Monthly Archives: December 2013

Interior of a Coast Salish Longhouse, 1864

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson.  Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives.  Click to enlarge.

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson. Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives. Click to enlarge.

Following on from the post about the Salish mausoleum, here is a companion painting by Edward Mallott Richardson from the same year, depicting the interior of a house.  It’s a curious painting, seemingly devoid of close detail.  Where are all the drying fish?!  But at the same time it shows some features of interest which may be worth discussing.  Note the fellow with the gun has a powderhorn, for example, and the basket behind him looks like one of those rectangular coiled ones, only with a tumpline, as shown by the woman entering on the left.  On the far right is a semi-conical object that might be a hat, sitting on a platform within a small compartment.

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A Coast Salish Mausoleum, 1864

A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca

A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca  Click to enlarge slightly.

“Grave House” is one of those archaeological terms which render slightly creepy a feature that is more or less an everyday experience: the mausoleum, a house for the dead, filled with coffins.

This is a fascinating image I hadn’t come across before: a very early image of a Coast Salish mausoleum.  It highlights the artistry and vividness of these features better than the few sketches or early photographs do. The accompanying text at the Canadian Archives is:

Subject depicts grave boxes in a grave house with guardian figures. The grave house is covered with a roof of wooden planks but has no walls. At the front of the house stands six guardian figures. There are flags to the left and right of the house. On the left hand side of the house a tent is set up and clothes are hanging. A shotgun hangs from the front beam of the house. Item was up for auction in the September 28, 1970 Christie’s sale in Calgary. Lot 31.

The image isn’t very high-resolution but there are still some things to talk about – and there is another Richardson painting I’ll link to in a day or two. (edit: here) Continue reading

Tagging along with Archaeologists in Quatsino Sound

Quatsino - Cave at Heater Point. Source: bcmarinetrails.org

Archaeology Crew at Quatsino: Cave at Heater Point. Source: bcmarinetrails.org

How does the general public perceive archaeologists?  There’s a lot of ways to get at this question, not least the comments section of any newspaper article!  But a positive and slightly unusual perspective is found in this article by Stephanie Meinke at the BC Marine Trails website.  In the course of establishing some new marine trails in the Quatsino Sound area of NW Vancouver Island (map), concern arose that there might be archaeological sites at some of the campsites. Kayakers generally having solid ethics about leaving no trace, but all the same there might be some unintentional impacts.  So an archaeological consulting team (Kennedy Richard and Morgan Bartlett) was hired to assess these spots with potential impact. They were guided by Stephanie and by Janis Leach of Recreation Sites and Trails BC, as well as by two field assistants from the Quatsino First Nation: Mark Wallas and Mark Hunt.

The article gives something of a participant-observation view of the archaeological consulting business in its coastal survey guise, as well as some nice pictures of gorgeous scenery.

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Northwest Anthropology Conference (NWAC) is in Bellingham, March 26-29, 2014

Screenshot from NWAC 2014 page.

Screenshot from NWAC 2014 page.

Just a quick service note to help get the word out: the NW Anthropology Conference 2014 is coming up, conveniently located in Bellingham, Washington.  It will run Wed March 26 through Saturday March 29th, 2014. This is usually an excellent conference.  It often skews a little to the archaeology side of anthropology, but the theme this year is “Anthropologists Connecting” which should stimulate a broad attendance:

Anthropologists make connections between communities, generations, biology and culture, past and present, and with each other.

It appears the conference is being organized out of the fine Department of Anthropology at Western Washington University, co-ordinated by Dr. Sarah Campbell.  Session proposals and paper submissions are still open, so get yours in.  If you have a a session arranged and want to troll for presenters, then feel free to put a comment in here: one of my seven readers might rise to the bait. (you know who you are).

Tlingit War Helmet Rediscovered after 100 years

Tlingit war helmet recently rediscovred in Springfield Science Museum.  Source: SSM.

Tlingit war helmet recently rediscovered in Springfield Science Museum. Source: SSM.

This is the kind of cool story that makes me want to poke around in all the community museums I see.  A fantastic Tlingit war helmet has been recently rediscovered in the backroom of a museum in Springfield, Massachussests.  The helmet was accessioned in 1899 as an “Aleutian hat” and the designation was never questioned until now.  The news article about it suggests only 95 of these helmets are known, with the largest collections found in Russia.  They are part of an elaborate system of armour known from the contact and early historic period in Tlingit territory (Southeast Alaska – Alaska Panhandle).

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Images of Nootka Island People, 1787

Nootka Sound girl, 1787.  by de Saint-Sauveur, source: LACMA.

Nootka island girl, 1787. by de Saint-Sauveur, source: LACMA.

