Tag Archives: CRM

The BC Archaeology Survey

Republic of Archaeology, B.C. Archaeology Survey, 2016.

Republic of Archaeology: B.C. Archaeology Survey, 2016.

There’s a survey being taken of BC Archaeologists, First Nation, and other interest groups such as museum professionals, realtors, developers, and interested members of the public.  it’s a fairly detailed survey with some quite specific questions about the regulatory and legal process of Archaeology and “Cultural Resource Management” in BC. The survey is run by Joanne Hammond, M.A., an archaeologist based in Kamloops, who also runs the Republic of Archaeology website, which is worth a look in its own right.  The survey is only open for another 10 days or so,until December 31st.

I took the survey a few weeks ago and I expect if there is sufficient participation then the results will be quite revealing about the present and future of the practice of Archaeology in B.C.  If you’ve read this blog much (not that it is getting updated, but still) you’ll know that the context of Archaeology in BC often becomes quite political, and charged with structural as well as unintended conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof. Working in the colonial landscape we know that those “who control the past” assume upon themselves a lot of power and influence. Is the way that archaeology happens in this Province – almost always in a relationship to development – the best it could be?  Take the survey to add your voice.

Still selling First Nations’ Archaeological Heritage

Coast Salish artifacts for sale at Granny and Grumpa's store. Photo: B. Thom

Coast Salish artifacts for sale at Granny and Grumpa’s store, Abbotsford, B.C.. Photo: B. Thom

I like hanging around junk shops as much as anyone, in fact more than most, if my new Monkey-Darwin-Skull office lamp is anything to go by. Very occasionally will I see a local archaeological artifact in one of these shops.  However, my colleague at my day job (yes I have a job, honest), Dr. Brian Thom, sent me some pictures and an account of his encounter with a very large collection of Coast Salish artifacts.  And they’re for sale.

Now, Brian may have the most magnificent Star Trek memorabilia collection to sit squarely atop the 49th parallel, but no sites were harmed in his collecting behaviour. The law around the ownership and sale of ancient artifacts in B.C. is regrettably unclear (as was hashed out in the fractious comments of this previous blog post and here too: 1, 2, 3).  As I note lower down,  below Brian’s comments, some of the clearest direction on this front comes not from the Act, but from recent public statements from BC Archaeology Branch director Justine Batten.  It’s always tempting to write some huge essay when I’m trying to figure something out, but it’d be better to let Brian kick things off. His commentary and links are below, reproduced with his permission.

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The Nunalleq Site Fieldwork Blog

Collection of amber beads from the Nunalleq Site. Source: Nunalleq Blog. https://nunalleq.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/artefact-of-the-day-147/

Collection of amber beads from the Nunalleq Site. Source: Nunalleq Blog. https://nunalleq.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/artefact-of-the-day-147/

One of the benefits of running this blog is I get to decide what counts as Northwest Coast Archaeology, and today I’m including the amazing Nunalleq site in SW Alaska. Strengthening my claim this belongs to the NW Coast is that the indispensable Dr. Madonna Moss of U. Oregon has been working there lately – which makes it NW Coast, right? Q.E.D.  Anyway the project has been running for about five years, and their blog for three, so there is lots to read up on, and see.  The site, lying in Yup’ik territory, contains deposits (house and otherwise) up to around 2,000 years old and has been rapidly eroding of late.  What started as a salvage project quickly turned into a major effort as deposits of incredible richness were encountered, with preservation enhanced by frozen soil/permafrost.  I’m currently in a fairly remote spot with slow internet and bandwidth constraints, so I am just going to link to a few highlights of the blog and let you explore the rest.

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Grace Islet and the Equifinality of Bad Process

Grace Islet human burial cairn intersected by concrete house foundation. The cairn is under the plywood and concrete square structure. Source: Grace Islet on Facebook.

Grace Islet human burial cairn intersected by concrete house foundation. The cairn is said to be under the plywood and concrete square structure. Could there be a more poignant picture of the present day management of archaeological sites in this province? Source: Grace Islet on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/graceislet

Grace Islet – Shmukw’elu – is a small island (map, pic) in Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island.  It is a Coast Salish cemetery, and it is a settler construction site.  How do we reconcile these contradictory uses of this island? I’ve been hesitant to post about this case because I know it’s a long and complicated story of how we got to 2014, when we see burial cairns being literally encased into concrete house foundations. I am quite sure that many people of goodwill made many decisions that seemed right to them at the time. I don’t know what all these decisions are, what happened when, exactly, what the consultant said, how the house owner sleeps at night – I just don’t know all these variables and I am schooled in the idea you should know everything before you say anything. It’s clear though that, somehow, the practice of archaeology in this province led to the Grace Islet outcome. Shouldn’t we try to understand the process? That’s fine in principle, but can be silencing in the face of complexity: as Pierre Bourdieu wrote, “the most successful ideological efforts are those which have no need for words, and then ask no more than complicitous silence.” No more silence, then.

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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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Tagging along with Archaeologists in Quatsino Sound

Quatsino - Cave at Heater Point. Source: bcmarinetrails.org

Archaeology Crew at Quatsino: Cave at Heater Point. Source: bcmarinetrails.org

How does the general public perceive archaeologists?  There’s a lot of ways to get at this question, not least the comments section of any newspaper article!  But a positive and slightly unusual perspective is found in this article by Stephanie Meinke at the BC Marine Trails website.  In the course of establishing some new marine trails in the Quatsino Sound area of NW Vancouver Island (map), concern arose that there might be archaeological sites at some of the campsites. Kayakers generally having solid ethics about leaving no trace, but all the same there might be some unintentional impacts.  So an archaeological consulting team (Kennedy Richard and Morgan Bartlett) was hired to assess these spots with potential impact. They were guided by Stephanie and by Janis Leach of Recreation Sites and Trails BC, as well as by two field assistants from the Quatsino First Nation: Mark Wallas and Mark Hunt.

The article gives something of a participant-observation view of the archaeological consulting business in its coastal survey guise, as well as some nice pictures of gorgeous scenery.

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New finds from the Skeena River near Gitwangak

Unusual serrated stone tool from Gitwangak area site, perhaps used for cedar processing.  Source: CBC

Unusual serrated stone tool from Gitwangak area site, perhaps used for cedar processing. Source: CBC

There’s a nice audio interview and slide show from the CBC with Jenny Lewis of Kleanza Consulting archaeologists about a dig going on along the Skeena River near Gitwangak (Kitwanga) in Gitxan Territory.  The project is apparently a CN Rail siding repair and there have been many, many stone tools found, including some in stratified setting with carbon dates associated.

Remarkably, Lewis asserts that they have material dating to around 9,000 years ago, in addition to the more recent finds.  This would certainly make it amongst the oldest, if not the oldest, archaeological material known from the Skeena River area, although it is not specified how the earliest date estimates were arrived at.  The well-known sites in the Kitselas Canyon, for example, are generally all within the last 5,000 years if memory serves me right. Continue reading