Wooden halibut hooks carved by native people of the Northwest Coast

These are fish-hooks more interesting and beautiful than any I’ve seen. From phys.org: Team examines the evolution of wooden halibut hooks carved by native people of the Northwest Coast.

The Tlingit and Haida, indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast (NWC), have used carved wooden hooks to catch halibut for centuries. As modern fishing technology crept into use, however, the old hooks practically disappeared from the sea. But they thrived on land—as decorative art.

The hook’s evolution from utilitarian tool to expression of cultural heritage is the subject of a paper by Jonathan Malindine, a doctoral student in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Anthropology. In “Northwest Coast Halibut Hooks: an Evolving Tradition of Form, Function, and Fishing,” published in the journal Human Ecology, he traces the arc of the hook’s design and how its dimensions have changed over time.

“I used to be a commercial fisherman in Alaska, and also lived in a Tlingit and Haida community,” Malindine said. “So, the intersection of fisheries and Alaska Native art has always fascinated me. These NWC hooks are really effective at catching halibut, and also are intricately carved with rich, figural designs. Between the technology and the mythological imagery, there’s a lot going on.” [continue]

Montreal restaurant serves up free meals to the hungry

This is the sort of thing that gives me hope. From the CBC: Montreal restaurant serves up free meals to the hungry.

It’s barely noticeable to passersby, but a piece of paper taped to the door of Marché Ferdous, a small Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Montreal, has caught the attention of some Montrealers.

The sign, written in both English and French, reads, “People with no money welcome to eat for free.”

That goodwill gesture has won the restaurant, located at the corner of Ste-Catherine Street West and Mackay Street, a lot of praise online.

The restaurant’s co-owner, Yahya Hashemi, said they’ve been giving free meals to the hungry for about five months now. He added that they consider it as a business expense. [continue]

A wall worth building: making clam habitat great again

From Hakai Magazine: A Wall Worth Building: Making Clam Habitat Great Again.

On a small island off Canada’s west coast, a group of people is rebuilding ancient clam gardens.

For thousands of years, indigenous people all along the Pacific Northwest coast have cultivated clams by manipulating beaches to encourage the growth of more and bigger shellfish. These clam gardens supply a reliable and abundant source of nutritious food year round. [continue]

You’ll like the video, I think.

Related content on Mirabilis.ca: Can ancient “clam gardens” teach us how to farm better today?

We are Canadians — but we were nearly Cabotians, Tuponians or Hochelaganders

From the CBC: We are Canadians — but we were nearly Cabotians, Tuponians or Hochelaganders.

No one will say “Happy Efisga Day” next July 1.

But as we look ahead to Canada’s 150th year, we are reminded that we are Canadians because — as the story goes — Jacques Cartier coined the term in 1534 from a lost-in-translation conversation during his first meeting with the Iroquois.

We could have been Cabotians, Tuponians or Hochelaganders.

Here are some of the other names that were considered when this country was just a fledgling dominion. [continue]

A floating home in the wilderness

Have you heard about Freedom Cove? It’s a floating home on the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Tofino. But “floating home” doesn’t do it justice. These guys have a four greenhouses and a garden, for instance, all on floats in the middle of the cove. Mashable describes it as a floating sanctuary that provides artistic inspiration:

Walking through their home for the first time is a bizarre experience. You enter through a front gate made of two whale ribs. You sit and relax in the living room, with a hole cut in the floor so Wayne can catch fish from his couch. The whole house, tethered to the land and floating on armored foam, is always moving with the ebb and flow of the tide. [continue]

OK, that fishing-from-the-couch thing sounds really fun.

What do you think? Could you live like in a floating home like this one?

Here are some more articles about Freedom Cove, some with fantastic photos.

Ancient underwater garden discovered in Canada

From sciencemag.org: Ancient underwater garden discovered in Canada.

