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Nisga’a architecture and landscapes : ecological wisdom and community-led design Mackin, Nancy Patricia 2004

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NISfiA'A ARCHITECTURE AND LANDSCAPES: ECOLOGICAL WISDOM AND COMMUNITY-LED DESIGN by NANCY PATRICIA MACKIN B.A (University of Western Ontario) B.Arch. (University of British Columbia) M.A.S.A. (University of British Columbia) A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Interdisciplinary Studies (Architecture, Landscape Architecture, First Nations Studies) 7e accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA June 2004 ©Nancy Patricia Mackin, 2004 ABSTRACT How are long-resident peoples' wisdom and knowledge communicated through landscape and architectural space? This thesis reconstructs spatial histories of the Nisga'a Nation to uncover how architecture and landscapes retain and adapt cultural, technological, and ecological wisdom of past generations. The Nisga'a people, who have lived for at least thirteen thousand years in the Nass River Valley of British Columbia, attest to a spirituality and cohesiveness deriving from their knowledge of and sense of belonging to the land. The knowledge is recorded here through empirical research that records elders' memories of Nass Valley structures and places. Interviews, supplemented with records of ceremonials, photographs, and extant structures, are translated into architectural drawings, models, and Geographic Information System maps. During a feast which is also a community-led research and design charrette (workshop), Nisga'a elders critique the reconstructions, verifying correlations between spatial memories and the reconstructed representations of architectural/ landscape space. The charrettes form a case study in community-led research and design. A reverse chronology, informed by oral histories and written documentation, traces landscape changes back to the beginning of Nisga'a time. Then, as the history moves forward, the people's architectural legacy is shown to encode ecological and cultural wisdom within materials, carved and painted surfaces, and evocation of place. Landscape change, mapped relative to architectural innovation, demonstrates the Nisga'a people's skill at adapting new technologies and designs to suit their visions and needs. Through an architectural repertoire based upon respect for the land, Nisga'a elders' wisdom is shown to have profound implications for on-going global negotiations with cultural and ecological change. Accumulated ecological wisdom of the long-resident people offers practical solutions and respectful philosophies for landscape use that contribute to resource abundance and cultural cohesion. The dynamic Nisga'a architectural repertoire exemplifies how age-old ecological knowledge fuses with emerging architectural and landscape technologies, facilitating adaptation to dynamic situations. Importantly, the traditional feast offers systems of communication that catalyze recollection of ecological wisdom. In this research, the feast becomes a model for community-led spatial decision-making: a process that brings elder-communicated knowledge together with innovation, thereby achieving long-term cultural and ecological sustainability. ii T A B L E OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Table of Contents i i i List of Tables vi List of Figures vi Acknowledgements xi Glossary xii CHAPTER I Introduction and Methodologies 1 1.1 Introduction: 1 1.2 Recording spatial memories 4 1.3 Measuring and construction documentation of structures 9 1.4 Visual and textual records 9 1.5 Translation into drawings, models, and GIS 11 1.6 The Charrette: verifying spatial memories 12 CHAPTER II The context: recalling history and architecture in Laxgalts'ap 13 2.1 Introduction 13 2.2 Displaced cultural/ ecological systems 14 2.3 Displacement of children's voices 16 2.4 Displacement of history-telling artistry 18 2.5 Architecture as lived history 20 2.6 Architecture as a dialogue: across time, among peoples, 27 with the landscape CHAPTER UI A Reverse Chronology of Nisga'a Cultural Landscapes 30 3.1 May 2003: Nisga'a Highway opens 31 3.2 1968 to present: Decolonizing the Landscape 34 3.3 1870-1968: A collision of cultures and landscape change 36 3.4 Asian Contacts with the Nisga'a 43 3.5 The volcano 46 3.6 Cultural Exchanges with other Native Peoples 47 3.7 Earliest Clan histories recorded in the landscape 50 3.8 Completing the circle from time immemorial to the present 51 CHAPTER IV Materials for architecture and the landscape 52 4.1 Introduction 52 4.2 Rocks, metals, and minerals 