A Heiltsuk village site on B.C.’s mid-coast is three times as old as the Great Pyramid at Giza and among the oldest human settlements in North America, according to researchers at the Hakai Institute.
The excavation on Triquet Island has already produced extremely rare artifacts, including a wooden projectile-launching device called an atlatl, compound fish hooks and a hand drill used for lighting fires, said Alisha Gauvreau, a PhD student at the University of Victoria.
The village has been in use for about 14,000 years, based on analysis of charcoal recovered from a hearth about 2.5 metres below the surface, making it one of the oldest First Nations settlements yet uncovered. Dates from the most recent tests range from 13,613 to 14,086 years ago.
“We were so happy to find something we could date,” she said. What started as a one-metre-by-one-metre “keyhole” into the past, expanded last summer into a three-metre trench with evidence of fire related in age to a nearby cache of stone tools.
“It appears we had people sitting in one area making stone tools beside evidence of a fire pit, what we are calling a bean-shaped hearth,” she said. “The material that we have recovered from that trench has really helped us weave a narrative for the occupation of this site.” [continue]
If you’re a Canadian who is concerned about privacy and digital rights, you’ll want to read the Vice article that shows “…the government is looking to restart a warrantless access program that had been declared unconstitutional.” How annoying is that?
A new musical opened on Broadway last week, “Come from Away,” about Gander, a small town in Newfoundland that rallied to care for some seven thousand travellers stuck there after their planes were grounded in the aftermath of 9/11. The play celebrates a variety of Canadian habits and customs, of which seemingly compulsive niceness is the main focus. But it also incorporates a wide range of vocabulary specific to Newfoundland or Canada in general, starting with the play’s odd title, a term used in the Atlantic provinces to refer to an outsider.
You won’t find “come from away” or “screech-in”—a mock ceremony depicted in the musical that confers Newfoundland “citizenship,” featuring extreme drunkenness and the osculation of a raw cod—in the Oxford English Dictionary. But the scholarly and scrappy second edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (D.C.H.P.-2), released online last week, includes these and many more examples, common and obscure, of Canadian English. [continue]
Guy Caron is not a household name in Canadian politics. Yet.
Caron kicked off his campaign for the New Democratic Party leadership this week with a policy proposal that’s becoming the subject of a lot of political chatter in Canada and beyond: a guaranteed basic income.
The idea could well become the sleeper issue in Canadian politics in 2017 — not just in the NDP but across the political spectrum, drawing in non-partisan advocates as well. [continue]
If you have your DNA tested for genetic concerns, should the results be private? Or should you be forced to share that information with insurance companies and your employer? That issue is in the news this week. The USA moved in one direction (Guess what they decided – I know you can!) and Canada did the opposite.
Over the objection of their own government, dozens of Liberal backbenchers voted Wednesday night in favour of a bill banning genetic discrimination.
In voting for what is known as Bill S-201, the backbench Liberals, along with all Conservative, NDP and Green Party MPs made it a crime for, among other things, insurance companies to demand potential customers provide a DNA test in order to get a policy. Additionally, no company will be able to deny someone a job if they fail to have their genes tested.
Protection from discrimination because of an individual’s genetic makeup will now be written into the Canadian Labour Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. [continue]
Everywhere they looked, there were corpses. Abandoned, overgrown villages were littered with skulls; whole sections of coastline strewn with bleached, decayed bodies.
“The skull, limbs, ribs and backbones, or some other vestiges of the human body, were found in many places, promiscuously scattered about the beach in great numbers,” wrote explorer George Vancouver in what is now Port Discovery, Wash.
It was May 1792. The lush environs of the Georgia Strait had once been among the most densely populated corners of the land that is now Canada, with humming villages, harbours swarming with canoes and valleys so packed with cookfires that they had smog.
But the Vancouver Expedition experienced only eerie quiet.
They kept seeing rotting houses and massive clearings cut out of the Pacific forest — evidence that whoever lived here had been able to muster armies of labourers.
And yet the only locals the sailors encountered were small groups of desperately poor people, many of them horribly scarred and missing an eye. [continue]
The former Vancouver mayor who oversaw the installation of the city’s first open safe injection site says he intends to push for the legalization of opioids, even if it means introducing the legislation himself. (…)
Campbell is a proponent of the so-called “Four Pillars” initiative, which advocates balancing harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement to help ease Vancouver’s addiction troubles.
But although Metro Vancouver could use more safe injection sites, Campbell said Canada must go further to tackle its opioid problem as the fentanyl crisis spreads across the country.
“I’m beyond that now,” Campbell said of injection sites, which he said keep people alive but don’t address the underlying causes of addiction. “We should be actually supplying opioids to addicts within facilities.” [continue]
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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
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]
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.”
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]
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]
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.
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]
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].
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.
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].
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]
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]