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.
Posted in anthropology, First Nations, history, Northwest Interior
Tagged anthropology, BC Interior, BC Treaties, british columbia, Delgamuukw, Gitksan, Gitsegulka, Gitxsan, history, Skeena River
Haida Town of Chaatl. Source: NMC
There is an interesting archive of interview transcripts housed in dSpace at the University of Regina. Most of the interviews were by CBC Radio’s Imbert Orchard and so share the flaws of Journalism and Anthropology. The preamble says,
The original intent of The Indian History Film Project was to conduct interviews with First Nations elders across Canada and to produce a television series portraying Canadian history from a First Nations’ perspective.
The Indian History Film Project was an initiative of Direction Films and was conceived and developed by Tony Snowsill. The project leaders were Tony Snowsill and Christine Welsh. The project evolved over time, and eventually it was decided to access libraries and archives across the country to incorporate existing interviews with First Nations elders. All interviews, whether original or archival, were cross indexed by word and theme and housed in the C.P.R.C [Canadian Plains Research Centre].
A number of these interviews are with Haida people, notably Solomon Wilson and Florence Edenshaw, who discussed her arranged marriage, the meaning of Tow Hill, and the artistic tradition of her family, the Edenshaws and Davidsons. It appears tapes of these are also available through the BC Archives, but not online.
Note: anytime you see (Indian) it means that a Haida word was not transcribed — an eerie effect. Searching for British Columbia brings up 91 documents.
The following excerpt from an interview with Solomon Wilson of Skidegate sees him relating a tale of smallpox blankets:
Posted in anthropology, archives, dSpace, First Nations, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast
Tagged archives, BC Interior, british columbia, dSpace, First Nations, Haida, Haida Gwaii, history, museums, Northwest Coast
Desecrated spiritual site: the Big Rock at Campbell River
Stephen Hume has written some great columns on BC archaeology and history over the years and he comes out swinging in this recent piece:
Beside Highway 3 near Keremeos, a large glacial boulder has myths attached that extend far into B.C.’s past. It’s our own Stonehenge but it’s defaced with graffiti. Not far away, somebody jackhammered out of a cliff face one of the most significant ancient rock paintings in North America. Near Campbell River, another cultural site of great significance to first nations — the Big Rock — is also covered with graffiti. On Saltspring Island, effluent filters through a grave site with government approval. Near Qualicum, the bones of persons of great importance were mixed into paving material for a parking lot.
We pay lip service to first nations culture; we trot it out when we’re on the world stage — at the Olympics, for example — but our actions betray our venal hypocrisy. When conflicts arise between private commercial gain and public protection of our now-shared ancient heritage, money seems to trump culture almost every time.
I use the term “our” to describe this heritage because we are all citizens of B.C. together, first nations and settler society, fused by our braided history. We have one shared narrative in this province. It is composed of many stories. They begin not with the recent arrival of European adventurers or Asian monks but in a far more ancient past.
When we permit the desecration of important first nations sites, it’s our shared history that we abuse and our children’s legacies that we steal.
I am not convinced that the private member’s bill to which he is refers is the answer, and in any case it died on the vine – more on that later. And the BC Archaeology Branch is kept on a short leash through the expedient of under-funding. But I certainly appreciate Hume’s take-no-prisoners attitude – we need a few vocal bulldogs on the case. Incidentally, in a parallel universe to this blog, Hume’s brother is in a UVIC archaeology class right now, so maybe another bulldog can be raised – it seems to run in the family.
Notably, it looks like there is a move afoot to designate the Big Rock, spearheaded by Frank Assu of Cape Mudge. Let’s hope this succeeds, and maybe we won’t see it get dressed up again as a pumpkin.
Vandalized Pictograph Boulder near Keremeos.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, BC Interior, Campbell River, conservation, CRM, Keremeos, Northwest Coast, petroglyphs, pictographs, Public Archaeology, rock art, Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun
Layer 1: snow. Layer 2: littermat.
I just found a pretty good article from NorthWord, a community newspaper that covers northern BC’s coast and interior. Nice quotes and insights from Rick Budwha, Farid Rahemtulla and David Archer – but what caught my eye was the surreal photo used to illustrate the piece. Is that a light dusting of snow on the clipboard? Is that wind down the plumber-butt? Is that a marginally insane unit location right in the root mat of a huge tree? Is this winter impact assessment under Oil and Gas Commission guidelines? How did they establish the glorious sidelight? Is there snow on the soles of their boots? Could this be a painting? I want to know more about this picture, dammit!
An unusually strong review of Brian Hayden‘s Keatley Creek excavations on the middle Fraser River, near Lillooet can be found at this site:
” […]Hayden was able to show that the aristocratic owners lived on one side of the house, where the larger hearths, the larger storage pits, and the better tools and ornaments were all found, and their servants or poor relations on the other side. The bones from the good side of the house were mostly ribs and vertebrae from the best parts of the fish, while the tail bones came mostly from the poor side. The deer bones were also mostly from the rich side. So we can imagine the rich folks keeping warm with big fires and eating the best parts of the fish, while their inferiors watched them from the other side of the same room, huddling by tiny fires and gnawing on fish tails. To this visual image we must add the smell. Air-drying salmon protects it from harmful rot, but European observers all thought the process left the fish “half tainted.” The smell in a closed house full of the stuff “was such as nobody who has not grown up with the stench can endure it for even a few minutes.” The more I think about this strange place, the more disoriented and disgusted I become. […] ”
I look forward to more such insight into how the public perceives the fruits of archaeological labours.