Archaeologists have discovered the earliest known garden in the Pacific Northwest—and it was underwater. The site, about 30 kilometers east of Vancouver, Canada, on land belonging to the Native American group Katzie First Nation, was once part of an ecologically rich wetland. It was divided into two parts: one on dry land, where people lived and built their homes, and one that was underwater. In the underwater section, people had arranged small stones into a [continue]

Archaeologists document Dene caribou fences in N.W.T

Interested in the history of Canada’s north? This is for you, from the CBC: Archaeologists document Dene caribou fences in N.W.T.

Researchers are documenting Sahtu Dene caribou fences in the Northwest Territories, marking a physical record of Indigenous history in the area.

Tom Andrews, an archeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, is documenting a kilometre-long wooden fence believed to have been used about 100 years ago in the Sahtu region.

“It’s a real smart hunting strategy that’s probably been used for thousands of years,” Andrews said.

Hunters used the fence to corral caribou, making it easier for them to hunt them in large numbers. [continue]

Mummering!

Do you know about the tradition of mummering in Newfoundland? Imagine, in the Christmas season, opening your door to a group of strangely-dressed, totally disguised people: mummers! You invite them in. They’re your friends, and you’ve got to guess who they are. Which is hard, because they might be wearing the strangest clothing ever, cross-dressing, disguising their voices, and whatnot. Once you’ve figured out who they are, they reveal themselves. You serve them something festive and have a visit before they head off to puzzle somebody else.

I love this idea. It makes me think about moving to Newfoundland.

If the idea of mummering intrigues you, head over to Hakai Magazine for this article: Return of the Mummers. The article summary: “The people of Newfoundland and Labrador revive an eccentric tradition that’s part Christmas, part Halloween, to celebrate the holidays.”

Sounds excellent.

Related links:

Inuit’s risky mussel harvest under sea ice

Do you ever search for something and find that you get distracted by something else altogether? Here is the ‘something else altogether’ that caught my attention today. From the BBC: Inuit’s risky mussel harvest under sea ice.

The Inuit of Arctic Canada take huge risks to gather mussels in winter. During extreme low tides, they climb beneath the shifting sea ice, but have less than an hour before the water returns.

The 500 people of Kangiqsujuaq, near the Hudson Strait, go to great lengths to add variety to their diet of seal meat, seal meat and yet more seal meat.

This settlement and a neighbouring community on Wakeham Bay are thought to be the only places where people harvest mussels from under the thick blanket of ice that coats the Arctic sea throughout the winter.

The locals can only do this during extreme low tides, when sea ice drops by up to 12m (about 40 feet), opening fissures through which the exposed seabed – and its edible riches – can be glimpsed. The best time to go is when the moon is either full or brand new, as this is when the tide stays out the longest. [continue]

Wow.

Mystery surrounds huge face etched into cliff on Reeks Island

From CTV news: Mystery surrounds huge face etched into cliff on remote B.C. island.

Was it created by man, or by Mother Nature? That’s what many are wondering about a giant face that appears to be carved into a cliff on a remote island near Vancouver Island.

Hank Gus of the Tseshaht First Nation had heard about the “face in the rocks” years ago. A Washington State kayaker stumbled upon the face back in 2008 while paddling past Reeks Island in the Broken Group Islands.

Gus had been searching for the carving for two years. Then, just a few weeks ago, he finally found the hidden treasure and took a cellphone video of the seven-foot-tall face carved into a cliff. [continue]

Isn’t that fun! Here’s more from Ha-Slith-Sa, a newspaper published by the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council: Tseshaht Face in the Rock mystery – Man made or a gift of Mother Nature?

The face appears to be a rock carving tucked in a cleft on the small, rugged island cliffs. There are reefs along the steep shoreline making the approach to the Face in the Rock dangerous.

The formation first came to the Tseshaht Beachkeeper’s attention in 2008 when kayakers exploring the Broken Group Islands stumbled upon it.

Karen Haugen, Parks Canada First Nations Program Manager, sent an email to Tseshaht First Nation quoting a kayaker named Sandy Floe, who was visiting from Washington State.

