Category Archives: pics

Northwest Coast in New Zealand

Masset, ca. 1924. Source: University of Canterbury, NZ.

I found myself poking around in a New Zealand archive at the University of Canterbury the other day and found some nice historic pictures from the NW Coast.  These are assigned to the collection of John Macmillan Brown, an early New Zealand academic and, in retirement, an amateur anthropologist.  I am guessing these pictures were taken by him in retirement.  Most are undated; one carries a date of 1924.  The subjects are familiar yet the views are new – the more we can catalogue the world’s pictures of the NW Coast, the better we can understand the processes of transformation which continue to unfold.

Update: fixed links, sort of.  Note to web types: you should always provide stable URLs, none of this “your search has expired” junk.  If you want your collections used, and you do, because you put them on the web, you need to make it so the results can be bookmarked and shared.  Gosh.

Skidegate ca. 1924. Are those oarlocks on that canoe? Source: University of Canterbury.

Hoko River pictures are back

Hoko River project director Dale Croes, apparently wearing chaps, at the site in 1977.

(Edit 2018 October: look here for current location of these pictures)

Some time ago I pointed readers to the vast repository of Hoko River wet site excavation pictures put online by Dale Croes.  Unfortunately, those links broke but now, via  blog reader APM, I hear that the Hoko photo gallery is back online.  I will definitely be mining this repository for lots of posts.  Not only is this one of the most interesting sites ever excavated on the Northwest Coast, the pictures are a superb combination of excavation, artifact, and camp life – the latter a visual record of local archaeology as social practice in the 1970s. Also, as I mentioned previously, the lush, rich colour of the old Kodachrome slide film is stunning – you just don’t see that in modern digital cameras or even print film, despite the undeniable advantages of digital.

From the main page, many of the most interesting pictures are found under the “camp life” link.  There you will be confronted with an awkward frames-based link layout.  Not all links work still, but I’d say 90% do.  You can browse easily by clicking on the pictures that open on the right-hand frame to get the next picture.  This is easier than keeping the mouse centred on the picture number to the left.  Right click on the picture to bring it up in its own window or tab.  Some pages are organized as thumbnails, such as the wet site stratigraphy series. Because of the slightly awkward interface, I’ll aim to create a series of posts here which point to what I think are interesting aspects of this wonderful site.

Richard Daugherty and survey crew evaluate potential of Hoko Site in 1967 in WSU research vessel.

Flickr user CanadaGood’s pictures of poles

Fallen pole at Gitsegulka. Source: flickr.com user CanadaGood.

Someone posting under the username “CanadaGood” at flickr.com has put up an impressive array of over 100 photos of “totem poles”.  What I like about this set is that most of these are not the iconic ones from coffee table books or museums but rather are still standing (or lying) in communities, mostly along the Skeena River.  They aren’t the most technically accomplished photos or anything but they are undeniably atmospheric and they document the process of renewal and decay of poles which was an important part of the carving complex.  Each pole is the material instance of the right to carve and display a set of crests or images, often as a memorial to a dead person of high status, and therefore the “thing” must be set against the intangible, non-material property of rights and titles which it represents.  Proper treatment of the pole might therefore well include letting it return to the earth, replaced by a fresher copy.  I like the matter of fact way this one is set up on stumps and this rotting masterpiece at Gitanyow.  This figure is unusual for being “sculpture in the round”.   Kudos to CanadaGood for putting pictures of these less commonly seen poles on flickr, in high resolution, and under a Creative Commons licence to boot.

Tops of standing poles at Gitsegulka. Source: flickr user CanadaGood.

Memories of Ozette

Makah whaler Wilson Parker posing as a MAKAH WHALER for Edward Curtis, ca.1915

The magazine of Washington State University has a nice article on the archaeological project at Ozette, the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula.  This Makah village site was covered by a landslide about three hundred years ago (animation), which created preservation conditions highly favourable to preservation of wooden artifacts.  The story begins

THERE’S A WELL-KNOWN PHOTOGRAPH taken by Native American chronicler Edward Curtis in 1915 of a Makah whaler. Dressed in an animal skin, the man is longhaired and wild. He had indeed been a whaler, as had generations of his people. But still, the photograph is a memory of a time already past. Curtis provided Wilson Parker with a hide and a wig to replace the European clothes the Makahs had adopted long before. In spite of Curtis’s fiction, however, there is much to be learned from Wilson Parker, the man in the photograph. As is always the case with a good myth, there is a deeper truth that lies beneath the surface story.

Parker is Sharon Kanichy’s great-great-grandfather, she tells me as we talk in the Makah cultural center in Neah Bay. Kanichy ’01 was born in February 1970. That same month, a powerful storm blew in off the Pacific, eroding the bank above the beach at Cape Alava, on the Olympic Coast, revealing something remarkable.

