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Northwest Coast. Introduction Natural Environment Northwest Coast Culture History. The Natural Environment. The North West Coast one of richest marine environments on earth. Northwest Coast a damp, lush forest belt bordered by coastal mountains.

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Northwest coast l.jpg

Northwest Coast

Introduction

Natural Environment

Northwest Coast Culture History


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The Natural Environment

  • The North West Coast one of richest marine environments on earth.

    • Northwest Coast a damp, lush forest belt bordered by coastal mountains.

  • These patterns of resource availability strongly influenced population density, settlement size, food-getting strategies, and group interaction.


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Environment and Settlement

  • At contact, a great diversity of societies, from highly mobile bands to chiefdoms with large, permanent communities.

  • Sea mammal hunting and ocean fishing especially important along the Northwest Coast and in central and southern California, where some of most complex hunter-gatherer societies in the world developed.


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Environment and Settlement

  • In Northwest Coast, most settlement on river banks and on islands and shores of the coast, especially north of the mouth of the Columbia River.


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Northwest Coast Geographic definitions

  • Area Definitions

    • Southern Alaska

    • Coastal British Columbia

    • Coastal Washington

    • Coastal Oregon

    • North coastal California


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NW Coast Geophysical

  • Geophysical definitions:

    • Coast and rivers

    • Eastern boundaries are:

      • Coastal mountains of British Columbia and southern Alaska

      • Cascades of Washington and Oregon


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Alpine Lake and Forest

http://www.egwald.com/ubcstudent/prose/sustainablerainforests.php


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North Cascades

http://www.biodiversity.wa.gov/ecoregions/okanogan/okanoganbiodiversity.html


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Mountain Forests

http://www.egwald.com/ubcstudent/prose/sustainablerainforests.php


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Coast Forest

http://www.egwald.com/ubcstudent/prose/sustainablerainforests.php


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Kelp Forest

http://www.biodiversity.wa.gov/ecoregions/okanogan/okanoganbiodiversity.html


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Introduction

  • Far West prehistory can be divided into four general periods:

    • Prior to 8000 BC.

    • Transition period 8000-5000 BC.

    • 5000 BC-1000BC

    • After AD 500.


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Prior to 8000 BC.

  • Glaciers existed in the mountains and large lakes filled the valleys of the Great Basin and southern California deserts.

  • Mammoth and other Ice Age animals roamed a cooler, more lush, and greener landscape than now exists.

  • People mainly hunters/gatherers.


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Transition period 8000-5000 BC.

  • Post-glacial warming and drying were eliminating glaciers and pluvial lakes.

  • Arid and semi arid desert vegetation beginning to dominate.

  • A period of rapid and extensive environmental change.

  • Increasing trend toward broad spectrum hunting and gathering.


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5000 BC-1000 BC.

  • Arid and semiarid vegetation dominate most of California, the Great Basin, and the Plateau; the Northwest coast and the higher areas of California were covered with forests.

  • Broad spectrum hunter-gatherers, with ocean fishing and sea mammal hunting now important.


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Later West Coast/AD500

  • 1000 BC in California, 500 BC in the Plateau and western Great Basin, and AD 500 in eastern Great Basin.

  • Trends developed toward increasing populations, intensified subsistence activity, and growing societal complexity and interaction.


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First Settlement of the West Coast (c.9000-5000 BC)

  • Poorly understood; many sites under water and material culture perishable. But clear trend toward intensive foraging and coastal fishing and sea mammal hunting. A rapidly changing environment.

  • Northwest Coast. Paleomarine period (e.g., Ground Hog and Namu sites).

  • Fishing economies (salmon, herring fisheries) at least by 5000 BC; semisedentary winter settlements; result of environmental changes (warmer water).


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The Namu Site, British Columbia


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Stone Fishtrap at the Mouth of the River




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Northwest Coast Middle Period (3500 BC-AD 500)

  • Clear emergence of Northwest Coast cultural tradition. Tempo of change increases significantly after 3000 BC.