54 4.3 Zoomorphic Materials 60 4.4 Small plants and parts of trees 62 4.5 Trees 63 4.6 Finishing wood structures: materials for paint 70 CHAPTER V Buildings: oral histories, uses, drawings, and models 74 5.1 Introduction: Bringing together the measurable and the 74 immeasurable 5.2 The first Nisga'a buildings 78 5.3 The Longhouse 81 • The longhouse keeps the stories alive 81 • The Nisga'a longhouse: dimensions and construction 83 • Roof structure 85 • The house as part of the universe 89 • The Longhouse as House of Learning 90 • Named houses 98 • " H V A C " : Heating, Ventilating, and Air conditioning 100 • Longhouse innovations and cultural resilience 102 • Pacific Rim similarities 103 5.4 Other buildings for shelter or defense 104 • Spring houses and large smokehouses 102 • fortresses (walkiik and da'oots'ip), bridges, and other 106 structures for defense and trade • Hudson's Bay forts 109 • Daak' 110 • Hunting cabins/ lean-tos 111 • Underground dwellings 113 • Houses for coming of age or marriage 114 5.4 Resource structures 115 • Wilp-sihoon (Smokehouses) 115 • Food storage buildings 119 • Food preparation buildings 121 • Ganee'e (oolichan drying structure) 122 • Fishwheels 126 • Fishing and cooking sheds 127 5.5 Teaching places 127 5.6 Public Works buildings 129 5.7 Structures for worship: blended spirituality 130 5.8 Buildings of the Cultural Revival 131 5.9. Gardens 133 iv CHAPTER VI Buildings in the Landscape: Maps and site plans 137 6.1 Introduction: Mapping the changing landscape 137 6.2 Named places: Maps and histories 138 • Map group one: Early Nass Valley 138 • Map group two: post-contact maps 161 • Map group three: Remapping the Common Bowl 169 • Renaming the landscape: circling back to time 172 before memory 6.3 The Village as longhouse: architectural history of four 172 villages • Gingolx (Place of Skulls) 1 7 3 • Git'iks, Ank'idaa, Fishery Bay, and Laxgalts'ap 1 0 1 (Village on Village) • Gitwinksihlkw (People of the Place of the Lizards) and Hlaxwhl y'ans (Under Leaf) • Gitlaxt'aamiks and Old and New Aiyansh (A'ya'ns, leaves coming out) 183 187 CHAPTER VII Learning from Nisga'a Spatial Histories 191 7.1 Architecture and landscape: inseparable disciplines 191 • Bridging architecture and Landscape: Traditional 192 Ecological Knowledge and Wisdom • Architecture participates in practices and strategies for 194 sustainable living • Architecture contributes to resource monitoring and 196 conservation • Buildings as communicators and as facilitators of 198 knowledge exchange • Nisga'a architecture evokes philosophy and worldview 198 • Ethnoecology, process, and the present-day Nass Valley 201 • Architecture as a catalyst in the integration of 9 0 9 Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Western Science z u z • Direct Applications of T E K W to present-day design 204 processes o Respectful use of materials 204 o Walking and reading the site 204 7.2 Community-led Design: the Charrette process 205 7.3 Architecture as narrative 213 7.4 Applying Elder-led wisdom to the Laxgalts'ap and other 215 architectural/ landscape projects 7.5 Spatial histories: catalysts for communication and memory 222 Bibliography 224 LIST OF T A B L E S Table 1 List of Historians participating in research 8 LIST OF FIGURES Fig. la Map showing location of Nisga'a resource lands as identified in 2 the Nisga'a Treaty of May 1000. Fig. lb "View from the Rocks Behind Naas [sic] River showing 10 woman with a parasol". Painting by Barbara Crease 1880. Fig. 2 Poles and houses in Gitlaxt'aamiks before the flood of 1917 14 Fig. 3 Laxgalts'ap Daycare Center with child-sized pole and canoe 18 Fig. 4 Pts'aan (pole) from Git'iks (near Laxgalts'ap) being launched 19 into the Nass River on its way to the Royal Ontario Museum. Fig. 5 Poles cut into sections and used as supports for houses 19 Fig. 6 1887 photograph of oolichan drying racks (called ganee'e in 20 Nisga'a) Fig. 7 1990 Photograph of ganee'e, a structure that has been in use 21 since time immemorial in the Nass Valley. Fig. 8 A comparison between the 1887 photograph of ganee'e and 22 1996 construction photograph of Laxgalts'ap Village Government Offices Fig. 9 Evolution of the Laxgalts'ap Village Government Offices site 23 plan, showing orientation of the entrance towards the pts'aan (pole with all four village crests). Fig. 10 Smokehouse added behind multi-family housing, about six 27 years after the main project was completed and occupied Fig. 11 2002 photograph of the single-lane road at Lava Lake, en route 32 from the Nass Valley to Terrace Fig. 12 The May 2003 road opening ceremony at Laxgalts'ap included 33 blessings by His Excellency Bishop John Hannen and by His Excellency Bishop Sim'oogit Haymaas, Charlie Swanson. Fig. 13 Seagulls and hawks on a log in the Nass River, spotted en route 33 to Gingolx for the road opening feast. Fig.