Tag Archives: Cowichan

Yelm Jim’s Fish Weir at Puyallup

Yelm Jim's fish weir on the Puyallup River ca. 1885. Click for high resolution.  Source:  http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/DAA73FC7A57E989D65B6DBEA419FC89E

Yelm Jim’s fish weir on the Puyallup River ca. 1885. Click for high resolution. Source: http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/DAA73FC7A57E989D65B6DBEA419FC89E

So for one reason or another I’ve been thinking about fish weirs lately.  A picture can be worth a thousand thoughts though, so I was happy to see these two shots of a massive weir photographed ca. 1885 on the Puyallup Indian Reservation (map) near Tacoma, southern Puget Sound, Washington.  I’m sure these are common knowledge images but for some reason I hadn’t come across them before.  If you’re new to weirs I posted something on them before, referencing the monumental reconstruction of one on the Koeye River.  Essentially they are a method for controlling the upstream migration of salmon, allowing for stock assessment and selective harvesting.

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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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“Correct Map of the Gold Diggings”: May 20th, 1858

Detail of 1858 Map of Fraser Gold Diggings. Click for full image.

From UBC, this interesting 1858 San Francisco broadsheet “The Pictorial Newsletter of California” (large JPG file).  Most of the text is mundane births and deaths, but the map above from it is a lot of fun.  It’s especially interesting to see the “Cowitchin” Village at New Westminster.  Now, “Cowitchin” was often used as a generic term for many Coast Salish people in the early historic period.  But note too, just upriver at Fort Langley, a “Ninnimuch” Village, presumably Snuneymuxw First Nation, also known historically as the “Nanaimo” people, whose core territory would be on east Central Vancouver Island.  There are lots of reports of Vancouver Island nations paddling up and down past Fort Langley so its not that much of a surprise, but rather a nice testament to the extensive regional trade and, perhaps, permeable social networks in place across the greater Gulf of Georgia. It also makes me think the “Cowitchin Village” might indeed really be Cowichan. It’s notable the “Pinkslitsa River” (Harrison River) is the only lower tributary mapped, probably because it was an important route in and out of the middle Fraser, bypassing the canyon.  It’s a nice map, it’s early, and I’d never seen it before, so thanks to UBC and their Early BC Newspapers page.

Detail of 1858 map showing "Cowitchin" and "Ninnimuch" Villages on Lower Fraser.

From the UBC notes:  Pictorial News Letter of California: for the Steamer John L. Stephens San Francisco: Hutchings & Rosenfield; Charles F. Robbins, Printer, 1858

“Issued exactly one month after the first steamer left San Francisco headed for the Fraser (Bancroft p. 359), this appears to be the first separate publication relating to the Fraser River Gold Rush, and the first map published to illustrate the area for potential gold-seekers.”

You can also download a short PowerPoint file here, and there is an overview essay here.

Somenos Creek: Update 2

CHEK-TV video clip on the Somenos Creek archaeological situation. Click to play.

Someone passed along this CHEK-TV news item showing George Schmidt of TimberCrest Estates, Ltd., the development company wishing to put houses on top of a major archaeological site in the Cowichan Valley at Somenos Creek, which I’ve written about before: 1, 2.

Listen to the favourable treatment he gets from the newscaster. Loaded language like “In limbo”. “Pony Up”.

Hey, CHEK-TV, since you’re the voice of the people now and all that and also “journalists”, how about you dig around in the zoning history of the land before you just repeat the mantra “government must pay”.  Did the developer buy this land already zoned for residential development?  How much did he pay in 1972?  Does he deserve compensation for having a risk turn out the wrong way for him?  Does he have the right to destroy a cemetery?  Is he, in fact, losing anything that he already had, or is he losing a perceived entitlement?  He took a risk, he has gained mightily, and now he wants a slice of the First Nation’s pie as well.

I’d seriously suggest CHEK-TV also looks into the $500,000 amount he claims to have spent on archaeology at Somenos Creek.  From what little I know of the site, I am very skeptical about that figure.

