Monthly Archives: December 2009

McLennan & McFeely 1908-1914 Catalogue (update)

Railroad wheelbarrows from McLennan and McFeely catalogue.

I posted previously about this excellent resource which the City of Vancouver Archives has put online: the McLennan and McFeely catalogue of industrial, farm and fishing equipment, 1908-1914.  In that post, I moaned a little about how nice it would be to be able to download a single PDF of all 1400+ pages.  To my delight and happiness (and surprise, I must admit, because it can have been no trivial task) Sue Bigelow of the  Archives has posted a note indicating that they have now made such a document available for download (link in upper right hand corner of this page).  It is 270 megs, but I have it now and what an amazing resource.  Thanks so much to Sue and to the City of Vancouver Archives – as I said, this is potentially a huge aid for historical archaeologists and indeed any archaeologist who encounters historical debris.


Videos of Gwaii Haanas Archaeology

Daryl braves the barrage of bras to set the Vancouver Aquarium straight on the value of dead fish over living fish. Click to play part 1.

Rockwash superstars Nicole and Daryl show off their cool wares in a couple of videos I just found online – I vaguely remember them going off to give this talk at the Vancouver Aquarium.  It’s in two parts: 1 and 2.  Nicole looks fabulous and Daryl has trimmed his beard!  Win-Win.  The projects they describe sure were a lot of fun to take part in.   There are a few other talks up including Lyle Dick and Norm Sloan on Sea Otters on the Gwaii Haanas Youtube Channel.

A sandhill crane is a tough act fo follow but Nicole hammers home the righteous message of dead fish. Click to play part 2.

Archaeology in Action: a photo pool

Archaeologists? No -- "Pothunters" destroying a site on the Columbia River, ca. 1966. Source: flickr user gbaku.

Archaeology in Action is a large set of pictures of archaeologists doing archaeology on the photo sharing website  Not too much Northwest Stuff there that I could find with the notable exception of many pictures put up by a former University of Oregon professor under the name of gbaku (you can find his real name easily enough).  His pictures are a wonderful tour of Oregon and Alaskan archaeology of the 1960s and 1970s – these are not sets of pictures of stratigraphy, or backdirt (interesting though those things are) but are predominately of, well, archaeologists in action.  It would be fun to see more NW Coast pictures up here — I know Grant has a large collection of pictures of archaeologists going about their business and I am sure we all have some pictures of people in with the endless pictures of yet another bone.

Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason mysteries and many other books, and Luther Cressman, pioneering archaeologist and ex-husband of Margaret Mead, at Fort Rock Cave in 1966.

Somenos Creek: Update 2

CHEK-TV video clip on the Somenos Creek archaeological situation. Click to play.

Someone passed along this CHEK-TV news item showing George Schmidt of TimberCrest Estates, Ltd., the development company wishing to put houses on top of a major archaeological site in the Cowichan Valley at Somenos Creek, which I’ve written about before: 1, 2.

Listen to the favourable treatment he gets from the newscaster. Loaded language like “In limbo”. “Pony Up”.

Hey, CHEK-TV, since you’re the voice of the people now and all that and also “journalists”, how about you dig around in the zoning history of the land before you just repeat the mantra “government must pay”.  Did the developer buy this land already zoned for residential development?  How much did he pay in 1972?  Does he deserve compensation for having a risk turn out the wrong way for him?  Does he have the right to destroy a cemetery?  Is he, in fact, losing anything that he already had, or is he losing a perceived entitlement?  He took a risk, he has gained mightily, and now he wants a slice of the First Nation’s pie as well.

I’d seriously suggest CHEK-TV also looks into the $500,000 amount he claims to have spent on archaeology at Somenos Creek.  From what little I know of the site, I am very skeptical about that figure.

Truly, there needs to be a mechanism by which true hardship cases of conflict between development and archaeology, or where the impact assessment process has failed, can be resolved.  That, indeed, may mean some government financial input.  But these should be reserved for instances where other options have run out and where there is demonstrable financial hardship.  This case does not pass the smell test – vast profits have assuredly been made and now legal and moral constrains are drawing a line under this development.

I say this company should stop going cap in hand to the government and just give the land up as a heritage park in return for a tax receipt.  Unless I am mistaken, most entrepreneurs are not socialists, and I  am sure the last thing the typical developer would want is to be perceived as a corporate welfare bum.

Society of Ethnobiology Conference: Coming to Victoria

Top notches in a standing western red cedar tree, the result of extracting one or more planks.

Dana sent me a note that the 33rd annual meeting of the Society of Ethnobiology “The Meeting Place: Integrating Ethnobiological Knowledge”, will be held 5–8 May, 2010, in Victoria.I believe some “rockwashy” types are helping out with the organization.  It sounds like a great conference and a chance to build networks between plant people and rock people and bone people – and we sure do need a lot more archaeology of plants out here on the NW Coast, where bones and stones still rule the day.

This year’s conference theme celebrates the potential of ethnobiology to bridge disciplines, ideas, and communities, and to foster an understanding of the connections between the biological and cultural worlds.

In addition to our usual dazzling line up of papers and sessions, here’s a preview of some of the other special events:

  • Wednesday night welcome reception in the First Nations gallery at the Royal British Columbia Museum
  • Special discussion sessions on: Teaching science through ethnobiology, Ethnobiology and ethics, Communicating environmental knowledge through media, Indigenous people’s food systems, and more!
  • Thursday night poster reception at the just opened First People’s House at the University of Victoria
  • Six! fabulous field trip options
  • A banquet of traditional B.C. First Nation’s food followed by a presentation of the Atla’kima “Spirits of the Forest” dance by Kwakwaka’wakw Longhouse dancers

This year’s meetings will be back-to-back with the International Society of Ethnobiology congress in nearby Tofino, B.C., May 9–14.

