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.
The site is one of many found this year as part of an inventory of the Nimpkish Valley being undertaken by the ‘Namgis Nation and led by me (principal archaeologist). We have been focusing on the travel corridors (trails and associated features), intermediate lakes and high elevation yellow cedar zones. The arborglyph feature is associated with a camp and subsurface deposits, which we will be investigating further in 2014. There was another similar incomplete feature nearby as well as several cedar ‘bark board’ type features (often associated with roofing for short term camps) [see below].
I estimate this feature dates to the late 19th/early 20th century and is possibly associated with a trapper’s camp. A significant fish pool also exists nearby and a survey crew spent significant time in the area in 1914, so there is much going on at this site, with traditional use likely spanning thousands of years and definitely continuing into the 20th Century. ‘Namgis carver (and CMT crew supervisor) Don Svanvik noted that this carving was a portrait made by his ancestors and using the same techniques carvers use today. The carving has been damaged, with the nose and portion of lip removed, likely in the 1940’s, when the general area was logged. A small pocket of old growth forest remains around this site. This area will remain protected and is very significant to the ‘Namgis.
Thanks very much to Jim for sharing his knowledge and for liaising with the ‘Namgis so we can all share this remarkable find and gain a glimpse into their long history.
The picture below is of the rectangular bark scar Jim notes above. Imagine a few slabs of cedar bark perhaps one metre by two metres being used to construct a temporary shelter at a resource acquisition camp. These slabs are light and flexible, waterproof, and strong enough to form walls and roofs with minimal support. As with the picture above, the healing lobes around the scar can provide tree ring evidence of the exact year in which the bark was removed. Such precise and unequivocal evidence of ‘Namgis use of the Nimpkish Valley can be extremely important in establishing, in the western mind of the law, their traditional use rights and legal ownership of the landscape beyond their village sites. And it’s still a curious fact that the research potential of Culturally Modified Trees more generally has not been realized. In some areas, archaeologists would be drooling over the prospect of literally thousands (or hundreds of thousands province wide?) dots on the map with known cultural associations. If these were flakes then we’d see their potential more clearly, I suspect. I know of a few academic studies of these and I know some consultants, Morley Eldridge and Arnoud Stryd in particular, have done some interesting analyses. I’m on a ferry so I can’t do a lot of links, maybe one day a roundup on this topic here would be worthwhile.