ASBC Talk: Tuesday, February 16th

Surveyors in the Uplands development, Victoria, using a burial cairn as a surveying aid. Source; BC Archives.


Feb. 16, 2010, 7:30 pm

Pacific Forestry Centre, 506 West Burnside Road, Victoria, B.C.

Darcy Mathews

The Powerful Dead: The Rocky Point Cemetery and Straits Salish Identity.

Burial cairns and mounds are two types of pre-contact burial features in the Strait of Georgia region of south-western British Columbia. More than a millennium ago, the Straits Salish people, an ethno-linguistic group centered on present day Victoria, constructed a cairn cemetery at the Rocky Point site. Located 18 km southwest of present-day Victoria, this cemetery has over 300 cairns which occur in a variety of patterned shapes and sizes. Analysis of cairn construction and the use of space within this cemetery suggests that there was a strategic use of both material culture and landscape in Salish mortuary ritual, simultaneously expressing individual, household and perhaps even village-wide group identity. Underlying these statements of identity is the material expression of relationships between the living and the powerful dead, which were carefully navigated through the process of the funerary ritual, of which building cairns and mounds was but one part of a long-term process; a process that may have an antiquity of several thousand years. Biography Darcy Mathews is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. Working with the Scia’New First Nation, his ongoing dissertation research focuses on the identification, preservation, and study of pre-contact burial cairn and mound cemeteries in the Strait of Georgia.

For information, phone 384-6059 or e-mail

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