“All we knew was there was a burial site,” says Ed Claplanhoo of the buried longhouses revealed by that February storm. Claplanhoo ’56 was Makah tribal chairman in 1970, so it was he who got a phone call the first Saturday in February, from a hippie schoolteacher, as Claplanhoo describes him. A dubious character, says Claplanhoo, which is why he didn’t take the fellow seriously when he tried to warn Claplanhoo that “people” were getting in the “house” and taking “artifacts.” Claplanhoo knew everyone in Neah Bay and knew everyone who owned artifacts. He’d heard of no problems.

But the fellow persisted. The next Sunday, the same phone call. “Mr. Claplanhoo, they’re still taking artifacts out of the house.”

“So I said okay,” says Claplanhoo, “I’ll tell you what, you come to my house at seven o’clock tonight and we’ll talk about it.”

From there, the article recounts the story of the Ozette excavations from the point of view of both Makah and the archaeologist Richard Daugherty, who led the decade long excavation of “North America’s Pompeii.”  It nicely captures the importance of the site as well as the nature of the dig and the social relations formed which endure to this day.

Don’t miss the slideshow from the excavations — it’s an awkward interface but some very atmospheric pictures of life on a remote archaeological dig in the 1960s – as well as a few shots of the US Marines who helped airlift supplies in and treasures out.

Digging at the Ozette Site - the hoses were used to gently free the wooden artifacts, such as the house planks shown, from the mudflow which buried them. Source: WASU Magazine.

Oregon: Where Past is Present

Stone lamp from interior Oregon with inset eyes of abalone shell. Source: OMNCH.

The Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History has some very nice exhibits and it looks like their underlying collections are superb.  Their online photo-gallery “Oregon: Where Past is Present” is some pretty nice eye-candy, though I would love to see them give a little more information about each piece.  The sculptural lamp above is simply superb.

So-called "wealth blade" made of flaked obsidian, length 25 cm. Source: OMNCH

e-fauna and e-flora of British Columbia

Raven, Corvus corax. Photo: Doug Skilton, via e-fauna BC

Not a strictly archaeological topic, but I was interested to find these online projects: the Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British  Columbia, and a sister site for the flora.   These are subsites of a larger project called The Biodiversity of British Columbia.  Together, these sites aims to document, with photos, all the marine and terrestrial plants and animals of BC.  They have made a lot of progress – almost any critter or shrub you’ve heard about has  a photo at least, while many have descriptive pages of information and range.  Some sample pages for culturally-significant species: blue camasbalsam root, harbour sealsturgeon, Roosevelt elk, and Pacific banana-slug.  Species with photos only include raven and the hairy spiny doris.

Looking at the “animal photos wanted” page is a reality check though: while the current databse includes almost 9,000 photos, some 11,002 species still need photos to be submitted.  This speaks to the size of the task as well as the stunning breadth of biodiversity in BC.   If you have pictures of unusual animals then consider joining and making a submission – this would be a fantastic distributed project where the hive-mind of amateur naturalists across BC could make a solid contribution to these encyclopedic ventures.  They have some very handy checklists if you are inclined towards completionism.

One complaint: the site navigation is extensive, with multiple kinds of search possible, but the frame structure makes linking to specific pages very awkward or impossible.  Cleaning this up would be a big job but would increase the utility of the site greatly.

Chum salmon in a Burnaby estuary. Photo by Les Deighton via e-fauna.

Geist: Memory and the Valley Photo Essay

Sxwòyeqs (The Place that Everyone Died) | Stave Lake. Source: Geist Magazine.

A while ago I linked to a beautiful photo-essay from Geist Magazine on decaying towns on the BC coast.  I see they have another excellent photo essay, this one on the subject of the superposition of Euro-Canadian towns and spaces onto Aboriginal archaeological sites and significant places.  The text by Sandra Shields and David Campion is sensitive and evocative and the photographs are well taken — in some ways they are banal – an overpass, and access road – yet knowing what lies underneath triggers emotional reactions. UVIC’s own Duncan McLaren is featured as well so it must be a good article – Stave Lake (above) has two of the oldest archaeological sites in Canada (each more than 12,000 years old), parts of which miraculously survived the reservoir inundation.

The Geist authors are interviewed here, which is also well worth reading:

Interviewer: it’s not only peo­ple that are miss­ing in “Memory and the Valley”; you touch on the dis­ap­pear­ing salmon, the white pine, the waters drained away. There’s def­i­nitely that tone of loss through­out the whole work.

Campion: That is why we’re hav­ing the exhibit here in the old city hall in Chilliwack, with a wall of the orig­i­nal pio­neers look­ing down on the work. It’s because you strug­gle with these two nar­ra­tives. One says: When Canada started, we came to a land that had no peo­ple in it and we strug­gled really hard and made a won­der­ful life for our­selves and a future for our chil­dren. Whereas, for abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple, it’s a story of huge pain and suf­fer­ing, and a huge loss of peo­ple to dis­ease, even before con­tact. Then res­i­den­tial schools, cul­tural mod­i­fi­ca­tion, and so on.

