Tag Archives: history

Get to Know your (Aboriginal) Neighbours: three events in Victoria

Detail of the Community Mapping event, November 25th, Victoria.

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 Coast Salish Mausoleum, 1864

A Salish Grave, 1864. Watercolour by Edward M. Richardson. No specific locale given. Source: CollectionsCanada.gc.ca

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

Images of Nootka Island People, 1787

Nootka Sound girl, 1787.  by de Saint-Sauveur, source: LACMA.

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.

Continue reading

Happy “Birthday”, Vancouver

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

Continue reading

Historic Newspaper Archive on Google

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:

Continue reading

Newsflash: Facebook is Good for Something

Lolota, the son of Zickchuse, - Snoqualmie - 1890

I’m a bit of a reluctant user of “facebook”, mostly because of their user-hostile and byzantine privacy policies.  However, increasingly people are using its easy interface to create really useful web pages, many of which you don’t need to be a member of facebook or logged in to enjoy.  There are some quite specific archaeology ones relevant to the Northwest Coast which I will review some other time.  Today, I want to focus on a remarkable compendium of historic photos of North American indigenous people.  There are almost 200 separate galleries, many with more than fifty pictures in them (do the math), under the auspices of the group administrator Jonathan Holmes, who takes an active role in the discussions and comments.  This is an enormous investment of time and effort, especially as many of the pictures have notes (hover your mouse over the picture) and in a remarkable number the identity of the subject is named and contextualized.  This is not a mere link dump for pictures – the over 20,000 comments reflect many positive reviews from Tribal and First Nations members (e.g., Tahltan) and members of the general public, (as well as some cranky comments from six year olds and racists). Continue reading

Spatial History Mapping Project

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.

Continue reading