Tag Archives: Vancouver

Captain Vancouver and Camas

Saranne, or lily, harvesting on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in May 1792.

I am sure it is well known to local ethnobotanists, but I don’t recall seeing the above account of plant cultivation reference before.  It is from page 123 of Captain Vancouver’s “Voyage of Discovery …. ” (1801 edition, which you can browse online here).

I didn’t figure out the exact locale of this camp but it is probably very close to Port Discovery, near Port Townsend at the north end of Puget Sound.  The camp is carefully noted as a plant-harvesting camp and also a place where shellfish were being processed. The houses are mere lean-tos.  It is interesting to see that the considerable number of “eighty or a hundred” women, men and children were engaged in turning over the earth here, “like swine” (!).  It gives a vivid impression of a well-orchestrated, community-level harvesting event.  Vancouver comments favourably on the product, a sort of paste or flour.

Vancouver refers to one plant as a species of wild onion, while the other two plants being cultivated are termed as resembling “saranne”.  That being a new term to me, I turned to the OED only to find it not listed, which is quite surprising.  Googling turned up some interesting historical references though, in which it is clearly a term used for members of the Lily family (camas is also a member of this family).  For example, see this 1792 clip from Pennant’s Arctic Zoology Volume 3, on the use of Saranne, or Lilium kamchatschense, by the inhabitants of (yes) Kamchatka (let your eyes skim, gentle reader, over the foregoing section on the use and abuse of hallucinogenic mushrooms). Perhaps this term, Saranne, was in use around the North Pacific at that time but it strikes me as odd it did not find its way into the OED.

Anyway, a few pages down from p. 123 you can also find a nice description of the Coast Salish wool dog, which is described as being much like a Pomeranian.

Camas flowers and bulbs. Source: Brenda Beckwith Ph.D. thesis, 2004. http://hdl.handle.net/1828/632

Videos of Gwaii Haanas Archaeology

Daryl braves the barrage of bras to set the Vancouver Aquarium straight on the value of dead fish over living fish. Click to play part 1.

Rockwash superstars Nicole and Daryl show off their cool wares in a couple of videos I just found online – I vaguely remember them going off to give this talk at the Vancouver Aquarium.  It’s in two parts: 1 and 2.  Nicole looks fabulous and Daryl has trimmed his beard!  Win-Win.  The projects they describe sure were a lot of fun to take part in.   There are a few other talks up including Lyle Dick and Norm Sloan on Sea Otters on the Gwaii Haanas Youtube Channel.

A sandhill crane is a tough act fo follow but Nicole hammers home the righteous message of dead fish. Click to play part 2.

Heritage Burnaby

Ground stone wants to be flaked stone.

Ground stone wants to be flaked stone.

Billing itself as “personal history – collective memory”, the Burnaby Archives is a professionally presented and slick website.  As usual, the parochial frame extends only to non-aboriginal settlement.  Curious about whether the land on which Burnaby sits was occupied in more ancient times?  Well, they do link to 42 objects associated with aboriginal people.  Wondering if there might still be aboriginal people there today?  I couldn’t find anything.  I sure wish small town archives, and not so small ones as well, would wake up to the millennia of history under their feet.  Time did not start in 1892, Burnaby, much as some might like to think it did.  Or maybe it is just the prominent epigraph this site cites:  History is made with documents. Documents are the imprints left of the thoughts and the deeds of the men of former times. For nothing can take the place of documents. No documents, no history*.

No archaeology means a big honking hole in history, we might add, a hole shaped like colonial guilt.

Elongate contracting stem point from Burnaby.

Elongate contracting stem point from Burnaby.

Having said that, two unusual artifacts are illustrated on their site.  Above left is a very distinctive ground stone point with a zig-zag motif.  I don’t recall seeing another one like it.  It almost appears to be a ground stone point designed to resemble a flaked stone point, something of a skeuomorph.   To the right is an elongate, contracting stem  flaked point or “dagger” that  appears to be about 14cm in length.  In size and appearance it is not the most common artifact in the world.

PS: Heritage Burnaby — your web site is nice and all, but breaking direct links to pictures is pretty lame.  Has there been that much bandwidth from hot-linked pictures?  Or are you so possessive about these artifacts you hold in trust for the Stó:lô, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations?  Higher resolution would be nice as well — surely you have more than 72 dpi, 30 kb versions already taken?

* Incongruously cited as, “Charles Seignobos, Histoire de la civilisation contemporaine (1920). Translated by Eamon de Valera in a letter from prison to his personal secretary enjoining her to safeguard his papers.”