So you’ve got this prob­lem at the base of Canadian soci­ety. For soci­ety as a whole to move for­ward, we need to find a way to acknowl­edge that loss, not just to have it mean some­thing in that on/off, negative/positive sense. As non-Natives, we need to find a way to absorb the real­i­ties of our com­ing here into our national narrative.

The notion of a “palimpsest” in archaeology is common, borrowed from manuscript studies: parchments would be scraped clean and re-used, yet, the older writing can still be seen and read, a ghostly precursor image.  Writing over writing, material culture over material culture, names over names and the living over the dead.  Every time you walk across the concrete apron in front of the MacPherson Library at UVIC you walk across an archaeological site.  Every time you leave the Elliot Lecture hall you walk across a site.  The Legislature is on a site, the Fraser Arms Hotel, the Willows Beach Tea House, all superimposed, a collective blotting.  Our feet tread the scraped parchment of the dead.

Leq’á:mél | Nicomen Island

Haida Argillite Pipe: High Resolution Pictures

Detail: Haida Argillite Pipe ca. 1880. http://www.antiquearms.co.uk

I occasionally complain about the lousy pictures that professional organizations put on the web.  I guess I should know that when you have something to sell, you put it’s best face forward; when you don’t, you might not care as much.  Check out the high resolution pictures of this Haida argillite pipe for sale (4,800 GBP).  Multiple angles of the pipe, each one sharp and crisp: you can see each stroke of the knife and the grain of the slate.  Yes there is some glare but the images are much better than most museums make available on the web.  Amazing stuff.

Described as:

19thC. HAIDA ARGILLITE EFFIGY PIPE. #4213 #4213

a bowl carved in the form of a European sailor’s head with large rounded eyes and long straight nose, a figure seated astride the stem also with large rounded eyes and long straight nose and with arms extended wearing European costume with a stripe incised along the sides of the tunic arms and the trousers. Overall 20cm. From the tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, principily Northern Columbia and Queen Charlotte Island. 20cm

This pipe was brought back and formed part of the collection of John Madden (1837-1902) of Hilton Park Clones Co, Monaghan Ireland, he left the Irish family estate at the age of 24 to travel by horse across the eastern states of America as far as the Great Lakes just before the start of the Civil War. During his later travels between 1870-1890 he is known to have reached British Columbia where he bought this pipe, it stayed in the family home until the collection was sold at an auction of part of the contents of Hilton Park on the 8th July 1985 where this item was aquired.

For the record, here are the seven views offered by the dealer: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Haida Pipe: detail as if looking down the stem to the bowl.

Decaying resource towns of the BC coast.

Inside the school library at Ocean Falls.

Inside the school library at Ocean Falls.

Photographer Christopher Grabowski has a beautiful photo-essay at Geist magazine on the subject of decaying resource towns of the British Columbian coast, with emphasis on Alert Bay and  Ocean Falls.  You can read the essay alone, or as the multi-page photo essay, and also read an interview with Grabowski here.  A fuller set of his Ocean Falls photographs can be seen here. (2018 edit: here)

It is striking how Europeans and other settlers were so active on the coast.  Hundreds of communities have come and gone, and settlers are now concentrated in only a few major towns.  Meanwhile, the First Nations remain on their land – in the long term, perhaps, European presence on the remote coastal lands will come to resemble a blip more than an occupation.

In the meantime, these fantastic photos remind us of the wasteful ways of the culture with perhaps the shortest attention span on earth: Canada.

The inscribed fireplace in the ballroom at Ocean Falls: Archie Martin … Ocean Falls community is a monument to his memory. Indeed.

Archaeology in Action: a flickr.com photo pool

Archaeologists? No -- "Pothunters" destroying a site on the Columbia River, ca. 1966. Source: flickr user gbaku.

Archaeology in Action is a large set of pictures of archaeologists doing archaeology on the photo sharing website flickr.com.  Not too much Northwest Stuff there that I could find with the notable exception of many pictures put up by a former University of Oregon professor under the name of gbaku (you can find his real name easily enough).  His pictures are a wonderful tour of Oregon and Alaskan archaeology of the 1960s and 1970s – these are not sets of pictures of stratigraphy, or backdirt (interesting though those things are) but are predominately of, well, archaeologists in action.  It would be fun to see more NW Coast pictures up here — I know Grant has a large collection of pictures of archaeologists going about their business and I am sure we all have some pictures of people in with the endless pictures of yet another bone.

Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason mysteries and many other books, and Luther Cressman, pioneering archaeologist and ex-husband of Margaret Mead, at Fort Rock Cave in 1966.