Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary

History of the Land
Yellow Wolf drummers and singers doing a Dedication Ceremony for past Stewards of the Earth in 2011 at Mary Lake

Traditional territories of the WSÁNEC

Mary Lake lies within the traditional territories of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) Coast Salish Peoples.

​We recognize the integral role the ancestors of the WSÁNEC Coast Salish Peoples have played as past stewards of the Mary Lake and Highlands lands.

The teachings of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) peoples speak of the land, the water and the people as equal members of a complex system, an integrated entity connected through cultural traditions

​“We need to protect our land.​That is what the Ancestors said. We need to keep the land clean, our streams clean. We need to be giving back to our land.”
~ John Elliot Sr. Tsartlip Elder

This territory was used by the Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum, Esquimalt and Whyomilth (Songhees) peoples for
​ hunting, gathering food & medicinal plants, relaxation and spiritual practices.

Tom Sampson

Respected elder Tom Sampson, from the Tsartlip First Nation regarding Mary Lake:

“It is a place we could go to find everything that was needed to survive – food, medicine, a place of relaxation, a place of finding one’s own spirit or one’s own soul. It is sort of like a sacred walk. As a young man or woman you walk to find yourself to find your spirit……….”

“Everything has a purpose and that purpose is to be respected and protected for all time. You cannot own it. We have to share that moss and shade of tree with other parts of creation. The residents that are underneath that moss, it is amazing what you will find under there. You will find lizards you will find snakes you will everything there.”

“….all the medicines – lots around this area. There is a plant (licorice fern) you have to take the root and clean it and it is like an antibiotic if you have a toothache or sore throat you chew it and the saliva activates the medicine.”

Reflections of Mary Lake – Coash Salish History

Protection and Conservation

Private ownership of the land began in 1887. ​The original house and gardens were in an area near Millstream Rd on the eastern side of the property

It was during the property’s ownership by Albert Reginald Manzer (a logger) from 1935 to 1947 that the first earthen dam was built to flood the hardhack swamp and create a lake which he named after his daughter Mary.

In 1947 the property was purchased by Gertrude Mabel Snider a Victoria artist and member of the The Island Arts and Crafts Society which later became the Victoria Sketch Club.

​Gertrude initiated the conservation of the north half of section 14 as a natural area. ​Miss Gertrude Snider a contemporary of Emily Carr served on the Island Arts and Crafts Society’s executive committee, and became a regular exhibitor at the annual exhibitions.

“Her entire life has been dedicated to the pursuit of art and while for years Victoria artists have bitterly bemoaned the noticeable absence of an art gallery, gentle little Miss Snider quietly went ahead and started one herself.”
Excerpt from 1949 Times Colonist Article

Peter & Hazel Brotherston

The property was purchased by Peter and Hazel Brotherston two avid conservationists in 1963. ​Peter Brotherston had the concrete dam constructed in 1964, completing the present configuration of easterly and westerly arms of the lake. They also installed the adjacent fish pond and fish ladder. They built a new 4,600 sq. ft. house on the edge o f the lake and removed the original house.
The Mary Lake Property was purchased from the estate of Peter and Hazel Brotherston on Dec, 23, 2016 by the Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society

​Robin June Hood (Director) First Nations Liaisons

Robin is a cultural geographer, educator, filmmaker and activist/academic. Robin worked for several years in Latin America supporting Mayan efforts to strengthen indigenous knowledge traditions, and secure cultural survival. During 25 years as an international development consultant and educator she has focused on protecting endangered peoples and landscapes, and creating strategies for educational renewal. Robin completed a post doctorate position at the University on cultural keystone species research using digital storytelling. Robin was the co founder of the Global Village Store, Youth Speaks, the Gaia Project, and Gumboot Productions. She was on the Rainforest Solutions team that crafted the landmark Great Bear Rainforest Agreement. Her recent book, For the Love of Nature: Solutions for Biodiversity was published in 2010. Robin was the Director of the Community Based Research Institute at Vancouver Island University until 2011.

Get Involved

We need your help! There are many ways you can contribute to the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary. Your support ​will have a positive benefit for the whole region, local community and nature.

  1. Make a Charitable Donation (Tax Deductible)
  2. Join our Volunteer List
  3. Sign up for our Newsletter
  4. Become a member
  5. Connect and share on social media
  6. Participate in our events

Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary

1772 Millstream Rd,
Victoria, BC V9B 6E4

Greater Victoria Greenbelt Society

499 Millstream Lake Rd.
Victoria, BC. V9B 6H5
Registered Charity BN: 11894 6953 RR0001

WSÁNEC Coast Salish

Mary Lake lies within the traditional territories of the WSÁNEC (Saanich) Coast Salish Peoples.

​We recognize the integral role the ancestors of the WSÁNEC Coast Salish Peoples have played as past stewards of the Mary Lake and Highlands lands.

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