Cultural modifications in a living museum

The Bee's Knees takes a visit to Yukusam with Seawolf Adventures.

In August a group of us travelled to Yukusam with Seawolf Adventures.

Yukusam, translated as “shaped like a halibut hook”, is also known as Hanson Island. For some, the excursion was a break from work on a burgeoning food forest garden in Port Hardy. For all, it was an occasion to visit and learn about an ancient cedar garden and a mature forest food garden.

A hike through the woods led us to anthropologist David Garrick, who has lived and worked on the island for more than twenty years.

His work includes researching and documenting the island’s forest groves containing thousands of culturally modified trees, trees altered by native people as part of their traditional use of the forest. He conveyed his knowledge, understanding and love of these groves in a way that brought to life the history of the forest and the foresters.

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, Kwakwaka’wakw foresters carefully harvested bark and planks in Yukusam cedar gardens using a sustainable forestry system that was developed, tested and perfected over millennia. Not only does this system stimulate robust tree growth and healing, over time the yield can be three to six times greater than would be realized by cutting down and killing the tree.

The tree survives and continues to grow while its harvested bark can be put to myriad uses – baskets, mats, clothes, rope, nets, halibut line.

The bark harvest was trans-generationally managed to ensure subsequent generations could return to the same groves, and even the same trees, for repeated harvests over hundreds of years.

A special type of culturally modified tree (CMT), as a result of bark harvesting over long periods of time, turns into a “talking drum”. This type is called a “core knocker”, and adds an acoustic dimension to CMT understanding.

Whether intentionally engineered or not, such trees produce deep resonating, rhythmic sounds when the wind blows, similar to certain raven vocalizations.

Their presence (and sounds) would certainly be known to subsequent generations entering the same groves to access bark. The idea of ancestors talking to present generations through the wind and the knocking trees is a revelation.

Garrick explained how Yukusam forest vividly displays history, serving as a living museum.

The story begins with two patches of original ancient forest that have never been industrially logged and ends with modern-day harvesting. In the interim there are two story lines.

The modified trees show the Kwakwaka’wakw forestry methods, followed in time by early, non-invasive, hand-logging methods of the 1850s with axes and massive handsaws.

Next, mechanized logging is introduced in the 1920s, tractor logging, and eventually clear cutting.

Meanwhile, the culturally modified trees tell the tale of the increasing stress levels of their forest tenders. As logging methods changed, residential schools were established, and potlatches were outlawed, the tree gardens were gradually neglected. Care was not being taken for the future.

The story does not end there, nor end sadly, as a new group of young foresters have recently journeyed to Yukusam to practise and demonstrate sustainable harvesting and care for the future.

To be continued …

Dawn Moorhead and David Lang are longtime practitioners of organic agriculture. They welcome your comments or questions at organic9@telus.net

 

Just Posted

OPINION: Urgent care room will cost lives

“Seniors, of any demographic, are the most vulnerable to the loss of emergency care.”

James Hayward coroner’s inquest rescheduled hours away from where RCMP shooting occured

The family is “a bit disappointed that it’s going to be held in Campbell River”

Deadline looming for North Island College scholarship applications

Students have until April 24 to apply for a record number of… Continue reading

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Gil’s Girls win Harvey Walkus Memorial Ball Hockey Tournament in shootout

This year the tournament was held at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena on April 12-14.

Parliament Hill 4-20 organizers predict record crowd after legalization

A celebration? Yes, but organizers say concerns remain about the government’s decisions on legalization rollout

Building a better learning environment for B.C. students

Minister’s message for Education Week, April 23-27

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, multiple people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Most Read