Tag Archives: anthropology

Historic Pamphlets and Booklets on First Nations Topics

Skeena River pole ca. 1920s: On back: ""Named Waum Gana'o 14' high / erected 1845 / 4 Bottom figure, is of the big hog, upside down." Source: USASK."

The University of Saskatchewan has a comprehensive Indigenous Studies portal, with links to a massive corpus of published and unpublished documents – some of which are available online, free of institutional restriction.  One section which I found interesting was the large collection of pamphlets and booklets.  I know this web site isn’t always 100% archaeological – but you can’t separate the practice of archaeology from the social context in which it occurs. Among these pamphlets are:

  • CBC Radio and Department of Indian Affairs 1939: The Indians Speak to Canada (transcript of a remarkable series of 1939 CBC radio broadcasts in which aboriginal people address the nation; Haida representative Rev. Peter Kelly starts on page 28; White Man’s Burden is found in the closing remarks by the Minister of Mines and Resources)

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A Portal to Online Graduate Theses and Dissertations

If you look up you should see two more links have been added along the header of this page, just above the banner picture.

ARCHAEOLOGY THESES is a page of links to freely-available, online PDF copies of graduate dissertations and theses on Northwest Archaeology subjects (with a few palaeo-environment theses thrown in for fun).

OTHER THESES is a similar page, but where the focus is on Northwest Anthropology, First Nations Studies, History and related disciplines.

I am planning another page which will be for online archaeological, ethnographic and historic documents of note, in particular “classic” ethnographic works and major site reports which have been intentionally posted in online contexts.  Probably this will be a few weeks yet.

The impetus for these pages is that I have often said the M.A. thesis in particular is a significant backbone of B.C. Archaeology, and the dissertation even more so.  For years these substantial works languished on library shelves.  Now, libraries are increasingly making them available online, free to the public and the academy alike – that is, not behind password protection.

However, you have to know how to look, and where to look, and often you need to know in advance what you are looking for, in order to find this stuff.  I thought it would be useful to have a very simple portal for these graduate works.  Not only does this make them browsable by the more hardcore of my blog readers, but it will get them some google-love!

Not all theses ever written are available online (mine isn’t!):  as it notes on the pages, there are programs in place at UVIC and UBC to digitize their back-catalogue of theses and dissertations.  It would be great if institutions like Calgary, Toronto and McMaster could get their dSpaces full, and open. Unless, of course, they are ashamed of the quality of their graduate student work 😉

So, these pages will be updated periodically. I am not vouching for the quality of any of the ones I linked — indeed a few of them are exceptionally poorly reasoned,  naive, unsupported, badly written, or long-winded efforts -and  in at least one case, all of the above!  Most are very solid though, in my estimation, and a few are truly excellent.  If you know of useful and relevant graduate work that is freely available and not yet linked, let me know in a comment below, or send me an email qmackie [at] gmail.com.  In the meantime, happy browsing.

Swan Down

Watercolour by James Gilchrist Swan (1818-1900) of the Klallam people of chief Chetzemoka (nicknamed 'the Duke of York'), with one of Chetzemoka's wives (nicknamed 'Jenny Lind') distributing potlatch at Port Townsend, Washington, USA. Source: Yale, via Wikipedia.

James Gilchrist Swan

lived one of the most varied and colorful lives in the early history of Washington Territory. He was variously an oysterman, customs inspector, secretary to Congressional delegate Isaac Stevens, journalist, reservation schoolteacher, lawyer, judge, school superintendent, railroad promoter, natural historian, and ethnographer. Above all, Swan was a chronicler. He wrote one of the earliest books describing life in Washington Territory, two Smithsonian monographs, many newspaper articles and technical publications, and more than 60 volumes of still-unpublished diaries. These works document not just pioneer society but also the Northwest Indian cultures that pre-dated white settlement and existed along-side it. Swan’s appreciation of and efforts to record Indian art, technology, history, legends, and language made him a rarity among early Washington settlers.

No doubt Swan wrote some of the most important and interesting accounts of early aboriginal life on the Northwest Coast and you would be lucky to own any of them as hardcopy editions. They are informative and vivid.  While they contain some of the biases of the day, there is absolutely no doubt that Swan was a sincere friend and companion of the Makah, Klallam and other Olympic Peninsula Tribes and he set out to tell their story fully in a way of which many anthropologists of the day would be proud.  Consider for example, this account of a Makah method of catching flatfish: Continue reading

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.

Major expansion at the Royal B.C. Museum?

Proposed changes to the RBCM: the clear white structure to the back left is the new curatorial tower & archives; to the right is a new entrance and multi-functional area. Source: Times-Colonist.

