Tag Archives: Straits Salish

ASBC Victoria Public Talk: Tue. Oct. 21 – Darcy Mathews on Funerary Petroforms at Rocky Point

Darcy Matthews leading a UVic field trip to burial features in Metchosin.  Photo:qmackie

Darcy Matthews leading a UVic field trip to burial features in Metchosin. Photo:qmackie

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, VICTORIA,  OCTOBER MEETING:

Dr. Darcy Mathews

Funerary Ritual and Ancestral Presence at Rocky Point, British Columbia

Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 7:30 pm

UVIC Cornett Building B129 (map)

Free and open to the public

While you might think you’ll have had your fill of cool archaeology at Saturday’s BC Archaeology Forum in Nanaimo, you won’t have seen the latest from Dr.(!!) Darcy Mathews, who will be presenting his recent UVic Ph.D. research to the ASBC next week. Perhaps benefitting from the finest supervision which single-malt can buy, Darcy’s dissertation is Piled Higher and Deeper with carefully chosen nuggets of the finest methods and theories, much like the cairns funerary petroforms it is based on. Seriously, it is a tour de force which absolutely nails its topic in a way seldom seen. No doubt it’ll be coming soon to a prestigious academic press near you.

Anyway, the ASBC provides the abstract: Continue reading

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A Lummi Reef Net Model

Lummi Reef Netting Model. Source: WhatcomWatch.org

Lummi Reef Netting Model. Source: http://whatcomwatch.org/wpww/?p=348

A while back I found the cool picture above in an online exhibit of the Whatcom Museum showing photographs of Point Roberts and Lummi Island, on Puget Sound just south of the Canadian border.  Reef netting is a peculiarly Straits Salish technology which involved the setting of complex nets, suspended between two canoes, at strategic locations where the natural flow of salmon was constrained. A sort of on-ramp led the fish up to the net by creating a gentle optical illusion of a rising bottom.  When the salmon were milling around in the horizontal net, still free, the canoes would be suddenly swung together, closing the net and trapping the salmon.

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Visit to the UVic Fieldschool on Prevost Island in the Salish Sea

UVic field school students at work on Prevost Island inland midden site.

UVic field school students at work on Prevost Island inland midden site. Trust me, there really are dense midden deposits at this site.

I had a good visit the other day to the UVic archaeological field school, which is on Prevost Island in the Salish Sea.  Prevost is a large island of about 1700 acres, mostly privately owned by an active farming family, but part of lies within Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.  In some ways, it is the hub of the southern Gulf Islands, lying squarely between Salt Spring, Galiano, Pender and Mayne Islands. There’s no ferry to this island, so it’s surprisingly off the beaten track considering how centrally located it is.  I suspect that’s a car-centric view, and taking the perspective of a maritime cultural landscape, this is one of the best-connected islands in the Salish Sea.

Anyway, the UVic fieldschool is being taught by doctoral student Eric McLay, whose research focuses on inland shell middens in the Salish Sea.  These are middens well away from the high tide line — in the case of Prevost, about 800 metres inland.  Several dozen comparable sites are known, such as the ones near the rockshelter burials on Gabriola Island.  Why people brought substantial quantities of shell to these inland locations is something of a mystery, one which Eric, with the help of the fieldschool students and First Nations participants, and the support of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, aims to shed light on.

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Interior of a Coast Salish Longhouse, 1864

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson.  Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives.  Click to enlarge.

Interior of a Salish Longhouse, 1864. Watercolour by Edward Mallott Richardson. Locale uknown. Source: Canadian Archives. Click to enlarge.

Following on from the post about the Salish mausoleum, here is a companion painting by Edward Mallott Richardson from the same year, depicting the interior of a house.  It’s a curious painting, seemingly devoid of close detail.  Where are all the drying fish?!  But at the same time it shows some features of interest which may be worth discussing.  Note the fellow with the gun has a powderhorn, for example, and the basket behind him looks like one of those rectangular coiled ones, only with a tumpline, as shown by the woman entering on the left.  On the far right is a semi-conical object that might be a hat, sitting on a platform within a small compartment.

