Tag Archives: Gulf Islands

Visiting Celts at the Mayne Island Museum

Mayne Island Museum and Gaol. Source: tumblr

Mayne Island Museum and Gaol. Source: http://gulfislandsnprcoop.tumblr.com/

The only thing better than small town museums are small town thrift shops, but it’s close. I stuck my nose into the Mayne Island — a small island in the Salish Sea — Museum a day or two ago, which is housed in the former gaol  (that’s “jail” for my diverse readers).  These museums can be fun, but you do have to put on your “this place is historically situated” eyeglasses.  As in, there is usually an enormous preponderance of Settler material, and often there is a fairly reductionist, colonialist or otherwisely unfortunate depiction of First Nations. The Mayne museum doesn’t escape this altogether.  The First Nations display is probably 5% of the total, both in material display, and in the timeline presented (I didn’t take a picture but it is typed out pretty much verbatim here, compare to my pie chart timeline).  Anyway, I don’t want to focus on any negative vibes from the museum, they share the general issues of almost every community museum I’ve been to, but neither do I want to ignore them completely. To their credit they have a good section  the Japanese Internment Camps and the fate of Japanese-Canadian islanders during World War II.  Anyway, I took a few lousy pictures with my phone and I’ll share these below and in a subsequent post (since really who wants to read 2,000 words of pontification in one sitting?) We’re going to start with my favourite artifact type.

Continue reading

Coast Salish Cultural Landscapes on Google Street View

Hwkwitsum (Davis Lagoon) on Google Street View. Screenshot from Google. Click to visit site.

Hwkwitsum (Davis Lagoon) on Google Street View. Screenshot from Google. Click to visit site.

While perhaps best known for having an excellent espresso machine within arm’s reach of his office recliner, UVIC’s own Dr. Brian Thom also runs the Anthropology Department’s Ethnographic Mapping Lab.  One recent creation of this lab is a project to incorporate panoramic, scrollable photos and expository text of certain  Coast Salish cultural landscapes into Google’s street view (Brian has been working on several cool projects with Google’s sponsorship and assistance.)  This is a cool example of applied community-based research brought to the public eye in a sensitive manner. Continue reading

ASBC Victoria – Public Talk Tue Oct 18: Daryl Fedje on Gulf Islands Archaeology

Parks Canada - UVIC Archaeological Project in the Intertidal Zone, 2010.

Next up for the local (Victoria) branch of the Archaeological Society of B.C. is a Tuesday, October 18th talk by Daryl Fedje of Parks Canada Archaeology. Details below; it is free and open to the public.  I know of some of this research to be presented and if I can add an editorial comment:it is now clearly demonstrated that the intertidal zone has very high potential for un-disturbed archaeological deposits, some of which show exceptional preservation.  These include not only classic “waterlogged sites” with woody preservation, but also numerous water-saturated shell middens, and even the remains of intact house features.  I think it’s probable that in the Salish Sea at least, the intertidal zone is a hugely unappreciated zone of interest and I hope the Archaeology Branch and Consulting Archaeologists are working together to make sure it gets a thorough examination. And, if they aren’t, then it would be welcome if First Nations were to apply pressure by demanding routine subsurface testing in intertidal zones as a minimum requirement for shoreline archaeological assessments, perhaps commenting to this effect when reviewing permit applications.  Anyway:

Intertidal Archaeology in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

October 18th, 2011, 7:30
pm Pacific Forestry Centre,
506 West Burnside Road (Map)


Abstract:  Recent investigations in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve included a focus on the intertidal zone. Analyses of cultural and paleoecological data obtained from these investigations has resulted in a more detailed sea level history for the area and, discovery of a suite of archaeological sites associated with sea levels slightly lower than modern. These now-intertidal sites include intact shell middens and apparent house features dating as early as 4,000 years ago.

Bio: The Victoria ASBC Branch president writes,  “Daryl Fedje is a long-time archaeologist with Parks Canada, now based in Sidney, B.C.  He is widely published, with a respected international reputation.  Research in the Gulf Islands that he directs, co-directs, or facilitates is some of the most current work relevant to the Victoria region – but of course with wider ramifications.

dSpace: Adams on Gabriola Petroglyphs

Gabriola Petroglyph Design Elements. Source: Adams 2003.

