M.A. Theses: Elroy White / Xanius, 2006

Heiltsuk Stone Fish Traps: Products of My Ancestors' Labour

This thesis presents the results of systematic research on Heiltsuk stone fish traps, which are poorly understood in academia. Although they are classified as material culture, my research objective is unique in that I de-emphasize empirical data such as length, width, and height in favour of the view that these stone fish trap are products of my ancestors’ labour. From an internalist archaeology approach, I appropriated the methods of archaeology and ethnology, including videography, in order to link oral history to ethnographic narratives about this ancient fishing technology. In June 2004, I captured 42 stone fish traps on video in order to become familiar with their locations, variations and their correlations of salmon to streams and rivers where a stone fish trap is found. I returned in August 2005 to map nine of them, especially the ones familiar to Heiltsuk oral historians. Collaboration from 12 Heiltsuk oral historians enhanced and expanded previous interpretations and provides a fresh perspective about the function and seasonal operation of beach stone fish traps that primarily targeted lean salmon for smoke drying. However, my main goal was to work with the Heiltsuk political and cultural entities to employ an archaeology investigation of a fishery management system that began in antiquity.