Click to play Sacred Ground video.
Archaeological encounters with human remains bring into sharp relief the competing values surrounding cultural heritage. It doesn’t always go well – powerful emotions are uncovered alongside the burials. So it’s refreshing and informative to come across a short video, Sacred Ground: In honour and in memory of our ancestors, made by Crossroads Cultural Resource Management, which follows the aftermath of the accidental disturbance of human remains at Hagwilget, on the
Skeena Bulkley River.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, fieldwork, First Nations, Northwest Interior
Tagged alaska, Bulkley River, burial, cemeteries, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Gitxsan, Hagwilget, human remains, reburial, Skeena River, Wet'suwet'en
A while back I found the cool picture above in an online exhibit of the Whatcom Museum showing photographs of Point Roberts and Lummi Island, on Puget Sound just south of the Canadian border. Reef netting is a peculiarly Straits Salish technology which involved the setting of complex nets, suspended between two canoes, at strategic locations where the natural flow of salmon was constrained. A sort of on-ramp led the fish up to the net by creating a gentle optical illusion of a rising bottom. When the salmon were milling around in the horizontal net, still free, the canoes would be suddenly swung together, closing the net and trapping the salmon.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Technology, underwater archaeology, Vancouver Island, Washington State
Tagged fishing, Lummi, organic technology, reef netting, Salish, Salish Sea, salmon, Straits Salish
“The giant of Happy Valley Esquivalt(?) [sic]. Sent to Professor Flower at Nat Hist Mus and returned to the owner Left McCallum.” Source: British Museum.
When I was looking for more information about the Coast Salish grave houses I pictured a few days ago
, I ran into these images from the British Museum. They show the torso and head of a large human figure, carved out of wood. The height of the sculpture is 4 foot 9 inches, meaning the whole sculpture, assuming it once had legs, would have stood well over seven feet tall. So, a giant indeed. There is very little information about the sculpture, other than it comes from happy Valley, “Esquivalt” – clearly meaning Esquimalt – a neighbouring municipality to the west of Victoria. The next municipality to the west is Colwood, and indeed it has a prominent “Happy Valley Road” running through it into Metchosin
. While at the first glance the sculpture doesn’t appear to be a typical NW Coast sculpture, I think there’s reason to at least consider that possibility.
[edit: be sure to see the comment from Pete at the bottom]
Posted in anthropology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged art, Coast Salish, Colwood, Esquimalt, Metchosin, Salish, sculpture, Songhees, Victoria BC
Hilary Stewart drawing of a fish weir. Source: bcheritage.ca
Sad news out of Quadra Island with the news that Northwest Coast archaeological legend Hilary Stewart passed away on June 5th, at the age of 90. The local newspaper the Discovery Islander has a full obituary (page 2) (PDF) written by her friend, anthropologist Joy Inglis.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Teaching, Technology
Tagged Archaeological Society of BC, Archaeology, art, artifacts, ASBC, Hilary Stewart, illustration, Quadra Island
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
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, art, Coast Salish, Esquimalt, graves, history, mausoleum, mortuary, Salish, Songhees, Victoria BC
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 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).
Posted in alaska, anthropology, Archaeology, history, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged alaska, armor, armour, helmets, museums, southeast alaska, Springfield, tlingit, Tlingit Art
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.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged armour, art, Captain Cook, ethnohistory, fish, history, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Nootka, nootka sound, Nuu-chah-nulth, wakashan
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.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged aboriginal fisheries, fish traps, fish weirs, fishing, Heiltsuk, Koeye River, salmon, traditional use, weirs
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.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged Arboroglyph, cedar, CMT, Coast Salish, Culturally Modified Tree, Dendroglyph, Gitxsan, Klahoose, Salish Sea, Toba Inlet