Tag Archives: Northwest Coast

Victoria’s history through cartoons

"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.

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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

Long term salmon resilience

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)

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Bella Coola Lichen

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.

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Back! Almost…

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.

Bird bones at the RBCM

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.

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Listening to Our Ancestors: An exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian

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.

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