“I went in closer to shore……..through kelp to explore a small gap in the rocky shore on the southeast side of Reeks Island. Suddenly I saw what you see in the picture. A face! I almost fell out of the kayak!” said Floe in an email to Parks Canada. [continue]

So what’s your guess about how that face came to be there?

Here’s a large photo of the face on panoramio.com, courtesy of Seacruiser. The ‘zoom in’ feature is useful.

Can ancient “clam gardens” teach us how to farm better today?

From Modern Farmer: Can ancient “clam gardens” teach us how to farm better today?

The usual archaeological/anthropological view of First Nations peoples (that’s the Canadian version of the term American Indian) in British Columbia is that they were hunter-gatherers, getting what they needed from the land and sea without adopting agricultural practices. But a series of studies from Simon Fraser University is challenging that idea: the team, led by archaeologist Dana Lepofsky, has found and dated “clam gardens” from thousands of years ago, and these early shellfish farms turn out to be anything but simple.

“Of course, First Nations knew they were there all along,” said Lepofsky in an email. “In fact, my friend Clan Chief Adam Dick/Kwaksistalla told anthropologist Doug Deur about them ages ago, but Doug, not being an archaeologist, assumed all western scientists already knew about them. Nope.”

The clam gardens were constructed as a series of stone terraces on specific parts of the shore to protect them from the sea, basically making calmer pools where clams can grow more safely and easily. The key is to alter the slope of the soft-bottomed beach as it stretches out to sea—if you can make it a relatively flat surface, the clams will grow much more quickly. In a study last year, the team built clam gardens as similar as possible to the remnants of the ones they found. The researchers found that the output of littleneck clams nearly doubles and the volume of butter clams actually quadruples over the amount harvested from unmodified clam beaches. The new study found evidence that these indigenous people were replanting baby clams in pretty much the exact same way that modern farmers grow clams today. These weren’t accidental pools; these were farms. [continue]

Link to this story found in the weekly link love post at Mark’s Daily Apple.

A copyright call to arms

From the Globe and Mail: A copyright call to arms.

In the era of peer-to-peer file sharing, on-demand television and easy copying of video games and movies, Canadians often take for granted the availability and ease of using digital media. It’s hard not to: the sheer amount of digital content available online is astonishing. For many, the Web is a black box that provides us with what we want, when we want it.

But with a new session of parliament a week away, a host of proposed changes to copyright legislation threaten to tip the legal balance further in favour of those who sell and disseminate cultural content, rather than everyone who consumes it.

As one example, under legislation sponsored by the Conservatives in the last parliament Canadians could be fined $500 for the downloaded songs on their computer. Thanks to our existing laws, no Canadians have been taken to court for downloading music, but, as customers, we have suffered from increasingly invasive measures taken by those who hold the rights to digital material. Companies aim to limit how many times we can install a song or piece of software, check to ensure that our music was purchased legally and may even track the websites we visit. [continue].

(Link found at Michael Geist’s blog.)

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Petroglyph returned to first nation

From the Vancouver Sun: Petroglyph returned to first nation.

The Snuneymuxw people officially celebrated the return of their salmon petroglyph this week, more than three decades after it was removed by the City of Nanaimo and hauled to a museum.

Snuneymuxw First Nation archeologist Lorraine Littlefield said the petroglyph, carved into a boulder, sat at Jack Point near the mouth of the Nanaimo River, marking a ritual that guaranteed the annual run of chum salmon.

Unlike most petroglyphs, the Jack Point petroglyph has a strong oral history attached to it.

A shaman would perform the ritual, [continue].

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Québecois accent may have its roots in royal courts

From csmonitor.com: Québecois: maligned accent may have its roots in royal courts.

Québec’s francophones have long been ridiculed by the Parisian French – the scholars, elites, and aesthetes from the ancestral homeland. They have deemed the Québecois accent an "abomination" of what they consider the most beautiful language.

They shouldn’t sneer.

