The European explorers who first visited the Northwest Coast of North America assumed that the entire region was virtually untouched wilderness whose occupants used the land only minimally, hunting and gathering shoots, roots, and berries that were peripheral to a diet and culture focused on salmon. Colonizers who followed the explorers used these claims to justify the displacement of Native groups from their lands. Scholars now understand, however, that Northwest Coast peoples were actively cultivating plants well before their first contact with Europeans. This book is the first comprehensive overview of how Northwest Coast Native Americans managed the landscape and cared for the plant communities on which they depended.
Bringing together some of the world's most prominent specialists on Northwest Coast cultures, Keeping It Living tells the story of traditional plant cultivation practices found from the Oregon coast to Southeast Alaska. It explores tobacco gardens among the Haida and Tlingit, managed camas plots among the Coast Salish of Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia, estuarine root gardens along the central coast of British Columbia, wapato maintenance on the Columbia and Fraser Rivers, and tended berry plots up and down the entire coast.
With contributions from ethnobotanists, archaeologists, anthropologists, geographers, ecologists, and Native American scholars and elders, Keeping It Living documents practices, many unknown to European peoples, that involve manipulating plants as well as their environments in ways that enhanced culturally preferred plants and plant communities. It describes how indigenous peoples of this region used and cared for over 300 different species of plants, from the lofty red cedar to diminutive plants of backwater bogs.
Of all the ways that B.C.’s aboriginal people have been imagined, represented, described, and understood, the one characterization that has persisted is the idea that they just weren’t the sort of people who transformed landscapes the way Europeans did. They didn’t cultivate plants or tend crops ... That last and most persistent misapprehension was already entrenched as a tenet of academic faith in the earliest days of Northwest Coast anthropology but is only now being thoroughly reconsidered, thanks largely to Nancy J. Turner, a U.Vic ethnobotanist of boundless energy and curiosity. For her efforts, Turner is beloved among dozens of British Columbia’s aboriginal communities. With Keeping It Living, Turner and co-editor Douglas Deur of the University of Washington have mustered a broad body of evidence that is a full-on assault upon the hunter-gatherer orthodoxy. Joined by a dozen other academics whose contributions enliven this book, Turner and Deur present a picture of aboriginal life that is utterly different from the sort found in the conventional literature.
Rarely does a collection of essays provide a cohesive and convincing argument, but Keeping it Living accomplishes this admirably ... Undoubtedly, this fine collection can be used by other scholars to consider later developments.
This treatment of historically neglected yet compelling topics provides a welcome contribution to the literature on the subject…[the book] is written in a manner that should appeal to a wide range of readers, including many who will appreciate its regional approach. Those with interests in ethnobotany, indigenous American studies, general history, and most importantly with a desire to more fully comprehend the pre-contact realities of human landscape interactions and what they mean today for the future, will surely find this book of much value.
The significance of plants to the aboriginal cultures of the Northwest Coast of North America often takes a back seat to the iconic salmon. Keeping it Living ... brings these essential resources to the forefront.
To extol the merits of all the essays and case studies in this valuable work is beyond the limits of a brief review, but the volume is a necessary read for anyone interested in food research, ethnobotany, anthropology of food and folk foodways, and cultural representation. The excellent bibliography is a valuable resource for the intellectual history of First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast.
Douglas Deur and Nancy Turner marshal a strong collection of essays to attack the argument that indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast were purely hunter-gatherer cultures, devoid of agricultural practices because of their good fortune to occupy a resource-laden landscape. Keeping It Living is an important book that will appeal to scholars interested in Northwest Coast peoples and Native American ethnobotany in general.
This book is the first comprehensive examination of how the first people to inhabit what is now the Pacific Northwest managed the land on which they lived.
In beginning to correct a profound historical error in Northwest Coast anthropology and sister disciplines, many doors have been opened for future scholarship that re-examines the cultivation practices of coastal First Nations. As the editors acknowledge, this work will keep the knowledge of Northwest Coast Elders and their forebears alive for present and coming generations. Keeping it Living should be essential reading for all people interested in the history of the Northwest Coast.
Preface / E. Richard Atleo, Umeek of Ahousat
1. Introduction: Reassessing Indigenous Resource Management, Reassessing the History of an Idea / Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner
Part I. Concepts
2. Low-Level Food Production and the Northwest Coast / Bruce D. Smith
3. Intensification of Food Production on the Northwest Coast and Elsewhere / Kenneth M. Ames
4. Solving the Perennial Pardox: Ethnobotanical Evidence for Plant Resource Management on the Northwest Coast / Nancy J. Turner and Sandra Peacock
5. "A Fine Line Between Two Nations": Ownership Patterns for Plant Resources among Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples / Nancy J. Turner, Robin Smith, and James T. Jones
Part II. Case Studies
6. Coast Salish Resource Management: Incipient Agriculture? / Wayne Suttles
7. The Intensification of Wapato (Sagittaria latifolia) by the Chinookan People of the Lower Columbia River / Melissa Darby
8. Documenting Precontact Plant Management on the Northwest Coast: An Example of Prescribed Burning in the Central and Upper Fraser Valley, British Columbia / Dana Lepofsky, Douglas Hallett, Ken Lertzman, Rolf Mathewes, Albert (Sonny) McHalsie, and Kevin Washbrook
9. Cultivating in the Northwest: Early Accounts of Tsimshian Horticulture / James McDonald
10. Tlingit Horticulture: An Indigenous or Introduced Development? / Madonna L. Moss
11. Tending the Garden, Making the Soil: Northwest Coast Estuarine Gardens as Engineered Enrivonments / Douglas Deur
Part III. Conclusions
12. Conclusions / Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner
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