-14 Russian-style smokehouse vent 45 Fig. 15 Russian influences in Gitlaxt'aamiks: Domes and cupolas 45 inspired by Nisga'a travels to Russian settlements in what is now Alaska Fig. 16 The volcano, a catastrophic event, was recalled, sometimes 47 with the intention of teaching crucial environmental values including the value of respect for all living things Fig. 17 Oolichan processing was vital to food storage. 49 Fig. 18a Douglas fir is now found in the Nass Valley 63 Fig. 18b Wild crabapple wood was important for making pegs and other 66 construction uses that required a very hard and dense wood. Fig. 19a Cedar withes were used to tie poles together, often for the 68 purpose of holding a third component in place. vi Fig. 19b The lids of bentwood boxes were held down with twisted cedar 68 bark rope Fig. 19c Nisga'a Housefronts and bentwood boxes were painted with 71 artwork featuring black and brown-red pigments and formlines. Fig. 20 The first four houses connect architecture with the cosmos. 79 Fig. 21 "House at Nass B.C.": Pym Nevins painting c. 1850 from Lax 84 anlo'o, a village that was upstream and across the Nass River from Laxgalts'ap. Fig. 22a The model discussed at the charrettes shows the smooth 86 building front, free of projections, favored by Nisga'a architect/ artisans Fig. 22b The model with the roof removed, showing the structure below 86 Fig. 22c 1881 photograph by Edward Dossiter of a deconstructed house 87 in Kitselas showing a front wall portal and side wall frame similar to the Gitlakdamix house shown in fig. 22c. Fig. 22d, e, and f 1929 Photograph of Gitlaxt'aamiks house frame with roof 88 structure superimposed by N . Mackin Fig. 22g Fig. 22f. Pole construction with a central roof ridge and steep 88 roof pitch, shown in cookhouse construction at Fishery Bay. Fig. 22h Steeper-pitched roof forms interpreting charrette comments by 89 Horace Stevens. Fig. 22i The upper platform described in Dr. McKay's interview was 91 divided into spaces using cedar screens and the carved storage boxes of Northwest Coast tradition. Fig. 22j Drawing of excavated areas under the chiefs platform (used for 92 food storage), a food storage building beyond the walls of the longhouse, and excavated side tunnels where women and children would hide during times of danger. Fig. 22k Levering massive longhouse poles into place, following 95 description by Dr. Bert McKay. Fig. 23 This carving of a wolf spirit, drawn in about 1925 by Emily 99 Carr, seems to bring the living spirit of the crest into the dwelling. Fig. 24 The moveable vent known as ala. 100 Fig. 25 Pegged and slotted connections used in building large 105 structures Fig. 26 Wall and roof planks were tied in place using poles placed 106 across the planks and secured with a double-wrapped tied connection Fig. 27 Drawing reconstructing the hunting lean-to, using memories 112 from interviews. The tied roof structure, secured with poles and with each joint double-wrapped, is characteristic of structures built before nails were common. Fig. 28a Tied foundations of an underground structure, worked out from 113 elders' descriptions combined with photographs by Emmons (1911) of Tahltan underground structures vu Fig. 28b Underground house construction, showing planks over the tied 114 foundations system Fig. 29 Cylindrical hollows in the lava rock, like this one made by 114 spruce or cedar poles trapped and burned in the molten rock, were sometimes used as shelters. Fig. 30. Details of a smokehouse showing tied connections 118 Fig. 31a Food storage building 119 Fig. 31b Food storage building showing the manner of stacking logs 120 then chinking between them with moss and clay to make a wind-and animal-proof structure. Fig. 32 A drawing from about 1850 showing a structure with no walls, 121 and a steep roof. Photograph courtesy B.C. Archives. Fig. 33 Panorama of Red Bluff showing ganee'e, cooking sheds, and 122 smokehouses Fig. 34 Two photographs of Horace Steven's ganee'e 123 Fig. 35 Fishwheel near Gitwinksihlkw 126 Fig. 36 Exposed structure in a cooking shed at Fishery Bay. 128 Fig. 37 Community Center in New Aiyansh displays all four crests, 132 representing the Common Bowl from which all Nisga'a are nourished. Fig. 38 The stage at the New Aiyansh Hall is constructed somewhat 132 like the chiefs platform in a longhouse: opposite the entrance, beneath the peak of the rear gable, with a painted screen defining the space. Fig. 39 