Tag Archives: petroglyphs

Stephen Hume kicking ass (but whose?)

Desecrated spiritual site: the Big Rock at Campbell River

Stephen Hume has written some great columns on BC archaeology and history over the years and he comes out swinging in this recent piece:

Beside Highway 3 near Keremeos, a large glacial boulder has myths attached that extend far into B.C.’s past. It’s our own Stonehenge but it’s defaced with graffiti. Not far away, somebody jackhammered out of a cliff face one of the most significant ancient rock paintings in North America. Near Campbell River, another cultural site of great significance to first nations — the Big Rock — is also covered with graffiti. On Saltspring Island, effluent filters through a grave site with government approval. Near Qualicum, the bones of persons of great importance were mixed into paving material for a parking lot.

We pay lip service to first nations culture; we trot it out when we’re on the world stage — at the Olympics, for example — but our actions betray our venal hypocrisy. When conflicts arise between private commercial gain and public protection of our now-shared ancient heritage, money seems to trump culture almost every time.

I use the term “our” to describe this heritage because we are all citizens of B.C. together, first nations and settler society, fused by our braided history. We have one shared narrative in this province. It is composed of many stories. They begin not with the recent arrival of European adventurers or Asian monks but in a far more ancient past.

When we permit the desecration of important first nations sites, it’s our shared history that we abuse and our children’s legacies that we steal.

I am not convinced that the private member’s bill to which he is refers is the answer, and in any case it died on the vine – more on that later.  And the BC Archaeology Branch is kept on a short leash through the expedient of under-funding.  But I certainly appreciate Hume’s  take-no-prisoners attitude – we need a few vocal bulldogs on the case.  Incidentally, in a parallel universe to this blog, Hume’s brother is in a UVIC archaeology class right now, so maybe another bulldog can be raised – it seems to run in the family.

Notably,  it looks like there is a move afoot to designate the Big Rock, spearheaded by Frank Assu of Cape Mudge.  Let’s hope this succeeds, and maybe we won’t see it get dressed up again as a pumpkin.

Vandalized Pictograph Boulder near Keremeos.

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.

dSpace: Lundy on Rock Art

Salmon Petroglyph at Jack Point. From Lundy (1974: 111)

There is a wonderful trend of institutions putting old, grey literature online.  One widely used platform  for doing this is called “dSpace”, though the approach exists under other names.  Some of the best of this material are graduate theses and dissertations.  These are freely available if you walk into the University library, but may be essentially unavailable in any other form.  Unlike a lot of digital initiatives, the majority of these are not limited to students and faculty, but can be accessed by anyone – provided you know they are there.  Consider Doris Lundy’s monumental MA thesis on NW Coast Rock Art, obtained in 1974 from SFU.  Most of this 350+ page thesis was never published in any form.  Now you can download the whole thing from SFU (4 meg PDF). Despite being a rocky scan, the entire text is searchable.  There is some digital protection applied but I found it simple to save a copy to my hard drive.  The image to the left is the famous salmon petroglyph at Jack Point near Nanaimo in Snuneymuxw territory.  This is the petroglyph that would be painted with ochre and adorned with eagle down by ritualists if the salmon runs were late or meagre – one of the only such works which has specific beliefs recorded for it.

Let me know if you have problems downloading this: it works for me on and off campus, so I presume anyone can do it.

Dan Leen’s Petroglyph Page

Heiltsuk Petroglyphs including 2-headed Salmon Spirit

Heiltsuk Petroglyphs including 2-headed "Salmon Spirit"

I was just looking for a picture of a labret and instead found that Dan Leen has a nice page on NW petroglyphs, with lots of superb pictures and action shots of him recording rock art.  I haven’t seen Dan for quite a while, but we spent 10 weeks together on his 30 foot Trimaran “Teredo n.” back in the early 1980s, recording rock art in the Douglas Channel area.  A great trip all around.  I remember spotting this fantastic pictograph near Kemano, before breakfast one day, boat-made bread in one hand, hot coffee in another – I am pretty sure I took the picture since it was just Dan and me on Das Boot for quite some time. Dan is not the most silent guy in the world, and I heard a lot of great stories about his cabin in the Brook’s range of Alaska, his Hobo days, and so forth — so it is extra fun to see pictures of these places and times.  Dan is the most meticulous rock art researcher I have ever worked with, and it is great to see him putting some of his files, and insight online.

Oh yeah, I found the picture of the labret – one of these, almost identical, came out of my unit this afternoon.