I found some interesting images at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These come from a book published in 1787: Costumes civils actuels de tous les peuples, volume 4: Americas by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur (1757-1810).  Needless to say, it’s one of the earliest publications with NW Coast content, comprising four plates and 14 pages of “customs” of Nootka Island (Nuu-chah-nulth territory). I’m not entirely sure where Grasset de Saint-Sauveur would have got his inspiration from – Cook’s journals most likely?  You can see all the plates from the four volumes at the LACMA (great images from around the world), or you can read and download the entire book here.  But why bother, when I extract the information for you below.

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Weir on the River Koeye

Building Koeye Weir. Photo by Grant Callegari via indiegogo.

Building Koeye Weir. Photo by Grant Callegari via indiegogo.

There’s a pretty amazing new construction on the  on the Koeye River (pronounced roughly “kwaay”) on the central coast of B.C. (map).  A team has built a traditional style wooden-weir across the river, and are using it for fishery management – trapping, counting, measuring, and gently releasing salmon at the end (and start) of their life cycle. The construction has been documented at the willatlas.com blog, including some amazing photos, and there are posts on the Hakai Beach Institute blog as well. Even better, there is a short documentary.  This is actually is a teaser for a longer documentary, which is in the fund-raising stage, and I don’t mind using this blog as a platform to bring this really great project to people’s attention.  You can see their fundraising page here.

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‘Namgis Arborglyph

Dawn Cramer inspects an arborglyph deep in the heart of the Nimpkish Valley.  Photo courtesy of the 'Namgis Nation via Jim Stafford

Dawn Cramer inspects an arborglyph deep in the heart of the Nimpkish Valley. Photo courtesy of the ‘Namgis Nation via Jim Stafford

Hard on the heels of my recent post on a newly discovered arborglyph in Klahoose traditional territory, I’ve heard of another one in ‘Namgis territory, in the Nimpkish Valley on Northeastern Vancouver Island.  Local archaeologist and friend of this blog Jim Stafford, who owns the well-regarded Coast Interior Archaeology company (which has a long relationship with the ‘Namgis), sent me the following note and some photographs which are cleared for publication here.  There is also an account of the arborglyph in this PDF document (a newsletter) from the ‘Namgis. Jim writes:

Please find attached images of the arborglyph we found recently in the heart of the Nimpkish Valley.  The photos are provided courtesy of the ‘Namgis Nation and Dawn Cranmer is pictured in two of the photos.  I’ve also included an image of a ‘bark board’ we found nearby with Lee Waddams pictured. Continue reading

Klahoose Arborglyph

Klahoose Arborglyph Ceremony. Source: Klahoose First Nation.

Klahoose Arborglyph Ceremony. Source: Klahoose First Nation.

There has been a mini-flurry of new arborglyphs found in BC – well two of them –  but they are extraordinarily rare.  First up for this blog is the example above, which comes from Klahoose First Nation territory, roughly around Toba Inlet in the extreme NE corner of the Salish Sea (map).  This human face was carved into a tree some time in the 19th century.  It’s in rather stunning condition, setting aside the cut block it finds itself in.  Risk of blowdown is probably why, after appropriate ceremony, it has been moved to the Klahoose offices at T’oq (Squirrel Cove).  As the page describes:

The Klahoose Cultural Leader Norman Harry Sr. and a Tla’amin Cultural Leader Erik Blaney witnessed and performed a ceremony to ensure cultural protocol was observed. The heartfelt moments before the tree was harvested was both moving and surreal on that snowy winter Friday. Needless to say that the emotional event was a historical moment for those who witnessed.

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Controversy at Cherry Point site WA, 45WH1

Foreshore near 45WH1.  Source: Re-Sources.

Foreshore near 45WH1. Source: Re-Sources.

I haven’t been following the story at all, but there seems to be quite the controversy going on at Cherry Point, not far north of Bellingham on the coast of Washington State (map).  This large site, in Lummi Nation territory and known to them as Xwe’ chi’ eXen, has seen a lot of archaeological work over the years: about 300 cubic metres was  excavated in a series of WWU fieldschools in the 1970s and 80s under the direction of Garland Grabert. Dating back to at least 3500 years old, has some unusual features, such as being on a wave cut bank over a cobble beach with unusual offshore topography, suggesting proximity to a reef-netting site.

As its site number indicates, it’s the first site recorded by archaeologists in Whatcom County – which usually means it’s a very prominent site.  Indeed, it’s both culturally and scientifically important, and, unfortunately, has seen a lot of impact and is currently threatened. The source of the problem is a major coal port which is being planned. Interestingly enough, when the developer jumped the gun and started core-sampling the site before authorization, they were  taken to court and recently fined 1.6 million dollars.  Which is a lot of dollars. Continue reading