Detail of the Community Mapping event, November 25th, Victoria.
One of the greatest privileges in NW Coast Archaeology is the opportunity to work with First Nations people of all walks of life and to be afforded the chance to tell a small part of their magnificent histories. How many settlers in this area don’t know a single aboriginal person? More than a few, I reckon. Yet how to get that face to face contact so essential for gaining an understanding of the historical circumstances of First Nations if, unlike me, your day job doesn’t have it somewhat built in? If you live in Victoria, you have three great options coming up – and all three include some archaeological content. Perhaps archaeology has the potential, not commonly realized, of forming a space of shared interest where conversations can start. Continue reading
A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca Click to enlarge slightly.
“Grave House” is one of those archaeological terms which render slightly creepy a feature that is more or less an everyday experience: the mausoleum, a house for the dead, filled with coffins.
This is a fascinating image I hadn’t come across before: a very early image of a Coast Salish mausoleum. It highlights the artistry and vividness of these features better than the few sketches or early photographs do. The accompanying text at the Canadian Archives is:
Subject depicts grave boxes in a grave house with guardian figures. The grave house is covered with a roof of wooden planks but has no walls. At the front of the house stands six guardian figures. There are flags to the left and right of the house. On the left hand side of the house a tent is set up and clothes are hanging. A shotgun hangs from the front beam of the house. Item was up for auction in the September 28, 1970 Christie’s sale in Calgary. Lot 31.
The image isn’t very high-resolution but there are still some things to talk about – and there is another Richardson painting I’ll link to in a day or two. (edit: here) Continue reading
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged Archaeology, art, Coast Salish, Esquimalt, graves, history, mausoleum, mortuary, Salish, Songhees, Victoria BC
Nootka island girl, 1787. by de Saint-Sauveur, source: LACMA.
I found some interesting images at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These come from a book published in 1787: Costumes civils actuels de tous les peuples, volume 4: Americas by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur (1757-1810). Needless to say, it’s one of the earliest publications with NW Coast content, comprising four plates and 14 pages of “customs” of Nootka Island (Nuu-chah-nulth territory). I’m not entirely sure where Grasset de Saint-Sauveur would have got his inspiration from – Cook’s journals most likely? You can see all the plates from the four volumes at the LACMA (great images from around the world), or you can read and download the entire book here. But why bother, when I extract the information for you below.
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged armour, art, Captain Cook, ethnohistory, fish, history, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, Nootka, nootka sound, Nuu-chah-nulth, wakashan
Unidentified Musqueam Chief as portrayed by Cardero in 1792. Source: Vancouver Sun.
The City of Vancouver had its 125th anniversary yesterday, and the local press was full of reflective pieces on civic leaders, famous visitors, notable crimes and, of course, sports. Well, it would be churlish not to wish Vancouver Happy Birthday! Well done, Vancouverites. But in all the coverage of this momentous event, I only see one single article which acknowledges that people might have lived at the mouth of the Fraser River for a tad longer than 125 years. And a curious article (PDF) it is: Ancient history of Vancouver’s first peoples: The city’s history predates its 1886 founding, with a native midden dating back 9,000 years
Sooke Freight! Vancouver Daily Post, 1865.
Via the Northwest History blog, I recently found that Google has been quietly archiving a large number of historical newspapers, including many defunct ones from the west. Old newspapers are a rich source of social history and can fill in some details of everyday life in the early historical period. For example, it still costs me about 2 & 1/2 cents per pound to get my sorry self from Victoria to Leech River. Or, see the table below from 1864 recounting the travel time and cost by stage or foot from New Westminster to the Columbia River. That’s better history than some dumb vote of useless politicians.
As Larry Cebula at Northwest History points out, Google has buried this feature somewhat. There is a master list of all newspapers here, though, and you can work your way through that. Many of the newspaper names are cryptic, though, and since I usually do the grunt work for you, here are some of the historic, often defunct, newspapers of particular interest to readers of this blog:
Emeryville Shell Mound, San Francisco, and sea level change. Source: Spatial History Project.
If you’re at all a map geek – and most archaeologists have that tendency – then you might enjoy flipping around Stanford’s Spatial History Mapping Project. This project is intended to further creative visual analysis and representation of historical events and phenomena. Luckily for us, they apply their skills to some archaeological problems, such as the relationship between sea level change and shell mound development illustrated above:
Did rising sea levels force native people to raise their shellmounds to stay above the tides? The visualization suggests that no, mound building was unrelated to sea level rise.
You can see that particular page here.
Screenshot of "From the Islander" blog
The Hallmark Society sponsored a nice blog called “From the Islander” through the summer of 2010. This is a retrospective set of commentaries about excerpts from the weekend newspaper insert “The Islander”, which used to be published in the Victoria Daily Colonist and the Victoria Times-Colonist. There’s not any archaeology that I have seen, and surprisingly (or not) there is no coverage of First Nations, but all the same it is an interesting read if you have a shine for Vancouver Island history, and a well-done, informative blog. Apparently the Hallmark Society (or the blogger, who goes by wpbradley and was their summer student intern) has digitized a fair bit of The Islander and indexed it here – though full text is not available for the most part.
"Native American encampment on landfill, circa 1900, south of South Royal Brougham Way and east of First Avenue South." Source: crosscut.com
At the ASBC talk last night it was clear that major industrial development can still leave substantial and highly significant archaeological materials interspersed even within the boundaries of heavy impact – in this case within a few dozen metres of a major hydroelectric dam. This reminded me of a recent story I read about downtown Seattle archaeology. Due mainly to concerns about what would happen in even a moderate earthquake comparable to the Nisqually event of 2001, Seattle is planning to replace the Alaska Way viaduct – that multi-level highway which blocks the city from its own waterfront. You can watch a video of a simulation of the collapse of the viaduct here – I am sure most Seattlers would like to be done with that uncivic monstrosity, but not, perhaps, so suddenly. Ironically, the ASBC talk on Ruskin Dam was also a seismic upgrade project.
Anyway, the current plan in Seattle is to put a cut-and-cover tunnel in its place – similar to some of the tunnels recently built in Vancouver’s new Canada Line LRT. Crosscut.com’s Archaeology-savvy reporter “Mossback” (Knute Berger) has two excellent articles on the problems likely to arise when you dig such a large ditch through dense pre-contact and historic archaeology. The first article ran on May 11th, with the followup article on May 12th. If you are truly dedicated, there is a 200 page overview (6 meg PDF) of cultural resource management for the project, though it largely focuses on historic buildings and it relatively vague.
Posted in Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, history, Northwest Coast, Washington State
Tagged Archaeology, Duwamish, historical archaeology, history, industrial archaeology, Puget Sound, Seattle, Suquamish, Urban archaeology, Washington State
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