Tag Archives: Coast Salish

The Giant of Happy Valley

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.

“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]

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Visit to the UVic Fieldschool on Prevost Island in the Salish Sea

UVic field school students at work on Prevost Island inland midden site.

UVic field school students at work on Prevost Island inland midden site. Trust me, there really are dense midden deposits at this site.

I had a good visit the other day to the UVic archaeological field school, which is on Prevost Island in the Salish Sea.  Prevost is a large island of about 1700 acres, mostly privately owned by an active farming family, but part of lies within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.  In some ways, it is the hub of the southern Gulf Islands, lying squarely between Salt Spring, Galiano, Pender and Mayne Islands. There’s no ferry to this island, so it’s surprisingly off the beaten track considering how centrally located it is.  I suspect that’s a car-centric view, and taking the perspective of a maritime cultural landscape, this is one of the best-connected islands in the Salish Sea.

Anyway, the UVic fieldschool is being taught by doctoral student Eric McLay, whose research focuses on inland shell middens in the Salish Sea.  These are middens well away from the high tide line — in the case of Prevost, about 800 metres inland.  Several dozen comparable sites are known, such as the ones near the rockshelter burials on Gabriola Island.  Why people brought substantial quantities of shell to these inland locations is something of a mystery, one which Eric, with the help of the fieldschool students and First Nations participants, and the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, aims to shed light on.

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Two talks in Victoria next seven days

Burial cairn on Race Rocks.  Source: RaceRocks.com

Burial cairn on Race Rocks. Source: RaceRocks.com

Two very cool talks in Victoria over the next few days.  The first is a unique opportunity to hear from Cowichan (Coast Salish) “gravedigger” Harold C. Joe, who for more than 30 years has worked with archaeologists and anthropologists to care for the disturbed ancestral dead, among his other responsibilities.

The second talk is the monthly ASBC event which features Dr. Andreas Fuls of the Berlin Institute of Technology, who will address a topic in Mayan astronomy and the Mayan collapse.

If you’re not in Victoria you can probably stop reading, but if you click below then you’ll find  more details, including abstracts and the where and when.

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Interior of a Coast Salish Longhouse, 1864

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson.  Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives.  Click to enlarge.

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson. Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives. Click to enlarge.

Following on from the post about the Salish mausoleum, here is a companion painting by Edward Mallott Richardson from the same year, depicting the interior of a house.  It’s a curious painting, seemingly devoid of close detail.  Where are all the drying fish?!  But at the same time it shows some features of interest which may be worth discussing.  Note the fellow with the gun has a powderhorn, for example, and the basket behind him looks like one of those rectangular coiled ones, only with a tumpline, as shown by the woman entering on the left.  On the far right is a semi-conical object that might be a hat, sitting on a platform within a small compartment.

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A Coast Salish Mausoleum, 1864

A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca

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

Klahoose Arborglyph

Klahoose Arborglyph Ceremony. Source: Klahoose First Nation.

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.

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Revisiting the Salt Spring Island Archives

Part of the Charles Sampson collection from Salt Spring Island. Source: saltspringarchives.com

Salt Spring Island is a large island in the Salish Sea, close to Vancouver Island’s southeast corner (map).  Quite a while ago I highlighted the photographs of the “Bob Akerman” museum, which comes via the comprehensive Salt Spring Island archives.  There are a few other photo records of archaeological collections there which I thought were worth a quick look.  For example, the picture above from the Charles Sampson Collection shows some fairly spectacular ground slate points to the left, and what may be a Charles phase (ca. 4,000 year old)  contracting stem point to the bottom right.  It’s not just archaeological collections that the archives has going for it, though. Continue reading