One recent M.A. thesis I was really looking forward to reading is by Amanda Adams entitled Visions cast on stone : a stylistic analysis of the petroglyphs of Gabriola Island, B.C., from UBC Anthropology 2003, and available for free download here.

I was particularly interested to read the instructions she received on proper deportment when visiting the rock art:

Sites were visited in a manner and with a personal code of conduct adhering to Snuneymuxw wishes. Petroglyph sites were not visited at either dawn or dusk. A respectful demeanor was expected as was an “open heart and mind” (Bill Seward, Snuneymuxw elder, personal communication 2002). I was asked to give my full attention to the petroglyphs and their sacredness, not allowing daily distractions to interfere with my concentration on the ancient imagery. These expectations were met to the best of my ability. (18-19)

While many archaeologists are under the impression that there is little to no ethnographic information about petroglyphs, I have long felt that more likely such knowledge is private or highly privileged and not readily shareable.  In this self-serving sense, it was gratifying to see that Adams was able to record some such information:

Snuneymuxw Elder, Bill Seward, asserts that many petroglyphs were made by shamans, hunters and vision seekers (personal communication 2002) while Elder Ellen White maintains that the carvings were places where people both sought and gained power. She explained that “men would be stripped – even in cold weather and laid on top of each petroglyph – learning the spirit world, connecting to the area.” She also noted that the pitted ‘dots’ surrounding several of the carvings were “points of access”, places where one could dip their fingers into pools of “energy” and reservoirs of strength (Archaeology Forum group tour 2002).  (p 13)

Another welcome aspect of Adams’ thesis is her direct comparison to portable art.  Continue reading

Lasqueti Island Archaeology

Projectile points and other artifacts from Lasqueti Island.

So many of the Gulf Island of the BC Coast are essentially unknown to archaeologists.  This goes for the larger ones as well as the small: I’d count Lasqueti, Hornby, Texada, Saturna, and Prevost Islands among those, while even major islands like Mayne Island and Quadra Island are often known only from one site, dug long ago.

This doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any work, or that there aren’t interesting and revealing collections of archaeological material already in existence.  So it is great to see that Dana Lepofsky of SFU has put together a small web site on the archaeology of Lasqueti Island.  She deftly combines some ethnographic and traditional practice information with a series of photographs of private collections of artifacts.  Among these are projectile points apparently assignable to the Charles Phase, which dates around 5400 to 3600 years ago.  Also note the beautiful ground stone adze or chisel in this picture: the luminous green nephrite (B.C. “jade”) would have been imported from the Central Fraser River, probably no closer than the Hope area.  This flaked and ground sandstone club is an unusual find, probably used in hunting or fishing, but perhaps also in warfare.

If you click the photographs, then a window will open; if you click the “image details” link on the pop-up window then you will be taken to more information about that photo, if available.  There are also two PDFs linked, one to the role of herring in traditional subsistence, and another on mapping a fishtrap.  These stem from Lepofsky’s ongoing work (and excellent website) in Tla’amin territory on the Sunshine Coast (previously), where she will be running an archaeological fieldschool again this summer.  While this only scratches the surface of Lasqueti Archaeology, it does point to the usefulness of looking at what citizens have picked up over the years as a guide to some of the time depth and activities of an area.

Sadly, of course, some of the artifacts picked up may have resulted from, or even caused, unnecessary disturbances to the archaeological record.  Lepofsky provides a helpful “call before you dig” article as well – specific to Lasqueti yet applicable elsewhere.  In typical Dana fashion, as a Lasquetian herself, the number to call is her own!

Lasqueti Island intertidal fishtrap. Photo: Dana Lepofsky.

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.

Akerman Collection – Salt Spring Island

Stone Bowl from Akerman Museum

Stone Bowl from Akerman Museum

Salt Spring Island has a pretty active museum and archival society, by the looks of it – at least, they are putting a lot of pictures and documents online.  One thing which caught my eye was their photos of the Akerman Museum – which I take to be the private collection at the home of Bob Akerman.  This is a striking carved object (of which I wish there were more photographs) described as: Black stone that they claim had healing power. Shamans used it when they were visiting the sick. Though elsewhere, they show another object with a similar description which appears not to be worked much, if at all.  There’s no real documentation which is too bad — the stone tools in this picture, for example, strike me as more of a neolithic thing than a northwest coast one.  I hope they have the information somewhere.  This is an impressive metal celt, and it looks like he has a good collection of nephrite ones as well, though the picture is exceptionally poor.  (NB – bandwidth is not nearly so much of a concern these days, so don’t shrink your pictures so much!) There are lots of slightly unusual artifacts, like this collection of handstones. All around, it looks like Akerman has a great collection — I don’t want to think too much about where the archaeological material came from, or how he came to have it, and I’d like to think there is a shoebox full of notes somewhere — but all the same it is interesting to peruse and I’m glad the Salt Spring Archives have at least some documentation of it.

