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]

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?

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]

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.

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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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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A memory place

This is a must-read for those interested in native traditions and archaeology. From the Vancouver Sun: A Memory Place.

The goal was to connect those stories with the evidence in the archeological record. The archeology revealed very quickly the truth of the spoken record.

For Washington, the experience was life-altering.

"I’ve started to look at the land in a whole different way since the dig," Washington said. "A lot of the things that I saw in the inter-tidal area before never really seemed natural, but I didn’t quite understand what they were."

The Tla’Amin did considerable renovation to their physical environment, including the construction of dozens of pools along the beach, clearly visible today, that were used to farm shellfish and trap fish.

"It didn’t just take a month or a year, it took generations to construct these traps," Washington said. "I can see now the intricate systems they had set up to provide for their families."

By piling beach rock in rings and clearing dish-like depressions in the inter-tidal area, the Tla’Amin could trap huge numbers of fish as the tide receded.

"It was like going to the fridge," she said. "When you needed something fresh for dinner it was right there for you." [continue]

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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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Insects on the menu for Vij’s restaurant

From Now Public: Insects on the menu for Vij’s restaurant.

The world is in a frenzy to help protect the environment and lead ‘green lifestyles’. Meeru Dhalwala, the chef and co-owner with husband Vikram Vij, is adopting this go-green attitude for their Vancouver based restaurant- in the form of BUGS.

That’s right! They have decided to introduce insects to their menu as green cuisine. Dhalwala has argued that insects are environmentally positive, and can provide a much healthier protein than that found in meat. The next step is seeing if consumers have the stomachs to tackle the yuck factor. [continue]

I’m not interested in eating insects, but I’m willing to try anything on the menu at Vij’s. The place is amazing, and we dined there regularly when we lived in Vancouver. Now we (well, my husband, really) cook from the Vij’s cookbook, which is also outstanding.

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Mini subs to probe odd structures in BC lake

This is from McMaster University , via EurekAlert: Mini subs to probe odd structures in BC lake.

Single person submersibles have been called in to help scientists retrieve samples from a lake in northern British Columbia that may hold vital clues to the history of life on Earth and on other planets.

Greg Slater, an environmental geochemist in the Faculty of Science, says the objects of scientific interest are unique carbonate rock structures, known as microbialites because they are covered with microbes. Some of these microbialites grow at depths up to 180 feet below the water’s surface, too deep to reach by non-decompression SCUBA diving.

"Are they the result of biological or geological processes? Why are there different microbes living on them and how long have these microbial communities been preserved? These are some of our big questions," says Slater, who joined the international team researching these curious specimens three years ago. [continue]

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West Coast aboriginal community tests low-carb diet

From the CBC: West Coast aboriginal community tests low-carb diet.

A remote community off the north coast of Vancouver Island is the unlikely venue for an experiment that uses diet to try to improve the health of native communities.

Dr. Jay Wortman, a Métis, is working with aboriginal Canadians in Alert Bay on B.C.’s Cormorant Island in a bid to show a low-carbohydrate diet can mitigate health problems such as diabetes and obesity, which tend to be rampant in North American native communities.

Working for the University of B.C. faculty of medicine, Wortman is examining the theory that high-calorie Western foods are the root cause of those health problems. A CBC documentary on his study will be shown on Newsworld Tuesday evening at 10:00 p.m. (ET and PT).

Wortman, a diabetic himself, thinks the low-carb diet, dubbed "My Big Fat Diet," may benefit native people because they don’t metabolize carbohydrates well.

He set up a year-long study of the diet in Alert Bay, where 60 people agreed to live on a more traditional aboriginal diet of meat, seafood and non-starch vegetables such as cauliflower.[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]

How the art thief did it

By now much of the world has heard of the recent art theft at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology. A terrible pity, but I didn’t blog it because stories of yet another theft usually bore me.

This however, is not boring: the story of how the thief –or thieves — got away with the treasure. From the CBC: Fake phone call fooled UBC security in museum heist, police sources say.

An experienced jewelry thief may have hoodwinked the University of British Columbia’s campus security by telling them to ignore security alarms on the night of last month’s multi-million dollar heist at the Museum of Anthropology, CBC News has learned. [continue]

It reads like a movie plot. Brilliant technique.

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Sea floor off Charlottes may explain how people came to the Americas

From the Vancouver Sun: Sea floor off Charlottes may explain how people came to the Americas.

In a Canadian archeological project that could revolutionize understanding of when and how humans first reached the New World, federal researchers in B.C. have begun probing an underwater site off the Queen Charlotte Islands for traces of a possible prehistoric camp on the shores of an ancient lake long since submerged by the Pacific Ocean.

The landmark investigation, led by Parks Canada scientist Daryl Fedje, is seeking evidence to support a contentious new theory about the peopling of the Americas that is gradually gaining support in scholarly circles. It holds that ancient Asian seafarers, drawn on by food-rich kelp beds ringing the Pacific coasts of present-day Russia, Alaska and British Columbia, began populating this hemisphere thousands of years before the migration of Siberian big-game hunters — who are known to have travelled across the dried up Bering Strait and down an ice-free corridor east of the Rockies as the last glaciers began retreating about 13,000 years ago.

The earlier maritime migrants are thought to have plied the coastal waters of the North Pacific in sealskin boats, moving in small groups.

Over many generations, they migrated from their traditional homelands in the Japanese islands or elsewhere along Asia’s eastern seaboard.

Interest in the theory — which is profiled in the latest edition of New Scientist magazine by Canadian science writer Heather Pringle — has been stoked by recent DNA studies [continue]

Truffles growing in BC

From the Vancouver Sun: Harvest of luxury.

Traditionally, the highest pedigreed truffles — black Perigords and white Albas — come from France and Italy and sell for more than $1,000 and $3,000 a pound, fluctuating with supply and demand. Order pasta with paper-thin shavings of white Alba truffles drifting on the surface and you’re looking at a $60 penne, minimum.

But now, B.C. is on the cusp of producing these tuberous divas as a food crop. It fits right into the enviro-friendly 100-Mile Diet philosophy as well as the growing culinary and agro-tourism industry. The spawn of France’s Perigords have been implanted in B.C. trees and the due date is about three years from now. It takes five to 10 years to mature and the first truffieres (truffle farmers) started operating two years ago. [continue]

Maybe the Perigords will spread to wild trees, and I’ll be able to train my dog to find truffles for me.

Graveyard of the Pacific

From Graveyard of the Pacific:

The captain strained his eyes into the darkness, but no lights were in sight. White water crashed over the deck. The ship listed, its cargo shifted, and the boat grazed rock on its port side. Waves pushed the vessel further upon the jagged outcropping with a snap of splintering wood as the hull was pierced. The alarm bell rang. The ship was taking on water and nothing could be done. Sailors rushed to life boats adn made ready for a night on the rough seas, hoping for rescue or to reach the shore before they too were taken by the storm…

If you’ve ever longed for a map showing just where the shipwrecks around Vancouver Island are located, this is the site for you. It includes that map, stories behind ten shipwrecks, a page on hazards, and one on saving the wrecks. There’s even a Wrecks Game, in which

YOU make the decisions that determine whether your ship will hit the breakers, losing passengers and cargo to the icy ocean waters of Vancouver Island, or will sail ahead to a safe harbour … and a future of more risk-taking voyages through the Graveyard of the Pacific.

Just the thing to click through as you sip your coffee.