Nisga'a Highway Signage denoting Fishery Bay, now restored 136 to its original Nisga'a name. Fig. 40 Map showing the Haida Gwaii Refugium: a landscape that 140 existed c. 13000 years B.P., before the Great Ice Age Fig. 41 The four sacred mountains to which the Nisga'a people escaped 142 during the great flood that engulfed the land at the close of the Great Ice Age. Fig. 42 Some places from the Ayuukhl Nisga'a. Every place has a 144 name, and stories that accompany the name, the landscape, and the people of the place. Named places serve as a mental map spread across the cognitive landscape.. Fig. 43 Places in the story told by Emma Nyce, along with a photo- 148 montage of wall-less buildings from Fishery Bay and a Georgie River landscape. Fig. 44 Before the volcano of about three hundred years ago, the Nass 150 River ran a different course south of the present-day river. Important villages on the original alignment were engulfed by the molten lava. Fig. 45 Map showing houses in Gitwinksihlkw c. 1850, an ancient 152 village site that was resettled after the volcano. Fig. 46 A map of the Tahltan migration from Portland Canal to hunting 153 grounds at Meziadin V l l l Fig. 47. "The place where Sgawo sat" was at a high elevation, where 154 her grandmother's calls could be heard by the Creator. Fig. 48 Digitized Map of Grease Trails, showing connections to and 157 from Fishery Bay at the heart of the oolichan fishery. Fig. 49 Drawings of large smokehouse that people might live in. 160 Fig. 50a O'Reilly map (1892) of reserves at or near Gitwinksihlkw and 163 Aiyansh. DIAND Archives Vancouver Fig. 50b O'Reilly (1892) map of reserves at or near Angidaa. DIAND 164 Archives Vancouver. Fig. 50c O'Reilly (1892) reserve map that includes Laxgalts'ap and 164 Stoney Point. DIAND Archives Vancouver. Fig. 50d O'Reilly Map (1892) that includes Gingolx and "Red Cliff". 165 DIAND Archives Vancouver Fig. 50e O'Reilly (1892) map that includes Laxgalts'ap. 166 Fig. 51 "Map prepared by Jacob Russ... showing the location of his 168 Ancestral Hunting Grounds, also claimed by Abbi of Gitwingak" 1902 Fig. 52 Maps from Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management 171 website, showing Nisga'a place names that were agreed, under the Nisga'a Treaty, to be restored to the map of British Columbia Fig. 53a Poles from the 1931 Hudson's Bay Fort preserved in the water 174 at the old cemetery near Gingolx. Fig. 53b This painting of Kincolith from 1868 shows a row of houses 178 designed in European style, but sited in a manner not unlike longhouses. Fig. 53c Village near Laxgalts'ap "Lochanlo'o" painted by Pym Nevins 179 in the mid-eighteen hundreds is one of the earliest visual records available of Nass Valley villages. Fig. 54 Work party at Kincolith, photo 189?. 180 Fig. 55 Churches, like this one in Laxgalts'ap, were built largely by 182 community work parties and funds known as "Public Works". Fig. 56 Greenville on the Nass River, 191? 183 Fig. 57a Gitwinksihlkw house and poles before the fire of 1885 185 Fig. 57b Steel pole bases at Gitwinksihlkw are raised above the snow 186 line, ensuring that the carved stories will last a long time Fig. 57 1903 photograph of Sim'oogit Minee'eskw house, 187 Gitlaxt'aamiks. Fig, 58 The large houses were built by Nisga'a people, sometimes with 188 minimal or no floor plans, indicating the peoples' skill, resourcefulness, and exceptional architectural understanding and craftsmanship. Photograph from 189? Fig. 59 Diagram of communication strategies of traditional ecological 203 wisdom as they relate to architecture Fig. 60 Rafters in Lawrence Adam's smokehouse are at different 208 levels, allowing fish to be processed in stages. ix Fig. 61 Lawrence Adams and his grandfather built this smokehouse in 209 the traditional manner, using large planks on the outside of four corner posts. Fig. 62 Horace Stevens demonstrating a roof slope of about twelve-in- 209 twelve that is used in traditional Nass Valley buildings, a steeper pitch than that used in traditional buildings elsewhere on the Pacific Northwest Coast Fig. 63 1928 photograph of a steep-roofed building and three poles 210 taken by C F . and W.A. Newcombe at Gitlakdamix. Canadian Museum of Civilization catalogue number 70689c Fig. 64 Photographs showing the actual Laxgalts'ap Daycare Center 219 design process and modifications using charrettes as part of community-led design x A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S This work is a community-led project, co-authored by the Nisga'a people who have shared their memories, histories, wisdom, and hospitality throughout the years of research. Professor