Another highlight of the site is Chris Arnett’s short, but lively and informative history of First Nations of Saltspring Island.

Tla’amin Archaeology

Toggling Composite Harpoon head, articulated in situ.

Toggling Composite Harpoon head, articulated in situ.

The Tla’amin (Sliammon)  First Nation on the Sunshine Coast (map) have been engaged in a wonderful community-based archaeology project with Dana Lepofsky at SFU and her team.  It’s not surprising when you think of what a great person Dana is – brilliant, yet nice, warm, generous. (Hi Dana!)

The website for this project is well worth browsing to see what meaningful partnerships with First Nations looks like.  I think it is a model for the future of BC Archaeology to work together – for then the project becomes not all about the past, but all about the present.  As they say – the past is over; it only exists in the present. Old things exist, but they exist now.   So how can we, as archaeologists, use our particular skills to help communities and the public appreciate the past as a meaningful part of the present, and hence of the future?  This impressive web site shows many great ways how.

Check out this page on Kleh Kwa Num – Scuttle Bay, for example, whih deftly points to the parallel stories of oral history, ethnohistory, and archaeology.  Or, this video of “what happens when an archaeological site is logged?”  As Elsie Paul, a Tl’amin elder says, their ancestral land was hammered for a century and what did aboriginal people get from it?  “Nothing”.  And as Dana says, it became very difficult to find intact archaeological sites around Powell River and the industrial areas, in particular.

These downloadable posters are also really well done, as is their prospectus/report (PDF) – very accessible stuff.   I do wish they didn’t use the silly flash interface for their pictures, though they do allow access to them otherwise – this project is really turning archaeology on its head!

Upside Down Archaeology in Tla'amin Territory.

Upside Down Archaeology in Tla'amin Territory.

Erik the Lost

Erik the Lost

More berzerkness up-island

This site contains an inspired argument that Viking Vinland, Markland and Helluland were on the NW Coast. It’s thought-through to a scary degree, in the way that magnificent obsessions often are.  Though as I always say, if something isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing well. And based on my acquaintance with NW Coast Archaeology, I have to say that the theory falls down at a few key junctures.  Worse, it is part of a long-running narrative in which aboriginal people of the Americas have their finest cultural achievements taken and assigned as the work of Europeans.  See, for example, the Vikings in Minnesota theories, which argue that the great mounds of Mississippian Culture were the construction of White Men from the North.   Do the Minnesota proponents have academic arguments with the Vancouver Island proponents?  Were Vikings everywhere?  Is this a racist narrative?   Too bad all this energy is not put into something worthwhile, there is so much serious work to do.

Maps and Charts at the RBCM

1849 Indian Fort at Cadboro Bay

Indian Fort at Cadboro Bay, 1849

The Royal BC Museum was ahead of the curve in putting significant parts of its collection.  One thing I like is their small but relevant collection of maps and charts.  The 1849 chart inset to the left shows an “Indian Fort” in Cadboro Bay, for example.  There is a good selection of Admiralty Charts from the mid 19th Century, Pemberton’s 1861 map of Victoria (the “Bay” in this section is the real “James Bay”, now landfill under the Empress Hotel , where the bridge shows is now the causeway), and a 1911 map showing the Economic geography of Haida Gwaii (which interestingly includes Sea Otter as part of the fauna “on the west coast” since that species is thought to have been extirpated much earlier).  It is always surprising and sobering to see just how quickly remote areas were divided up and labelled according to their perceived economic value in a way that borders on propaganda, but there is realism too check out the instructions to family men.  Now the bad news: the price of being first is often not being very good.  I suspect when these went online bandwidth was a realy problem.  Each chart is split up into 100kb segments and it is not possible to download the entire thing at once.  The full size images must exist, so how about a quick project at the RBCM to make them downloadable in their entirety?  Same goes for the picture archives.