Haida Gwaii is now just Haida Gwaii

a.k.a., The-Islands-Coming-Out-Of-Concealment.

The thinnest possible news report from the Times-Colonist says that the BC Government will now use “Haida Gwaii” in all official contexts, rather than “The Queen Charlotte Islands”.  Presumably this means it will be changed in the official BC Gazetteer but so far it shows no such change this calendar year.  More from the Globe and Mail:

“The change is a very important symbolic gesture,” said Guujaaw, president of the Haida Nation. (Guujaaw goes by one name.) “That’s the land that gave us our life and culture. It’s the proper name.”

Robert Finch, chief executive officer of the Monarchist League of Canada, said he was surprised and disappointed by the B.C. government’s decision. “They assume that they’re doing a good thing, but they’re erasing a very big part of Canada’s heritage.”

I wonder if Robert Finch has even the faintest idea of how clueless he sounds, how arrogant and absurd and, frankly, irrelevant.  Maybe if he spent more time thinking about the Crown’s broken promises to aboriginal people he would be less likely to spout such verbal tripe.

Anyway, this will simplify journal articles, where it will no longer be necessary to footnote the name “Queen Charlotte Islands” or refer to “locally known as Haida Gwaii and henceforth referred to thusly”.  Meanwhile, enjoy the picture above: coming home through north Juan Perez Sound.

Annotation: Kilgii Gwaay excavations.

Excavation at Kilgii Gwaay, southern Haida Gwaii.

I’ve found that individual powerpoint slides can be saved as JPG images, complete with their annotations.  Since I have a lot of these I may share some.  The above shows excavation in the shell-rich component of the intertidal site at Kilgii Gwaay.  The combination of shellfish remains and saturation in slightly alkaline sea water has produced remarkable preservation for a site which is firmly dated via about 20 carbon samples to 9450 14C BP, or around 10,700 calendar years ago.  In this picture you can see some of the evidence: bone tools, stone tools, and the remains of shellfish, fish and mammals which, together with birds, formed the basis of the diet at this summertime camp.

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Raven-Walking & Geological Transformation

Haida History starts at least 14,500 years ago. (Image credit: Daryl Fedje).

Three things we know about Haida Gwaii:

1.  About 14,500 calendar years ago it was a temperate tundra environment, with no trees.  The first trees, pine, appear about 14,000 years ago and there is progressive forest infilling thereafter, with the modern species mixture in place by about 3,000 years ago.

2. It has an impoverished suite of large land mammals – historically, these were limited to black bear, caribou, marten, ermine, a vole and a shrew.  We know that 13,000 years ago there were also deer and brown bear on the islands, and quite likely other species as well.

3.  It used to be much larger than in the present.  With lower sea levels at the end of the last ice age, Hecate Strait was largely dry land, exposing a large, unglaciated, coastal plain that became rapidly flooded.

It seems to me that we can add a fourth thing we know:

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Northwest Anthropology Conference: NWAC 2010

The web site for NWAC 2010, to be hosted at Central Washington University March 24 – 27, 2010 in Ellensburg, Washington,  is up and running.  NWAC is a great conference which we were lucky to host in Victoria a couple of years ago.  In case you are wondering where Ellensburg is (no offence), it’s just to the east of the Cascades from Seattle, north of Yakima, about a 350 km drive from Victoria: map.

The theme of this year’s conference is the very welcome “At a Crossroads”:

Anthropology at the Crossroads” is the theme for the Northwest Anthropology Conference (NWAC), Ellensburg, Washington, March 24 – 27, 2010. While all submissions will be considered, this conference will offer opportunities for multiple perspectives on where we are as a discipline, society, and species, with a special emphasis on people and the environment. The “Anthropology at the Crossroads” conference will include symposia and presentations on subjects from archaeology, cultural and linguistic anthropology, paleoanthropology, primatology, medical anthropology, visual anthropology, and others. We invite submitters to use their own preposition in describing their presentation/symposia as “Anthropology at/of/on/etc the Crossroads.” Studying the past, understanding the present, and preparing for the future, makes Anthropology even more relevant today as the discipline continues to assert the importance of an appreciation for culturally diverse modes of interacting with our environment. Thus, this conference is a crossroads where the exchange of ideas better prepares us, our students, and our work to serve the communities we live in as we maintain our commitment to exchanging and transmitting our under-standings of all people, in all places, and at all times. “Anthropology at the Crossroads” also implies interaction among sub-disciplines and communities in an integrated fashion and in this manner encourages self reflection on the relevance of Anthropology today at a moment when we appear to be at several global crossroads.

Chief Thunder Voice

Bing Crosby being invested as Squamish Chief Thunder Voice.

In 1948, Bing Crosby, then a first-rank international star, visited Vancouver – and ended up being invested as Squamish Chief Thunder Voice, among other civic performances.  The Vancouver City Archives has the video (1.00 minute in).

By the way, what is up with coastal First Nations adopting feather war bonnets?  Is this a kind of weird double reverse emulation: trying to look more stereotypically Chiefly in the eyes of the majority population?  Is it intra-aboriginal cultural appropriation?  Or do they just look freakin’ awesome?  Note the tomahawk as well in the picture above.  Someone should write a paper on “Plains Paraphernalia as  Signifiers of Rank on the Historic Northwest Coast”.  Or maybe they have, already.  I’d read it.