Deanna Nyce, my committee leader from within the Nisga'a communities, has been an inspiration and leader throughout. Anthropologist Allison Nyce, Manager of the Ayuukhl Nisga'a, spent countless hours reading my draft and ensuring that matters of language and culture are correctly presented in this work. Allison also introduced me to her grandmother, the gifted storyteller and historian Emma Nyce, to whom much wisdom and knowledge in this work is credited. Emma's sister Alice Azak and brother Dr. Joseph Gosnell also shared their memories and insights. Harry Nyce Sr. provided knowledge and wisdom of fishing-related structures, which formed a major impetus of this project. Many other people in Gitwinksihlkw were instrumental to this research, including Lawrence Adams, Millie Azak (chef at the Gitwinksihlkw charrettes), Harry Nyce Jr., Mansell Griffin, Kimi Hisanaga, and Jacob Nyce. In Aiyansh, I am grateful to Rod Robinson for having us over just after his fiftieth wedding anniversary feast, to Nita and Herbert Morven, and to Alver Tait who demonstrated principles of Nisga'a carving. Special thanks to Ivan Mercer for his interview and attendance at the Gitwinksihlkw Charrettes, and to all the people at Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a, especially Hazel Nyce, Marilyn Tait, Linda Adams, and Angie Percival, all of whom made my fieldwork and subsequent writing possible. Laxgalts'ap people were always welcoming, in particular Jacob McKay and Dr. Bert McKay, Charlie and Eunice Swanson, Charles Alexander, Mildred Stevens, and in particular Horace Stevens, whose knowledge underpins many architectural aspects of this work. From Gingolx, I was welcomed from the start by Chief Councilor Nelson Clayton and his mother Katherine; also by Grace Nelson. Grace's son George Nelson welcomed us on the day of his granddaughter's birthday, and took us to see the submerged Hudson's Bay Fort and monuments in the old cemetery. Artist Robert Stanley and photographers Gary Fiegehen and Yuichi Takasaka were generous with their time, artistry, and knowledge. Thank you also for everyone who attended the Gitwiksihlkw feast/ charrettes. Much appreciation is accorded to my committee chair, Dr. Sherry McKay, who has taught me to write and to focus on an idea. I acknowledge with gratitude the assistance of Dr. Nancy Turner, whose support extended to accompanying me in the charrettes and feast, and to Dr. Charles Menzies, who helped me to see connections between fishing and architectural technologies. Other contributions to the research include support from Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a, the University of British Columbia Graduate Fund, a travel and teaching grant from Individual Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program, GIS map layers from Nisga'a Lisims Government and U B C Forestry, and archival support from the Museum of Anthropology Vancouver and the Royal BC Museum. Special thanks to my son, Robert Mackin-Lang, who accompanied me on all my journeys to and through the Nass Valley as photographer and guide, and to my husband, Dr. Robert Lang, who remained patient for the entire three-and-one-half years of this Ph.D. My mother Evelyn Mackin inspired me with her artistic talents, and my father, William Mackin, provided advanced computer assistance on matters no-one else could figure out. xi G L O S S A R Y Adaawak Story, legend, history Ayukws Pictorial representation of an adaawak (School District 92 1996) Ayuuk Law Ayuukhl Nisga'a Nisga'a Laws Daawiis Stone axe Dawihl Years ago, a long time ago Diwaax To come in by paddle Ganada Raven tribe (subcrest Frog) Ganee'e Three-poled rack for drying oolichans Giiksihl wilp History from long ago Giikw Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla Giskaast Killerwhale tribe (subcrest Owl) Haas Fireweed, Epilobium augustifolium Hasgaltkw Antlers (Morven 1996) Haykw spirit Huwilp Plural of wilp Jijii grandmother K'ookst White Maple or Douglas Maple, Acer glabrum Laxgibuu Wolf tribe (subcrest Bear) Laxsgiik Eagle tribe (subcrest Beaver) Mak'a'am-lo'op Stone-moving feast Milks Wild Crabapple, Malus fusca Naxnok Power of spirits, gifts, or extraordinary strength (Guedon 1984) Noow Storage basket Pdo'o door Pts'aan Totem or crest pole Sdatx Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica Seeks Spruce, Picea sitchensis Sgwinee Yellow-cedar, Chamaecyparis nookatensis Sigidim haanak Plural of sigidimnak Sigidimnak^ Matriarch, the highest ranking woman in a wilp Sihlguuhlkws To adopt (somebody) Sihoon To catch and process fish Simgan Western Red-cedar, Thuja plicata Simgigat Plural of Sim'oogit