The Québeckers’ much-maligned accent can be traced back to the 17th-century court of Louis XIV. At least that’s the argument put forth by a prominent Québec scholar, Laval University’s Jean-Denis Gendron, a retired linguist. "The Québecois accent is one from the noblesse of the time, it is a relaxed, natural accent," Professor Gendron, explains in the most recent issue of the journal, Québec Sciences. "It’s only much later that our accent came to be viewed as an abomination." [continue].

Petroglyphs destroyed by bikes

From the Nanaimo Daily News: Aboriginal relics destroyed by bikes.

Dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles are grinding away ancient First Nations artifacts in the Nanaimo area.

Geraldine Manson, with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, said several petroglyphs located near Harewood Mines Road have been pounded by both vehicles and hikers over the years. She hopes a barrier will be put in place to protect the relics before they are destroyed.

"To First Nations, they have a lot of significance. It carries history, it carries direction," said Manson.

Julie Cowie, president of the Nanaimo branch of the Archaeology Society of B.C., said not only does vehicle use erode the surface of the petroglyphs, it removes vegetation on top of the stone exposing it to the elements. Vibrations from the vehicles also damage the artifacts. But Cowie thinks many people are unaware that there are even petroglyphs in the area or how they can be damaged. [continue]

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Nails, copper scraps first evidence of Franklin’s doomed ships

From the Globe and Mail: Nails, copper scraps first evidence of Franklin’s doomed ships.

A few scraps of copper and a handful of nails are the tantalizing first fruits of the latest search for the ships of the doomed Franklin expedition.

While heavy Arctic winds have hindered crews on the waters where the 19th-century British ships are thought to have sunk, searchers combing the shores of four nearby islands have turned up a few relics that may have come from the Erebus or the Terror, two of the world’s most sought-after marine archeological prizes.

"We found additional small fragments of copper and what appear to be nails and other materials," Doug Stenton, Nunavut’s chief archeologist and a member of the team that recently began the search, said yesterday.

The findings suggest European presence in the area, and the area where they were found will be searched again, he said. [continue]

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Ancient suspects cleared in Viking mystery tale

From the Edmonton Journal: Ancient suspects cleared in Viking mystery tale.

It’s the oldest whodunit in Canadian history, and new research has conclusively ruled out one of the suspect aboriginal groups behind the retreat of Viking would-be colonists from the New World.

A scientific redating of the eastward migration of the Thule — ancestors of modern-day Inuit — has pegged their push across Canada’s polar frontier to no earlier than AD 1200. That’s at least 150 years after Norse voyagers from Greenland are believed to have abandoned their short-lived, 11th-century settlement at the northern tip of Newfoundland following hostile encounters there, and in Labrador, with native inhabitants they called Skraelings.

Because of their relatively late arrival in northern Canada — originally set by experts at about AD 1000 — the Thule (pronounced "too-ley") have always been outside contenders in the long-running quest to identify the people who scared the Vikings out of Canada. [continue]

Wait worth it for patient truffles harvesters

Goodness! Somebody’s growing truffles on Vancouver Island. From the Vancouver Sun: Wait worth it for patient truffles harvesters.

It took seven years for Betty and Grant Duckett to harvest their first truffle, but for them it was worth the wait.

The couple retired to Vancouver Island after years of raising livestock on the Prairies. They wanted to grow truffles, so they bought a 40-acre spread near Parksville, levelled the old pasture land, readied the soil, dug wells, and planted more than 5,000 trees inoculated with black Périgord truffle spores, and then waited.

"It was a decision that was hard to make because it was such an investment," Betty says. "We knew it would be years and years of trying. No one in Canada had ever done it, so no one could help us."

Last December, the couple’s wait finally came to an end when they harvested Canada’s first crop of the black Périgord. [continue]

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Inuit oral stories could solve mystery of Franklin expedition

From the National Post: Inuit oral stories could solve mystery of Franklin expedition.

