When the Europeans first arrived, most of the natives were dead

What did Europeans see of the native people when they first arrived in BC? From the National Post: Everyone was dead: When Europeans first came to B.C., they stepped into the aftermath of a holocaust.

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]

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(I found the National Post article through a link in this post at Mark’s Daily Apple.)

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]