Sim'oogit Chief Sginist Jackpine, Lodgepole pine, Pinus cpntorta ssp. Latifolia Waagaa rings for oolichan poles Wahaas Fireweed pith Wan Deer (Morven 1996) Wilp Chieftain house Wilpsihoon Smokehouse Wo'omhlkw Cradle Xbiinaaxw Spine Xdaa Mattress, featherbed Xlaahl Willow Xslogalo'opkw To be dark brown in colour Xsmaakskw To be light in colour Xsmaaytkw To be purple in colour Xst'uuts'kw To be dark in colour Ye'e grandfather Yukw settlement feast Yuusa'alt A container for picking berries Sources: Haniimagoonisgum Algaxhl Nisga'a (WWN 2001) Sim'algax, A Nisgha Alphabet in Pictures (School District 92 1979) Nisga'a Language Student Vocabulary Guide (WWN 2001) From Time before Memory (Morven 1996) Special assistance from Allison Nyce and Verna Williams Botanical names from Plant Technology of First Peoples in British Columbia (Nancy Turner 1998) xiii CHAPTER I Introduction and Methodologies 1.1 Introduction This research reconstructs, in drawings, models, maps, and narrative, the spaces that are important to Nisga'a people, and the knowledge that is retained and adapted within those spaces. It explores buildings as part of the land, as representations of social structure, and as cultural achievements, while reconstructing specific building traditions and values within the rich architectural heritage of the Nisga'a Nation. The research began during the author's working experiences in the Nass Valley, a mountainous coastal watershed adjacent to the Alaska panhandle and the Nisga'a Nation's traditional homelands (fig. la). The Nisga'a people, one of three Tsimshian-speaking First Nations living in Northwestern British Columbia, have lived in the rain-forested valley since time immemorial, time before memory, archeologically established to be at least twelve thousand years before present (B.P.) (Carlson 1976; Marsden, Anderson, and Nyce 2002). Time immemorial, a concept recognized in Canadian law as an attribute of Aboriginal title, can be traced, on the Northwestern Pacific Coast, at least as far back as the retreat of the great ice sheet (Tennant 1995: 2003). Nisga'a people are known both for their ancient culture and for their modern achievements. For thousands of years Nisga'a Lands were at the center of the Genim Sgeenix (Grease Trails) that interconnected much of the Pacific Northwest; recently, the landmark Nisga'a Treaty of May 2000 became the first treaty ratified in British Columbia since 1899. The treaty made history with its Aboriginal self-government and resource management provisions (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada 2004, Nisga'a Lisims Government 2004). For this ancient/ modern culture, I was commissioned, as principal of Nancy Mackin Architecture, to design several projects for Laxgalts'ap, one of the four modern Nisga'a villages. Each of the four has its own Village Government—but all four consciously decided in the 1890's to act as one and to be part of the Common Bowl—'saytk'ilhl wo'osihl Nisga'a—the landscapes from which all Nisga'a are nourished. My first Nass Valley commission was the Laxgalts'ap Village Government Office Building, which at first was planned to be a collection of portable structures but for which limited additional funding had been found for a more permanent structure. During design meetings for their new building, Laxgalts'ap Council instructed me in historic events and their direct implications on spatial layouts. Nisga'a buildings and their sites intertwine with oral and written history, explained then Laxgalts'ap Chief Councilor Alvin McKay: the distant and recent past are recalled in narratives, which are in turn represented in built form and landscape change. The narrative continues through the present, through community-led design, and into the future, as new structures and associated landscapes participate in history that had not yet been told. Nisga'a leader Alvin McKay demonstrated, during the architectural design process, how recent events added additional meanings to pre- and post-missionary architectural conventions, such as placement of entrances and the location of meeting spaces. He spoke of spatial concepts, drawn from pre-written and modern history, which surprised younger Nisga'a councilors and the design team. About two years later, more oral history was offered, this time at the naming feast of Wilp Saytk'ilimgoothl Laxgalts'ap—the Place that Lives as One, the Laxgalts'ap Government 1 Offices. At this multi-generational feast, celebratory songs, speeches, and dances acknowledged the new building's role within the Nisga'a Nation's then-anticipated, re-recognized participation in modern Canada. 