"Progressive Victoria" about to run over the Songhees. Was there ever a Songhees man with feathers in his hair, fringed buckskin, and a peace pipe? Source: Vincent's Victoria.
I mentioned it in a comment the other day so you may have seen it already, but there are a couple of great posts at the blog “Vincent’s Victoria“. The first post is the already-mentioned review of John Lutz’s talk “Getting the Indians Out of Town: Race and Space in Victoria’s History” – Victoria, British Columbia, that is, better known as World Headquarters to this blog. In Vincent’s post we find out about the slow process by which First Nations had their presence in the city core steadily reduced, mainly by moving the reserves, but through other means too. The post then discusses the “Signs of Lekwungen” project which I posted on before. it’s really a shame I didn’t hear about John’s talk until after he had given it – there are other talks in the series but his would have been the most interesting to regular readers here.
The second post is extremely interesting, as it uses editorial cartoons from the Victoria Daily Times newspaper to tell the story of the movement of the Songhees reserve in 1910.
Posted in archives, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Vancouver Island
Tagged archives, british columbia, Esquimalt, First Nations, Northwest Coast, Songhees, Victoria BC, Victoria Daily Times
Salmon lice infestation. Source: Georgia Strait Alliance.
I’ve just dipped into an interesting paper (PDF) by Sarah Campbell and Virginia Butler, which explores 7,500 years of relationship between First Nations and Pacific Salmon. While, as ever, the archaeological evidence is discontinuous and somewhat patchy, the authors reach profound conclusions that go far beyond the usual archaeological focus on the past, as if the past still exists other than in the present.
The Northwest Coast was estimated to have the second highest indigenous population density in North America (after California) at European contact, with population estimates ranging from 102,100 to 210,100 (Ubelaker 2006). Haggan et al. (2006) propose an annual average per person consumption rate of 230 kg/yr based on two 19th- century estimates. At this rate, 200,000 people would annually consume 46,000 metric tons (50,706 tons) of salmon, comparable in magnitude to the average yearly commercial catch between 1901 and 2000 (Jones 2002). (emphasis added)
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, Northwest Coast, palaeontology, Uncategorized
Tagged anthropology, Archaeology, conservation, First Nations, fishing, Northwest Coast, palaeoenvironment, salmon, zooarchaeology
A gravestone with lichen growth. Source: designscience.com
I was reading the charming Bella Coola Blog the other day and came across an interesting post discussing how lichen had been used to date glacial features in the area. So-called lichenometry is a well-established dating technique which relies on the principle that lichen grows in roughly circular patterns, and that there is a linear relationship between the diameter of the circle and the age of the lichen patch. Now, such patches can be many hundreds of years old. So for an event where rock is newly exposed and then lichen grows on it, the lichen will give a minimum date on when the bare rock was first available as a lichen environment. Anytime you have a bare rock and a dating technique for when the rock became bare, the archaeology antennae rise.
Posted in Archaeology, history, Northwest Coast, Technology
Tagged Archaeology, Bella Coola, british columbia, cemeteries, lichen, lichenometry, Northwest Coast, Nuxalk
Landing craft picking up the last of the UVIC-GINPR archaeology fieldschool from Princess Bay on Portland Island.
OK, enough late summer lounging: I think it is time to be making a few posts on this blog. I can’t guarantee super-reliable service but will try to drag up some interesting links for the perusal of my seven readers. While I was gone, WordPress unexpectedly changed the “theme” (template) of this blog and in the process destroyed a bunch of drafts I had made, which might be just as well overall, though annoying nonetheless. I’m going to start by answering a few, but probably not all, of the comments people have left in the last month.
Swainson's Hawk skull. Three views from RBCM Avian Osteology site.
I made a post the other day on a cool M.A. thesis about how to tell deer, bear and human wrist and ankle bones apart. Identification of bones is one of the essential specialist activities in archaeology: the bones don’t come out of the ground labelled, and yet they are a key way to understand past diet, behaviour and environmental change. Being able to identify a bone from the ground to the species it comes from requires a collection of bones of known species – a comparative collection – and these do not grow on trees. They are laborious to produce and finicky to curate. The one at the University of Victoria, for example, contains over 1,500 skeletons and is in constant use by archaeologists and biologists, not to mention the awesomely talented people at Pacific IDentifications. Mind you, the UVIC collection is one of the best anywhere in North America, but most archaeology departments and even many consulting archaeologists attempt to have a basic comparative collection on hand. This is a burdensome chore!
While looking at pictures will never be a substitute for a three-dimensional bone for comparison, it can nonetheless be better than nothing. It is therefore nice to see a really useful, if preliminary, set of web pages at the Royal B.C. Museum on Avian osteology.