The Victoria Times-Colonist had a story Saturday that the Royal B.C. Museum is proposing a major expansion, in which theirs quare footage would more than double, from 379,000 to 895,000 square feet.  The curatorial tower and the low-rise archives building on the NW side of the block would be demolished, replaced by a new multi-function complex which would also form the entrance to the museum.  The collections and curatorial facilities, and the archives, would move to a new 14 story building to the south of the current museum.  The RBCM C.E.O, Pauline Rafferty (an archaeologist by training) notes that ““We are now at a crossroads.  We have outgrown our on-site storage facilities and significant artifacts are stored below sea level.”  The article estimates the cost will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars which is easy to believe. The Times-Colonist weighs in with a strong editorial of support, citing the collapse of the Cologne archives last year with irreparable damage to the history of that City.  So: no-brainer, right?

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Samuel Hancock witnesses smallpox among the Makah, 1852-53

Front page of Samuel Hancock's memoirs.

Samuel Hancock’s reminiscences were published in 1927 as a very small print run, and contain one of very few contemporary eyewitness accounts of the effects of smallpox on a Northwest Coast people, in this case the Makah Tribe of the Olympic Peninsula. So far as I know, these memoirs are not available anywhere online and are hard to find in libraries.  My brother Al Mackie (I told you only my family reads this thing) sent me a scan of parts of Hancock’s narrative relating to the smallpox epidemic, and so this is in essence his guest contribution.

The  excerpt  is a powerful and distressing account that hints at the social and cultural turmoil which arises from catastrophic depopulation and the witnessing of mass death, as noted elsewhere:

A smallpox epidemic in 1852 decimated the Makah population and caused one of the five ancient villages, Biheda, to be abandoned. This loss was not the only problem. The extreme number of fatalities further disrupted the line of authority in most families. In addition, knowledge of the critical components of some ceremonies and rituals were suddenly lost. People also died without transmitting ceremonial rights or privileges through a potlatch. The complicated social and ritual life that had existed for thousands of years began to fall apart.

The part of Hancock’s book quoted below is on pages 181-183 (PDF).  Such stories must have been passed down in Makah circles as well, much like the smallpox account of Skidegate Haida elder Solomon Wilson.  More detail on the author and source is given below the excerpt.

“Soon after this, a brig commanded by Capt. Fouber arrived here from San Francisco, having on board two natives who lived here, and also a white man with smallpox; the two natives left the brig, and went on shore among their friends, but in a few days were prostrate with the same disease, contracted on the vessel; one soon died and the other recovered, but the disease spread among the natives, proving very disastrous, for in a majority of instances it was fatal. After resorting to every means in their power to arrest its progress and fatality in vain, for their friends were dying in vast numbers daily, those who had escaped became almost frantic with grief and fear, and conceived the idea of crossing the Strait and going to the Nitanat tribe living on Vancouver’s Island. They crossed over to this place, carrying the infection with them, and soon nearly all those who fled from Neaah Bay, besides a great many of the native tribe, became victims to the epidemic.

“It was truly shocking to witness the ravages of this disease here at Neaah Bay. The natives after a time became so much alarmed that when any of their friends were attacked, all of the other occupants who lived in the house would at once leave it and the sick person with a piece of dried salmon and some water, laying all their personal effects by the sick persons, not intending to ever approach them again; sometimes the retreating ones would lie down anywhere on the beach till they died. I have, in walking along, encountered them lying in this situation when they would beg in the most supplicating manner for medicine or something to relieve them, promising to serve me as slaves all their lives should they recover, if I would contribute in some way to their recovery, while I did not have it in my power to do anything to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor creatures other than by furnishing them food or water if needed. Continue reading

Boundary Maintenance

Headland with wooden markers. Click to zoom.

This is one of my favourite pictures of B.C. Archaeology, even though  it doesn’t look like much.  It’s a bit fuzzy: I took it with a zoom lens in about 1985 , rounding a headland in a small boat  on the Central Coast.  In fact, you might think it doesn’t look all that archaeological.  Look closer: sticking up to the right of the white triangle you can see the carved head of a pole.

The white triangle is a standard device used by Fisheries to demarcate the different fishing zones on the coast, for management purposes.  On one side of the triangle there might be different catch limits or closures or seasons of harvest enforced than on the other.

I don’t know much about the pole, but its location on such a prominent headland, facing the open Pacific, next stop Japan, is suggestive it marked a change of territory, a boundary shift, a movement from the control of one lineage or house to another. You don’t often see such a pole away from a village site.

Both wooden markers may ultimately serve the same purpose: boundary maintenance between zones of control; advertisements for power; watchful symbols of formal rights; the means of resource management.  It is intriguing and almost poetic to see them standing, side by side, on the same headland, guarding the same water.

Detail of wooden markers.

Adawkhl Gitsegulka

Gitsegulka ca. 1909. Source: Adawhkl Gitsegulka.

