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.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, fieldwork, First Nations, Northwest Interior
Tagged alaska, Bulkley River, burial, cemeteries, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Gitxsan, Hagwilget, human remains, reburial, Skeena River, Wet'suwet'en
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.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged Arboroglyph, cedar, CMT, Coast Salish, Culturally Modified Tree, Dendroglyph, Gitxsan, Klahoose, Salish Sea, Toba Inlet
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
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Northwest Interior
Tagged Archaeology, CBC, CN Rail, CRM, Cultural Resource Management, Gitwangak, Gitxsan, Kitwanga, Kleanza, Skeena River
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.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, First Nations, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged bridges, british columbia, Bulkley River, Gitksan, Gitxsan, Hagwilget, history, Skeena River, Tahltan
Gitsegulka ca. 1909. Source: Adawhkl Gitsegulka.
Yesterday, while posting CanadaGood’s flickr set of “totem poles” I found a really interesting document at the web site of the Gitsegulka community of the Gitxsan First Nation on the Skeena River. Called Adawkhl Gitsegulka, it is a history of the settlement written in 1979, by band members via consultation with hereditary chiefs. So often we only see these historical pamphlets for settler communities; it is quite fun and interesting and a little bit sad to read through this one written by First Nations themselves. For example, note how (page 7) the Indian Agent in 1909 respects the hierarchies of the hereditary chiefs, apparently only in order to establish himself as the highest ranking of the lot. Scroll down to page 35 for a discussion of the motives and means of carving poles.
There is an interesting theme which runs through the whole document: the uneasy relationship between the deeply felt Christianity of many Gitsegulka Gitxsan, and the old ways and practices. In its informal way, through consultation with numerous elders, with charming illustrations, the Adawkhl Gitsegulka is an intriguing source of information on how the community saw itself in the transformative years of the late 1970s, when land and title claims were once again rising. Five years on, they were in court claiming rights and title to their territory, and not much more than 10 years later, the landmark, borderline racist, “McEachern decision” of the BC Supreme Court would be handed down (the Gitxsan-Wet’suwet’en case: Delgamuukw vs. the Queen, round 1) which started a transformation of aboriginal rights in Canada. Delgamuukw 3 in 1997 eventually set the frame for the modern treaty process when the Supreme Court ordered a new trial. The trial has never happened but the new Supreme Court terms and definitions structure our modern understanding that Aboriginal rights and title were never extinguished and must be reconciled. The Adawkhl Gitsegulka is an indigenous perspective on a small community about to have its voice heard right across Canada.
The document ends with the slogan of the [then] Gitksan-Carrier Tribal Council: “Walk on, walk on, on the breath of our grandfathers”.
Drying Berries. Source: Adawhkl Gitsegulka.
Interior layout of a house. Source: Adawkhl Gitsegulka.
Posted in anthropology, First Nations, history, Northwest Interior
Tagged anthropology, BC Interior, BC Treaties, british columbia, Delgamuukw, Gitksan, Gitsegulka, Gitxsan, history, Skeena River
Fallen pole at Gitsegulka. Source: flickr.com user CanadaGood.
Someone posting under the username “CanadaGood” at flickr.com has put up an impressive array of over 100 photos of “totem poles”. What I like about this set is that most of these are not the iconic ones from coffee table books or museums but rather are still standing (or lying) in communities, mostly along the Skeena River. They aren’t the most technically accomplished photos or anything but they are undeniably atmospheric and they document the process of renewal and decay of poles which was an important part of the carving complex. Each pole is the material instance of the right to carve and display a set of crests or images, often as a memorial to a dead person of high status, and therefore the “thing” must be set against the intangible, non-material property of rights and titles which it represents. Proper treatment of the pole might therefore well include letting it return to the earth, replaced by a fresher copy. I like the matter of fact way this one is set up on stumps and this rotting masterpiece at Gitanyow. This figure is unusual for being “sculpture in the round”. Kudos to CanadaGood for putting pictures of these less commonly seen poles on flickr, in high resolution, and under a Creative Commons licence to boot.
Tops of standing poles at Gitsegulka. Source: flickr user CanadaGood.
Posted in anthropology, First Nations, history, pics
Tagged anthropology, art, carving, Gitsegulka, Gitxsan, poles, Skeena River, totem poles