Posted in Archaeology, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized
Tagged bones, faunal remains, museums, Northwest Coast, osteology, owls, RBCM, Royal BC Museum, University of Victoria, uvic, zooarchaeology
Coast Salish Cod Lure. Source: NMAI
“Listening to Our Ancestors” is a nice online exhibit which resulted from a process by which 11 west coast First Nations and Tribes came to the National Museum of the American Indian (a fairly recent, major addition to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.) and created mini-exhibits reflecting their own worldviews and the categories they deemed important. As such, each community’s sub-page is a glimpse into their specific cultural heritage and priorities – indigenous curation, you could say.
While much of the focus is on ceremonial items, some communities also choose to focus some attention on their more everyday technology, which is more in line with my own interests.
Posted in alaska, anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, Haida Gwaii, Northwest Coast, pics, Washington State
Tagged Coast Salish, museums, National Museum of the American Indian, NMAI, Northwest Coast, smithsonian
Eulachon. Source: Sitnews.net
I often use eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus, a small, anadramous smelt) as an example of “archaeologically-invisible” food. They are also known as “candlefish”, on account of being so oily that a wick jammed down their throat will burn like a candle.
These small fish run by the millions up rivers to spawn, where they could be intercepted. Traditionally, many or most eulachon would be processed into eulachon oil, or grease: a highly nutritious, calorie-dense substance that preserved very well and could also be used to preserve other foods such as berries. The means of processing was to put them into a large container, perhaps an old canoe, known colloquially as a “stink box”, let them “rest” there for a week, and then heat them up, enabling the oil to rise and then be skimmed off, or pressed out. The residue (bones, guts, brains, etc.) would then be returned to the river and few or no bones would make it away from the processing site. In this way, eulachon provided a staple food, a nutritional supplement, a means of preservation, and an extremely valuable trade item – when Alexander Mackenzie arrived near Bella Coola in 1793, “Over Land, From Canada”, he did so on one of the well-worn grease trails that linked coast to interior. Since the fish arrive in the early Spring, they were hailed as starvation busters in lean years. Nonetheless, archaeologically they are almost invisible, relative to their importance.
Haisla eulachon catch from the Kemano River. Source: living landscapes.
It is therefore sobering to read that U.S. President Obama has listed the Columbia River eulachon as an endangered species: eulachon are becoming almost invisible relative to the real world now, it seems.
Posted in anthropology, First Nations, history, Northwest Coast, Oregon
Tagged aboriginal fisheries, anthropology, eulachon, First Nations, fishery management, fishing, history, Nass River, Northwest Coast, Nuxalk, oolichan, oolikan, Oregon, smelt, traditional use
Argillite and ivory compote attributed to Haida master carver Charles Edenshaw. Height: 30 cm. Source: Liverpool Museum.
I only have a short post today since I am up to my neck in alligators, courtesy of my day job. So, take a moment and check out the spectacular argillite compote (a pedestaled serving dish), attributed to Haida master carver Da.axiigang, Charles Edenshaw. This particular dish is in the collection of the Liverpool Museum – an institution that holds a collection donated by well-known coastal collector, casual ethnographer, and (apparently) former Liverpudlian, Dr. Charles Newcombe – many of the items in their Northwest Coast section must come from this source. It is one of the more striking pieces of Argillite I have seen in that the form is so clearly derived from silverware: it is sublimely ridiculous, and I can’t help but feel that Edenshaw was in on the joke. Yes, he would make what would sell, but a piece like this makes me wonder if he wasn’t slyly pulling the touristic leg, somewhat.
Posted in anthropology, history, Northwest Coast
Tagged anthropology, argillite, art, artifacts, british columbia, Haida Art, ivory, LIverpool, museums, Northwest Coast
Skeena River pole ca. 1920s: On back: ""Named Waum Gana'o 14' high / erected 1845 / 4 Bottom figure, is of the big hog, upside down." Source: USASK."
The University of Saskatchewan has a comprehensive Indigenous Studies portal, with links to a massive corpus of published and unpublished documents – some of which are available online, free of institutional restriction. One section which I found interesting was the large collection of pamphlets and booklets. I know this web site isn’t always 100% archaeological – but you can’t separate the practice of archaeology from the social context in which it occurs. Among these pamphlets are:
- CBC Radio and Department of Indian Affairs 1939: The Indians Speak to Canada (transcript of a remarkable series of 1939 CBC radio broadcasts in which aboriginal people address the nation; Haida representative Rev. Peter Kelly starts on page 28; White Man’s Burden is found in the closing remarks by the Minister of Mines and Resources)
Posted in anthropology, Archaeology, First Nations, history, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast
Tagged anthropology, british columbia, CBC, ephemera, First Nations, history, Northwest Interior, Northwest Coast, pamphlets