I came across a nice set of 18 pictures of members of the In-SHUCK-ch First Nation stripping cedar bark for use in traditional manufactures, especially basketry, cordage, matting, and clothing. This nation is on the lower Fraser in the general Lillooet-Harrison Lake area. It’s true you have to turn your head sideways on a lot of the pictures, but at the same time you would have to crane your head way back if you were stripping bark, so that’s ok.
The point of archaeological interest is pretty clear: the cedar trees will continue to grow for decades or centuries, and will be in effect a living archaeological site. Tens of thousands of such “Culturally Modified Trees” (CMTs) are known from British Columbia, the oldest of which that I’ve heard of dates to the 12th Century A.D., although most are less than 300 years old. (Wikipedia has an unusually full article on these). Because the tree lives, then simple tree ring dating can tell you the exact year a tree was modified – a rarity in archaeology. Indeed, because the bark only readily detaches in the Springtime, the season can be inferred as well. The manner in which the tree regrows/heals the scar after stripping is well illustrated by this splendid diagram from Millennia Research. You can download the official Handbook of CMTs here (8 meg PDF) which will fill you in very completely on this archaeological site type, about which I hope to post more soon. It’s a big topic in archaeology, and a huge part of First Nations lives, now and in the past. Additionally, the In-SHUCK-ch have an interesting and revealing revealing set of policies around archaeology in their territory which must also wait for another day. For the time being, these pictures are a great introduction to the continuing traditional practice of cedar bark taper stripping.