or maybe it was generally a marshy area - I don't really know. Either way, after probing the ground in a few places, I saw that just getting to that second sign would have been a difficult task and from there on I still had no clue which way I would have to go.

      There was just too much uncertainty regarding my destination and so I did turn back but after I made my offering and that alone made me happy. For me it was worth it and that is what really mattered I guess.


    • arksys profile image


      9 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      i'm a bit of a spontaneous person too at times. i enjoy the little detours. not sure if i would have gone in the swamp area as far as you did though :) enjoyed your story. thanks for sharing.


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