  • Traits and trends include:

    • rapid intensification of shellfish collection with increase in midden size

    • large-scale fishing appears with specialized technology (e.g., fish weirs)

    • much larger populations reflected in increasing food production in general


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Traits and Trends con’d

  • Traits and Trends

    • improving storage technology

    • more specialized woodworking tools (finely made polished chisels and adze blades after AD 450); large plank houses and fine woodworking

    • highly sophisticated baskets

    • greater cultural homogeneity throughout the Northwest Coast

    • widespread trade (e.g., obsidian)

    • signs of social ranking and societal complexity by 1000 BC (e.g., stone labrets, cranial deformation; costly and exotic grave goods after 500 BC); slavery; increased conflict with neighboring groups; large surpluses accumulated and redistributed by chiefs; beginnings of potlatches.


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Scowlitz site, British Columbia

  • Scowlitz site, beginning about 3000 years ago and extending into the historic period.

  • The Scowlitz wet site has provided much information about organic artifacts such as cordage, basketry, clothing, hafting for knives etc.




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Artifacts from ScowlitzLepofsky et al. (Journal of Field Archaeology 27:4 2000).



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"Interior of Habitation at Nootka Sound"John Webber (British), April 1778PMAE # 41-72-10/499

http://www.peabody.harvard.edu/potlatch/page2.html


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The Northwest Coast Archaeological Traditions

  • It is with the prehistoric cultures of the Northwest Coast that we see the emergence of one of North America's most prolific and artistically creative cultures.

  • As indicated in discussions of the early technologies of the Arctic and Subarctic, the verdict is still out about the exact origins of some of the characteristic technologies—especially those wood-working technologies involving ground-slate tools.


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Strait of Georgia Tradition

Considered characteristic of the cultural developments of the prehistoric Northwest Coast.

Argument over origins of technologies of the tradition.


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Straight of Georgia vs. Northern Groups

  • Two competing arguments exist comparing and contrasting the technologies of the Strait of Georgia peoples and with those of northern—probably Eskimo-speaking—peoples:

  • Don Dumand:

    • Sees the Kodiak (south Alaska and Eskimo-speaking) and the Strait of Georgia Tradition having a common cultural origin, because, speaking of the artifacts, they are, . . . so reminiscent . . . that it suggests communication, once established with the North, continued along the coastline. (p. 89)

  • Dean Snow:

    • Says "no," that the Eskimo (i.e. Alaska) ground-slate technology (especially that involving toggle harpoons) developed independently of a distinct Northwest Coast evolution. (Snow, p. 181)


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The Strait of Georgia Tradition Chronology

  • Charles Phase:

    • ca. 3000-1500 B.C.

    • Technology: chipped- and partially ground-slate points & knives

  • Locarno Beach Phase:

    • ca. 2000/1500-200 B.C.

    • Basic continuation of the above Charles Phase

  • Marpole Phase:

    • ca. 400 B.C.-A.D. 200

    • Woodworking tools become abundant

    • Carved-stone sculptures show beginnings of NW Coast styles

    • Settlement data indicates large villages

    • Burial mounds present



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Social Stratification

  • Social stratification further indicated by differential access to wealth as seen by:

    • Large villages indicate increasing social complexity

    • Increased number and type of objects and Cranial deformation in burial mounds

    • Potlatch was probably present

    • Economy was coastal- and riverine-oriented.


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Ethnographic to the Present

  • ca. A.D. 500-Present

    • A shift from stone carving to exclusive carving of wood (as indicated in tool inventory)

    • Probably the people observed by the first whites were living a lifestyle not very different from those living around A.D. 500.

    • Ozette site, Makah Culture

      • At Ozette a mudslide in the Spring A.D. 1750 destroyed a section of homes along the beach. This created an environment that preserved organic remains.