Truly, there needs to be a mechanism by which true hardship cases of conflict between development and archaeology, or where the impact assessment process has failed, can be resolved.  That, indeed, may mean some government financial input.  But these should be reserved for instances where other options have run out and where there is demonstrable financial hardship.  This case does not pass the smell test – vast profits have assuredly been made and now legal and moral constrains are drawing a line under this development.

I say this company should stop going cap in hand to the government and just give the land up as a heritage park in return for a tax receipt.  Unless I am mistaken, most entrepreneurs are not socialists, and I  am sure the last thing the typical developer would want is to be perceived as a corporate welfare bum.

Somenos Creek: Update

Somenos Creek site. Picture this with 20 houses on it. Photo credit: anonymous.

Further to my post below, here is another news item on the Somenos Creek (Cowichan Valley) situation.  It mostly rehashes the Times-Colonist piece but does have new comments from Eric and from the developer, notably:

Schmidt, who has tried but failed to have the six-acre site, known as Lot B, rezoned for development, said it would be worth up to $3 million if it weren’t for the presence of the artifacts and burial site.

Timbercrest has built about 300 homes on the land so far and would like to put up another 20 on Lot B.

So, lets see 20/300 = 6.7% of the 100 acres.  The 100 acres was bought in the 1970s.  I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that much less than 1 million was paid for the 100 acres back then.  The current valuation of these six acres would value the entire parcel at 45 million.  Let’s halve that:m 22 million.

So this developer has turned a one million dollar piece of land into a 20 million dollar piece of land.  A 2000% return.  And he wants financial consideration and compensation from the public because he happens to have a legally-protected (and morally protected, I might add) site of the highest archaeological significance on the residual piece?

This is the 21st century: Greed is no longer good, Timbercrest Estates Ltd.  Give the land up, get a tax writeoff, and count your blessings you live in a country that is so extremely friendly to rampant development of land, enabling fortunes to to be made.

Somenos Creek CRM

Diagonal exposure of apparent 2000 BP house at Somenos Creek.

I don’t know too much about the Somenos Creek development in the Cowichan Valley which is discussed in this column in the Times-Colonist:

The North Cowichan story goes back to 1972, when Schmidt was among the developers who bought 100 acres of farmland. About 300 homes eventually arose on what became Timbercrest Estates. Not developed was a six-acre piece where human remains were found in 1992, and where archeological investigations later turned up a feature — a hearth, perhaps, or a house foundation — dating back to the time of Christ.

The Cowichan Tribes think there’s more to be found, that it is important to preserve all six acres, perhaps use it for educational purposes, but Schmidt thinks a dozen houses can be built around the perimeter of the area of proven archeological significance. The natives’ hope now is that government will recognize the importance of the property and buy it, an idea they pitched to cabinet minister Kevin Krueger last week. His reaction? “It wasn’t negative, so I think that’s positive,” says Cowichan Tribes lands-research director Diane Hinkley.

Krueger says there isn’t money to buy such lands outright, but he wants to see what can be done to work things out.

For his part, Schmidt just wants to be done, one way or the other. Either the province or Ottawa buys the land, or he applies for a development permit. “I’m into it too deep to just let the land sit there.”

One of the researchers sent me a copy of the report, and there is a fairly compelling set of features unusual in (a) being inland (b) including an inland shell midden component and (c) including a large subsurface sub-rectangular, sharply defined feature which appears to be the remains of a house dating to ca. 2100 BP.  This makes the site of unusually high archaeological significance – not to mention there are numerous human burials (analysed in Doug Brown’s MA thesis) and extensive archaeological deposits of other kinds.  The house feature is remarkably similar to a contemporaneous feature I saw being excavated a few years back at Esquimalt Lagoon.  We know very little about houses from this period, particularly houses found in inland contexts.  What is striking about the newspaper column above is that it reports the developer has managed to put houses onto 94 of 100 acres, and is now champing at the bit to develop, or be compensated for, the last 6 acres.  I mean, seriously, George Schmidt of Timbercrest Estates, you have achieved 94% of the development you sought.  How about leaving the burial ground alone?  You bought the land in the 1970s.  Surely you have made your money back many many times over. A donation of this small parcel as a heritage park would be a classy move.

Somenos house? feature

Somenos feature - note sharpness of vertical section indicating probable use of plank retaining.