The Galiano Cemetery is a living library of our island’s ancestors and relations. Located on the northwestern edge of Georgeson Bay in Active Pass, the grounds are always brimming with life: seals, sea-lions, ravens, seagulls and eagles dive and chatter all day long. Locals and visitors come to walk the beautiful paths or spend time at the monuments of their loved ones. The cemetery is a reflection of our whole community. It is a place where nature thrives. First Nations islanders and settlers of all kinds, old and young, rest in peace side by side. Unlike many other cemeteries, multiple cultures, languages and religions share the same burial ground here, tied together by this place where we live, and die.
Karen Moe recently wrote an essay on the Galiano Cemetery and sums up its early history well:
The land that is home to the Galiano Cemetery has been a site of burial since time immemorial. In her history of the cemetery, Mary Ellen Harding tells us that, before the European settlers came, the Indigenous buried their dead high up in the trees. In 1860, Henry (Scotty) Georgeson (hailing from the Shetland Islands) purchased the land and, according to Harding, it was used for a time as a private cemetery. Like many European pioneers, Georgeson married an indigenous woman and, thereby, the lineage of the Coast Salish Georgeson clan on Galiano Island along with their foundational connection to the cemetery began. In 1928, George Georgeson gave the traditional lands of burial to the island community “for the purposes of a place of burial for residents of Galiano Island … without charge” and he proclaimed that this bequeathment would be given “wide interpretation so as to include ties by marriage as well as blood relations.”
Many of the island’s residents continue to be buried at this same site. It is a connection we share to the past that proceeds on into the future. Much effort is taken to provide families with full burial plots or ashes interment plots within the cemetery near other family members or in a place special to the deceased. As families expand and our island population grows, we are dedicated to continuing this rare and special connection to our history.
Ralph and Clara Stevens Memorial Addition
In 2013, St. Margaret of Scotland church, to whom the care and maintenance of the Galiano Cemetery was given in 1928, raised the funds to buy the adjacent property for future use. It was through the generous donations, large and small, from community members that the purchase was possible. It is roughly 1/2 of an acre of raw land home to fir, maple and cedar trees with a stream running down its west side. It borders Cemetery Rd and Active Pass Drive, and will be accessible from both roads. An initial survey estimates that this property will be the resting place of almost 120 cremated remains and 75 full burials, 30 of which are set aside for the Georgeson family in honour of their historical gift of the land. It is a very beautiful property and allows the spirit of the Galiano Cemetery to extend into future generations.