M.A. Theses: Monica Karpiak, 2003

Modeling Nuu-chah-nulth Land Use: The Cultural Landscape of Clayoquot Sound

This thesis concerns the land use and land tenure system of the Aboriginal people resident in Clayoquot Sound. I begin by discussing the system in practice among the Nuu-chah-nulth as described in the ethnographic and ethnohistoric literature. From this synthesis, I develop the "Cultural Model" that summarizes land use by physiographic areas of Clayoquot Sound. The next step entails testing the parameters of the Cultural Model to determine if Nuu-chah-nulth land use conforms to the archaeological record. I propose two archaeological models to compare the spatial pattern of known archaeological sites to those recorded as the ethnographic pattern in order to fine-tune their parameters. First, I translate all of the components of the Cultural Model onto the landscape to create the Cultural Landscape Model. Its function is to predict the types of archaeological features that would be found within each physiographic setting, based on the land use activities described in the Cultural Model. The second archaeological model is the Habitation Site Model; its sole function is to predict the locations of habitation sites.

Developing the models from the ethnographic and ethnohistoric record brings together several strands of research material. The amount of data dedicated to the Cultural Model is best organized using geographic information systems (GIS) software. Given its parameters, the Cultural Landscape Model explains the known archaeological record suggesting there is some antiquity to the ethnographic pattern of land use. In lieu of a sustained and extensive excavation program that would prove otherwise, the Cultural Landscape Model can confidently predict the geographical location of archaeological features. In contrast, the Habitation Site Model showed little conformity with the archaeological record. Few archaeological sites inferred as former habitation sites coincided with areas that the Habitation Site Model identified as favourable. While disturbing, such results are still valuable as they can inform future research. The objective that arises from the apparent weakness in this model is to refine its function by identifying the confounding variables and correcting for them.

This thesis demonstrates that a multi-stepped approach to modelling land use, using the ethnographic and ethnohistoric literature as a starting point, can inform archaeologists about ancient land use. Combined with a rigorous field program, land use models may help us find the archaeological signatures of Nuu-chah-nulth land use and land tenure in Clayoquot Sound. A long term objective is, of course, to determine whether the land use and tenure described by early observers is consistent with Nuuchah-nulth lifeways prior to contact.