Lu Zil Män Fish Lake: SW Yukon Archaeology and Oral History

Artifacts from the Lu Zil Män Fish Lake site. Source: Yukon government.

The Yukon government has a good web site up about archaeological and oral historical projects in the  Lu Zil Män Fish Lake area of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s territory.  The SW Yukon is a fascinating area where inland Tlingit people ranged from the coast, producing entangled relations with the interior speakers of na-Dene languages.

It’s good to see that the site puts the oral testimony of elders first and the archaeology second – what we’d call the “direct historical” approach if we were in a classroom.  This approach puts living people first in archaeology, using their insights to find locales and to interpret the uppermost layers.  Then, as one digs deeper, memory and history become less detailed and environments were different, and increasingly more generalized explanations from archaeology and ethnology come to bear.  The direct historical approach is usually ascribed to early researchers in the American SW, but a leading exponent and innovator was actually Frederica de Laguna, who began work on the Northwest Coast in the late 1920s, and had a 70 year active career.  The direct historical approach fell out of favour in a period where archaeologists tried to be highly scientific and to seek generalizations about people, but recently there has been renewed interest in it, especially in a community-based archaeological idiom.

Anyway, the Lu Zil Män Fish Lake project looks like it was a lot of fun, culturally informed, and well integrated into the community, while the web site is well written for the non-specialist.  My only complaint is the photos are rather washed out seeming and not very crisp or low resolution.

Find sites and excavation units. Source: Yukon government.

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