Yesterday, while posting CanadaGood’s flickr set of “totem poles” I found a really interesting document at the web site of the Gitsegulka community of the Gitxsan First Nation on the Skeena River.  Called Adawkhl Gitsegulka, it is a history of the settlement written in 1979, by band members via consultation with hereditary chiefs.  So often we only see these historical pamphlets for settler communities; it is quite fun and interesting and a little bit sad to read through this one written by First Nations themselves.  For example, note how (page 7) the Indian Agent in 1909 respects the hierarchies of the hereditary chiefs, apparently only in order to establish himself as the highest ranking of the lot.  Scroll down to page 35 for a discussion of the motives and means of carving poles.

There is an interesting theme which runs through the whole document: the uneasy relationship between the deeply felt Christianity of many Gitsegulka Gitxsan, and the old ways and practices.  In its informal way, through consultation with numerous elders, with charming illustrations, the Adawkhl Gitsegulka is an intriguing source of information on how the community saw itself in the transformative years of the late 1970s, when land and title claims were once again rising.  Five years on, they were in court claiming rights and title to their territory, and not much more than 10 years later, the landmark, borderline racist, “McEachern decision” of the BC Supreme Court would be handed down (the Gitxsan-Wet’suwet’en case: Delgamuukw vs. the Queen, round 1) which started a transformation of aboriginal rights in Canada.  Delgamuukw 3  in 1997 eventually set the frame for the modern treaty process when the Supreme Court ordered a new trial.  The trial has never happened but the new Supreme Court terms and definitions structure our modern understanding that Aboriginal rights and title were never extinguished and must be reconciled.  The Adawkhl Gitsegulka is an indigenous perspective on a small community about to have its voice heard right across Canada.

The document ends with the slogan of the [then] Gitksan-Carrier Tribal Council:  “Walk on, walk on, on the breath of our grandfathers”.

Drying Berries. Source: Adawhkl Gitsegulka.

Interior layout of a house. Source: Adawkhl Gitsegulka.

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.

1973 Aboriginal Perspective on UBC-MOA and SFU archaeology

Excerpt of 1973 Nesika newsletter criticizing MOA and SFU Archaeology. Click to view full page. Scroll down this page for link to plain text.

2018 edit: It looks like Nesika is now available to browse here, and to search here.

This is interesting, from the newsletter Nesika: Voice of B.C. Indians Vol. 2 No. 1 (February 1973), Page 6:

MONEY FOR BOAT: There is money to fund a boat to take archaeology students up and down our coastline to dig up the bones of our grandfathers and sift, sort, and label sacred objects from our burial grounds, but no money for us to treat our heritage with the dignity it. deserves?

This can only refer to the former pride and joy of the SFU department of Archaeology, the motor vessel Sisiutl.

That page from Nesika has two interesting articles.  One argues for the creation of a Cultural Centre at Hesquiat, while the other passionately objects to the millions spent on the UBC Museum of Anthropology and the above-mentioned Sisiutl.  Click on the image above for a legible image of the entire text, or click here for a transcript.  It is chastening to see the eloquence and power of these arguments from almost 40 years ago.  Hesquiat still has no Cultural Centre so far as I know while the Museum of Anthropology just wrapped up a 60+ million dollar renovation and SFU Archaeology has what amounts to their own, brand-new building as well, at what I hear was a cost of about 5 million dollars.

HESQUIAT BAND CULTURAL CENTRE

Lack of funds hit by Chief Rocky Amos

VANCOUVER (Staff) — After Indian Affairs had denied a request for funds for the Hesquiat Cultural Centre due to lack of funds, Band Chief Rocky Amos told the department that “we cannot accept the limitation of funds as valid.” Pointing to the $10 million available to a museum to house Indian artifacts at UBC and to other reports of funds granted for more white people to study Indians, Chief Amos wrote DIA: “It is difficult to follow the line of thinking that makes money available to exhibit our inheritance to city based people and when the rightful heirs to these very artifacts ask for assistance to house their history in an area where it will be meaningful to them, they are denied. “We of the Hesquiat Band are not unique and we have proven we can do it. Now we are made to crawl on our stomachs begging for funds to house our heritage. My pride is aching from begging but my pride also screams in agony when our people are forced into whitemen’s museums to see their inheritance.”

As the second article concludes in terms it is hard to argue with:

If there is money available for museums to store stolen work, then there is money available for museums to be built where that work belongs. With the children and grandchildren of the artists who represented a culture and society which has not, despite all efforts, conveniently died.

First custom built archaeology research vessel in North America: The Sisiutl. Recently scrapped by SFU.  Source: American Antiquity.

PS: kudos to the Union of BC Indian Chiefs for putting so much archival information online.  In related news, I previously linked to the archives of the Native Voice, which is another great resource for understanding First Nations politics and which also contains intriguing aboriginal perspectives on the practice of BC Archaeology.