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Ozette Site

Cedar dug-out canoe from the Ozette site


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Rock Art at Ozette

http://content.lib.washington.edu/cgi-bin/viewer.exe?CISOROOT=/loc&CISOPTR=1605&CISORESTMP=&CISOVIEWTMP=


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Artifacts

Cedar box

http://daphne.palomar.edu/ais130/site_2.htm


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Artifacts

Club


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Artifacts con’d

Bowl


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Feast Dish; HaidaPMAE # 31-63-10/K92

http://www.peabody.harvard.edu/potlatch/page3.html


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Artifacts

Wood whale dorsal w/ 700 otter's teeth


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Potlatch

Items lined up for a potlatch near Victoria, British Columbia, 1865PMAE # 2004.1.806


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This map shows the approximate tribal boundaries of the Northwest Coast Indians. (Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7 Northwest Coast 1990: ix) http://www.peabody.harvard.edu/potlatch/page6.html


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Ethnohistoric Northwest Coast Indians. Information

Achomawi basket-maker (The North American Indian; v.13) Edward Curtis photos, LOC



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Whale ceremonial - Clayoquot (The North American Indian; v.11) Edward Curtis photos, LOC

“Before daring to practise his dangerous art, the whaler subjects himself to a long and rigorous course of ceremonial purification in order to render himself pleasing to the spirit whale. He bathes frequently, rubs his body vigorously with hemlock sprigs, dives, and imitates the movements of a whale.”


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Cultural contact between Siberia and the Northwest Coast v.11) Edward Curtis photos, LOC

  • There are a number of points that indicate cultural contact between Siberia and the Northwest Coast

    • Metallurgy

    • Mythology

    • Physical anthropology


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Northwest Coast-Precolumbian metallurgy? v.11) Edward Curtis photos, LOC

  • At contact, there existed essentially two types of metallurgical traditions— copper and iron:

    • Copper (native cold-beaten into large "Coppers" for heraldic and potlatch occasions)

    • Iron:

      • Often used in vicious double-ended hand-to-hand fighting knives

      • Iron has been sourced to eastern Siberia!.

      • Thus with iron we have a clear example of Precolumbian exchange between the Old and the New Worlds


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Precolumbian mythological connections? v.11) Edward Curtis photos, LOC

  • The founder of American Anthropology, Franz Boas, initiated and took part in the Jessup North Pacific Expedition for the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

  • The expedition went to eastern Siberia, Alaska, and the Northwest Coast collecting both artifactual and ethnographic information.

  • Noted that the Raven Myths found in the Northwest Coast and in distant Kamchatka (Siberia) are remarkably similar.


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Physical anthropological commonalities? v.11) Edward Curtis photos, LOC

  • It is physically, culturally, and linguistically evident that the Eskimos are relative late comers and are really linked with their Siberian relatives.

  • At the time of the early Spanish, English, and Russian explorers of the Northwest Coast detailed drawings of "natives" were made.

  • Men of the early contact period Northwest Coast were often depicted with extensive body hair—a physical trait undoubtedly genetically attributable to ancient ties with the ancestors of the Ainu and other mainland peoples of the Amur Basin in Siberia.


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Summary v.11) Edward Curtis photos, LOC

The much greater focus on acorn harvesting, fishing, sea mammal hunting, and shellfish collecting that appears in these early cultures set the stage for the appearance of some of the most sophisticated and densely packed hunter-gatherer societies.


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Sources v.11) Edward Curtis photos, LOC

  • http://www.farwestern.com/morrobay/morro.htm

  • http://itrs.scu.edu/anthroweb2/034/EelPoint.html

  • http://www.californiaprehistory.com/index.html

  • http://oregonstate.edu/dept/anthropology/SeaGrantWeb/oregonsites.html

  • http://www2.sfu.ca/archaeology/museum/peb/scow1.html

  • http://www.ohwy.com/wa/m/makahcrc.htm


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