200000 200000 400000 Meters Alaska 'anhandle USA/ Canada Jorder Haida Gwair Nass River N + Nisga'a resource lands British Columbia Fig. la Map showing location of Nisga'a resource lands as identified in the Nisga'a Treaty of May 2000. GIS map produced by N . Mackin June 3, 2004 using base data provided by Nisga'a Lisims Government Vancouver Island How would new and past technologies, ecological knowledge, and cultural narratives be stored in architectural works such as the one just completed, and in the landscapes that had been restored to the Nisga'a people? The search began with supplementing architectural experiences acquired via three projects in Laxgalts'ap with research experiences, documenting Nisga'a buildings and landscapes as found in written, pictorial, and oral histories. As the search progressed, uses, meanings, and technologies of landscape and architectural space were found to collate ideas that have developed since Native people have lived on the Pacific Northwest Coast—since time immemorial. "Most Northwest Coast histories do not go back far enough [in time]", lamented legal historian Paul Tennant (2003). This research attempts to answer the challenge of reaching 2 back as far as time immemorial. Such an extended history requires processes that facilitate the gathering of materials dating back countless generations. This is made difficult by the fact that many traditional types of Nisga'a structures are no longer in evidence in the Nass Valley. To answer these challenges, empirical data-gathering entailed listening to peoples' memories of buildings, along with measuring, drawing, and otherwise becoming actively involved in collecting and translating architectural and landscape knowledge. Chapter one outlines methodologies used, and particularly the emphasis here on elders' oral histories along with a wide cross-section of academic disciplines and many non-written archival sources. It explains methodologies that are guided by research protocols established by the Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a (WWN or Nisga'a House of Wisdom). The chapter also summarizes values underlying research processes, particularly those influenced by Linda Tuhiwai Smith's Decolonizing Methodologies (1999). Chapter two returns to the author's recent work as architect in the Nass Valley village of Laxgalts'ap, since these experiences provided observations that led to research questions, provided the author's first opportunities to collate knowledge found within traditional structures, and provided an introduction to Nisga'a history. A brief history of Laxgalts'ap compares certain sounds heard at different times in village history—a kind of comparative sound portrait. Parallels between architectural production and audible culture in the form of songs and stories bring forward themes about the integration of landscape, architecture, and oral history. Chapter three is an introductory overview of Nisga'a architectural history within the landscape context of the Nass Valley and the larger context of the Northwest Pacific Coast. Like an archeological excavation, this history is told in reverse, beginning with events from May 2003 (the Nisga'a highway road opening ceremony) and working back towards time before memory. Following the non-linear pattern of memory itself wherein long-term memories become stronger over a lifetime, the reversal of chronology also evokes the integration of past and present that is inherent in the Nisga'a and many other aboriginal peoples' worldviews (Turner, Ignace, and Ignace 2000: 1279). The overview uncovers correlations between oral history and archeological or geological research, contributing evidence that oral histories are more than memories coloured and altered by experience. The Nisga'a elders' memories are shown to be clear representations of landscape and cultural change and of the relationships between those changes. Switching direction and scale, Chapter four proceeds forward in time and focuses into finer detail, retelling a history of materials used in buildings from earliest times. The relationship between materials knowledge and architectural design solutions is investigated. Deep understanding of materials and landscapes contributes to the design of a diversity of buildings types that are constructed by the Nisga'a people. This wisdom is reconstructed in Chapter five. Unlike many chronologies of Northwest Coast architecture, this history avoids the misconception that Northwest Coast culture was relatively static before European contact (Ostrowitz 1999). Instead, the architecture demonstrates that Northwest Coastal and other Aboriginal