Tag Archives: Bulkley River

Reburial at Hagwilget: A Video

Click to Play Video

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.

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Aboriginal Bridges of Northwestern B.C.

Bridge at Hagwilget, 1881. Source: B.C. Archives.

I don’t know that much about the “Living Landscapes” program, which includes a series of small web exhibits.  While related to the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria, and covered by their insane legal language (see below), they seem to have outsourced the actual expertise to non-RBCM people.  Not that surprising, really, since they have hardly any in-house expertise left after decades of cuts!  But all credit to them for their role in the informative series, even if the program is now (2006) finished with nothing for Vancouver Island.

I’ll probably review a few of these pages, but for now the exhibit which caught my eye, mainly because of its cool illustrations, is the one of Aboriginal Bridges of Northwestern B.C. The author, Brenda Guernsey, has put together a great set of images from various public archives to illustrate these amazing features.

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Making a stone tool, 1893

1893 flint-knapping description by Father Morice. Source: Canadiana.org

Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice was a Catholic missionary working in the Skeena and Bulkley River areas of western British Columbia during the later 19th century.  He is perhaps best known for his documentation and writing system for the “Carrier” (Yinka Dene) language, but he also published a major work entitled Notes Archaeological, Industrial and Technological of the Western Denes, with an Ethnographical Sketch of the Same (1893).  The work is a cornucopia of careful observation mixed with some interesting, and occasionally rather religiously judgmental and speculative, commentaries.  One of the most interesting short passages is excerpted above: Morice records how to make stone tools via flaking.  Because metal tools became widely available in the early historical period and had some superior qualities, such accounts of traditional flaked stone (the bread and butter of archaeological sites) are very rare.  The figure above appears accurate in its description of the slightly awkward-seeming way of holding the stone: I have seen this palm grip used by many contemporary flintknappers.  Elsewhere, Morice records a series of Yinka Dene names for different stones, including chalcedony and obsidian.  You can page through his book, but not download it in entirety, here at Canadiana.org. The illustration above is from Page 65 on the drop down menu.  (Why they don’t just make a link to the whole PDF is beyond me).  There are other informative sections, such as about 10 pages describing the operation of fish-traps and weirs.

Fish trap illustrated in Morice 1893. Source: Canadiana.org