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Burnt Embers blog: Oak Bay Cairns Mark Songhees History

Cropped screenshot of detail of cairn marking Sahsima, south Oak Bay. Source: Burnt Embers blog; click to visit.

I recently have started following a wonderful new blog called Burnt Embers.  It’s mostly a photo blog of the author’s surroundings – which appear to be deepest south Oak Bay, which is a municipality adjacent to Victoria, B.C. It’s a wealthy municipality not really known for being sensitive to archaeological concerns or First Nations history: for example, it’s the locale of the rather messy Esplanade controversy I documented last year (1, 2, 3).

Anyway, the blogger at Burnt Embers, one “ehpem”, has recently done a great service by bringing to light a series of attractive cairns, emblazoned with art by Tsartlip artist Charles Elliot (Temoseng), which pay tribute to Songhees and Straits Salish places, history, and names.  As ehpem points out, Oak Bay Council has erected these cairns but provides no other information about them, whether on their website or anywhere else.  They’ve  been sort of bolted onto the Oak Bay landscape.  No matter: ehpem has photographed them beautifully and assembled a great series of pages documenting each one and also created a google map which is really handy for getting around from cairn to cairn. The cairns are, in the order which ehpem documents them:

Sahsima – a transformer stone near the Chinese Cemetery.  Sahsima, meaning “harpoon”, was the original name identified by Songhees elder James Fraser for the point where the Chinese Cemetery is located: Hayls the Transformer, with spirit companions, Raven and Mink, came by in his canoe, frightening away the seal the harpooner had been stalking. The harpooner rebuked them, Hayls turned him to stone as he stood there poised to throw the harpoon, saying “You’ll be the boss for seals … from Sooke to Nanaimo.” Continue reading

Victoria ASBC Public Talk, Tuesday May 17: Locarno Houses?!

UVIC students visiting "Aquattro Site" near Esquimalt Lagoon, 2008.

The next scheduled public talk of the Archaeological Society of BC, Victoria Chapter, will be held next Tuesday evening at 7.30 at the Pacific Forestry Centre, 506 West Burnside Road (map).  The talk is free and open to any member of the public.

The talk is entitled Preliminary Investigation Results from DcRu-1151: A Locarno-Age Living and Processing Site at Esquimalt Lagoon, and will be given by local archaeologists Kristi Bowie and Kira Kristensen.

I had the pleasure of visiting this site while it was being excavated a few years ago.  All signs were that the site included the remains of a house dating to between 2500 and 3500 years ago, the “Locarno Beach” period, though at that time the feature was not directly dated.  Very little is known of domestic structures from this time and so the finds could be quite exciting. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this site, though it is doubtful I will be able to attend this talk due to the ongoing circumstances which also keep this blog running slowly.  I am pasting in the abstract and speaker biographies below, or else click here for the PDF.

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Fieldschool Update, and Public Lectures

Screenshot of Times Colonist article - click to go to the story.

I am in town briefly and see the Time-Colonist has an article and photo gallery about the UVIC-Parks Canada archaeological fieldschool in the Gulf Islands.  It’s a pretty good article with some nice quotes from the students about their experience, and which emphasizes how threatened some archaeological sites are.  It would have been nice to see more acknowledgment of local First Nations and of the hard work Parks Canada’s liaison team is doing to help build relationships around cultural resource management.  It’s very early days for the field school but in the medium term it hopes to be of service to First Nations and their archaeological questions and concerns. A big part of that is the specific focus on archaeological site assessment and management skills being taught by the course instructor, Dr Duncan McLaren, and another big part is the presence of paid First Nations interns who will be taking the field school – only one this year but more in the future it is hoped.  Anyway, the article tells part of the story very effectively and the reporter and photographer had an interesting time with the fieldschool and vice versa.

In related news, I’ll be giving a public talk about Salish Sea archaeology with a fieldschool update this Friday July 30 on Pender Island at 7.00 in the Anglican Hall.  Then, my mini road trip takes me to Saturna Island on July 31 for a talk at 7.30 at the Community Hall.  Otherwise, there probably will be no updates here until the middle of August.

Times-Colonist screenshot - click to go to story.