More than 150 years after the disappearance of the Erebus and Terror — the famously ill-fated ships of the lost Franklin Expedition — fresh clues have emerged that could help solve Canadian history’s most enduring mystery.

A Montreal writer set to publish a book on Inuit oral chronicles from the era of Arctic exploration says she’s gathered a “hitherto unreported” account of a British ship wintering in 1850 in the Royal Geographical Society Islands — a significant distance west of the search targets of several 19th- and 20th-century expeditions that have probed the southern Arctic Ocean for Canada’s most sought-after shipwrecks. [continue]

The legend of Camossung

Here’s a a Coast Salish legend. From the Camosun College website: The Legend of Camossung.

After the flood, the transformer Haylas was travelling with Raven and Mink teaching the people how things were to be done.

They found a young girl, named Camossung and her grandfather. She was crying, so Haylas asked her why. She answered, "My Father is angry with me and will not give me anything to eat."

Haylas asked her if she liked sturgeon, and when she answered "no" he threw the sturgeon to the Fraser River. That is why there are sturgeons there and not here. He asked her if she liked cranberries and when she answered "no" he threw them into the Shawnigan Lake. That is why there are cranberries there now. [continue]

Ancient fort opens new chapter in First Nations’ history

From EurekAlert: Ancient fort opens new chapter in First Nations’ history.

A fortified village that pre-dates European arrival in Western Canada and is the only one of its kind discovered on the Canadian plains is yielding intriguing evidence of an unknown First Nations group settling on the prairies and is rekindling new ties between the Siksika Nation (Blackfoot) and aboriginal groups in the United States.

This spring, students from the U of C’s Department of Archaeology are spending several weeks working on a dig near Cluny, about 120 kilometres east of Calgary, as part of a project that is expected to continue for several years unearthing one of Alberta’s most significant archaeological sites. Known as the Cluny Fortified Village, the site on the Siksika First Nation reservation next to the Bow River is more than 250 years old and is an enigma to archaeologists who say it may have been home to a small band of normally-sedentary people from North Dakota.

"Tipi camps whose remains are the rings of tipi-anchoring stones left behind after the camps were abandoned were the usual dwelling sites in Alberta for thousands of years," said Dale Walde, director of the U of C’s field school who is overseeing the excavation. "This site has no tipi rings, instead it looks more like villages 1,500 kilometres away on the Missouri River in southern North Dakota." [continue]

Copyright for Canadians

Hey, Canadians! This needs your attention. From Copyright for Canadians:

Forward-thinking reform to copyright is possible: laws that recognise the growth and importance of the Internet, open source software, and new business models for creators. Canada could take the initiative, and lead the world.

Instead, new legislation proposed by this government will be a complete sell-out to the United States’ government and media’s demands. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act — a law that the U.S. passed in 1997 and has been widely seen as a damaging failure — will be imported wholesale. Instead of inviting a new era, Canada will repeat all the mistakes of the last decade.

This will not be a copyright law for Canadians. It looks like it will be a copyright law from entrenched U.S. lobbyists and politicians. Join us, and fight back! [continue]

Centuries-old sketch comes home

From the Globe and Mail: Centuries-old sketch comes home.

He stares at us from centuries past, a clear, unflinching gaze attesting to his status as a great warrior chief of the Musqueam. Strands of long, dark hair curl past his shoulders and he wears a stylish conical cedar hat adorned with feathers.

Call him Qeyapaplanewx. That we know about him at all is thanks to a young Spanish cabin boy with an agile sketch pen who drew the Musqueam chief during a visit by his country’s navy to the waters off Point Grey in June of 1792.

As such, he is the first identified resident of what has long been Canada’s third-largest city, on lands once fished and hunted solely by the Musqueam.

Yet Jose Cardero’s remarkable drawing, squirrelled away for years in a dark storage area of the Naval History Museum in Madrid, is virtually unknown in Vancouver.

Not any more. Yesterday, the portrait came back — or at least a version of it.

In a ceremony on Qeyapaplanewx’s old [continue, see sketch]