Savannahs of Living Fuel: The Coast Salish Management of Douglas-fir Bark Fuel

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 15:15
, Darcy - University of Victoria

Coast Salish peoples of southern Vancouver Island valued Douglas-fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco; Pinaceae] as “Boss of all trees.” Its bark was well-regarded as the hottest and longest-burning fuel available on the Northwest Coast. Savannah landscapes around traditional Coast Salish winter village sites are characterized by small groves of veteran Douglas-fir trees, many of which display evidence of intensive and sustained bark removal. Triangulating between an ethnoecological analysis of these modified trees, regional archaeological data, and traditional ecological knowledge suggests that bark methodically collected from living savannah-grown trees was a sustainably harvested resource for use in specialized cooking, heating, and funerary ritual. Furthermore, the specific need for Douglas-fir bark, and the risk of exhausting this fuel in those places where need was greatest, meant that Douglas-fir trees around village sites required special management to prevent bark fuel depletion.