Tag Archives: ethnobotany

ASBC Victoria Talk: Tuesday September 16, Jenny Cohen on Paleoethnobotany of Kilgii Gwaay

2002 excavations at Kilgii Gwaay Site.

2002 excavations at Kilgii Gwaay Site.

Paleoethnobotany of Kilgii Gwaay: a 10,700 year old Ancestral Haida Archaeological Wet Site

Jenny Cohen

Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 7:30 pm

Cornett Building B129

(North End of Cornett building)

University of Victoria (map)

The Victoria Chapter of the Archaeological Society of BC (ASBC) has a long-running monthly Fall-Spring speaker series which is starting again next week.  The speaker is UVic Anthropology graduate student Jenny Cohen, speaking on results from her paleobotanical analysis of the 10,700 year old intertidal wet site, Kilgii Gwaay, in southern Haida Gwaii.  It’s a fascinating site which gives real insight into the way of life of Ancestral Haida at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and I’m sure Jenny’s thesis, nearing completion, will be of wide interest.

If you don’t have enough Kilgii Gwaay in your life then I recommend you jump over to the Burnt Embers blog, where there are some excellent photos from the tricky intertidal excavations at that site a few years ago: Setting Up;  Keeping Water Out; Putting Water InWater Screening; and Kilgii Gwaay Finds.

Abstract: Continue reading

Captain Vancouver and Camas

Saranne, or lily, harvesting on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in May 1792.

I am sure it is well known to local ethnobotanists, but I don’t recall seeing the above account of plant cultivation reference before.  It is from page 123 of Captain Vancouver’s “Voyage of Discovery …. ” (1801 edition, which you can browse online here).

I didn’t figure out the exact locale of this camp but it is probably very close to Port Discovery, near Port Townsend at the north end of Puget Sound.  The camp is carefully noted as a plant-harvesting camp and also a place where shellfish were being processed. The houses are mere lean-tos.  It is interesting to see that the considerable number of “eighty or a hundred” women, men and children were engaged in turning over the earth here, “like swine” (!).  It gives a vivid impression of a well-orchestrated, community-level harvesting event.  Vancouver comments favourably on the product, a sort of paste or flour.

Vancouver refers to one plant as a species of wild onion, while the other two plants being cultivated are termed as resembling “saranne”.  That being a new term to me, I turned to the OED only to find it not listed, which is quite surprising.  Googling turned up some interesting historical references though, in which it is clearly a term used for members of the Lily family (camas is also a member of this family).  For example, see this 1792 clip from Pennant’s Arctic Zoology Volume 3, on the use of Saranne, or Lilium kamchatschense, by the inhabitants of (yes) Kamchatka (let your eyes skim, gentle reader, over the foregoing section on the use and abuse of hallucinogenic mushrooms). Perhaps this term, Saranne, was in use around the North Pacific at that time but it strikes me as odd it did not find its way into the OED.

Anyway, a few pages down from p. 123 you can also find a nice description of the Coast Salish wool dog, which is described as being much like a Pomeranian.

Camas flowers and bulbs. Source: Brenda Beckwith Ph.D. thesis, 2004. http://hdl.handle.net/1828/632

Society of Ethnobiology Conference: Coming to Victoria

Top notches in a standing western red cedar tree, the result of extracting one or more planks.

Dana sent me a note that the 33rd annual meeting of the Society of Ethnobiology “The Meeting Place: Integrating Ethnobiological Knowledge”, will be held 5–8 May, 2010, in Victoria.I believe some “rockwashy” types are helping out with the organization.  It sounds like a great conference and a chance to build networks between plant people and rock people and bone people – and we sure do need a lot more archaeology of plants out here on the NW Coast, where bones and stones still rule the day.

This year’s conference theme celebrates the potential of ethnobiology to bridge disciplines, ideas, and communities, and to foster an understanding of the connections between the biological and cultural worlds.

In addition to our usual dazzling line up of papers and sessions, here’s a preview of some of the other special events:

  • Wednesday night welcome reception in the First Nations gallery at the Royal British Columbia Museum
  • Special discussion sessions on: Teaching science through ethnobiology, Ethnobiology and ethics, Communicating environmental knowledge through media, Indigenous people’s food systems, and more!
  • Thursday night poster reception at the just opened First People’s House at the University of Victoria
  • Six! fabulous field trip options
  • A banquet of traditional B.C. First Nation’s food followed by a presentation of the Atla’kima “Spirits of the Forest” dance by Kwakwaka’wakw Longhouse dancers

This year’s meetings will be back-to-back with the International Society of Ethnobiology congress in nearby Tofino, B.C., May 9–14.

Sgaawsid K’uuljaad, the Boss Lady Potato.

Sgaawsid K'uuljaad gets funky.

Silly season in Haida Gwaii must have started, as Carey’s potato of unusual size is stolen (and returned), but not before a star appearance or two on youtube.