achievements were progressing simultaneously with those in Europe and Asia. Maps of places in the Nass Valley, and the relationships of places to the buildings, materials, and stories gathered in earlier chapters, comprise Chapter six. The chapter concludes with a brief history of the villages that would become co-governments under the Nisga'a treaty, and 3 investigates the patterns of land-use pattern and ownership that changed over the history of those villages. Chapter seven applies what has been learned to architectural and landscape production beyond the Nass Valley. The concluding discussion returns to the design projects described in Chapter two, imagining how improved knowledge gleaned through the years of Ph.D. research would have influenced the design commissions. The final chapter also documents the Charrettes: the feedback given by elders to the original research of this document. Guided by elders' feedback, the chapter discusses the role of spaces in peoples' adaptability to gradual and cataclysmic change, the ecological and cultural knowledge stored within structures and their places in the landscape, community-led spatial decision-making, and the use of space to prompt memory recollection and to reinforce cultural cohesion. 1.2 Recording spatial memories The memories of elders from the Nass Valley communities provided the most meaningful guidance and knowledge for this architectural and landscape history. Active involvement of people in the Nisga'a communities has been vital. For this document, many Nisga'a elders and friends have shared their knowledge, personal history, and understanding about buildings and the landscape, in the interests of teaching others about respect for the land. Acknowledging the wisdom of the elders, and following the protocols set out by Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a, this research has elected to gather and use knowledge through Participatory Research. Evans, McDonald, and Nyce (2000) define Participatory Research Methods as "those that involve communities in research projects from the moment a project is conceived, to choosing what data is collected, to the drafting of results, through to deciding how the completed research is used. Such methods are intended to move the power inherent in the production of knowledge into the hands of the community. A number of potential benefits result from this, not the least of which is an informed and empowered community" (ibid: 2). Research concepts, for this particular project, emerged in concert with Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a. After an introductory meeting with CEO and Professor Deanna Nyce in the fall of 2002, I submitted a detailed research outline for consideration by the W W N Board of Directors. The outline demonstrated how purpose, methodology, results, use, publications, and confidentiality would comply with protocols established by the Nass Valley communities. These protocols specified that all materials and research results would be disclosed to the W W N before publication, and that the W W N retains the right to comment on and revise the results. Further, since ownership of all research information resides with the Nisga'a people, all interview transcripts will be returned to the communities five years after completion (the information must remain in the author's control for five years, according to University of British Columbia regulations). Based on the submitted proposal, the W W N Board of Governors accepted the research in December of 2002, and recommended that Deanna Nyce become one of my four-person research committee. Processes of research were also reviewed in detail, and accepted, by the University of British Columbia Ethical Review Board. 4 About eight months later, in July 2003, I received a Nisga'a name, Hla hii gum' Hloks, Morning Sun. At a stone moving feast I became a member of the Killer Whale tribe or Gisk'aast pdeek, in a process called sihlguuhlkws. The responsibilities of sihlguuhlkws include helping out with feasts held by the Killer Whales, and participating in Nisga'a customs, celebrations, and beliefs. Sihlguuhlkws also reinforces the author's responsibilities to listen to Nass Valley elders, and respect their wishes about what is researched and how it is published. By receiving a name, I too became a participant in the research, and the research itself emerged from behind the barriers of academia to become "scholarship built on local knowledge" (Anderson and Nyce 1999: 290). When the research was nearly complete, my name was strengthened during the charrettes/ feast in Gitwinksihlkw. "Participatory methods are also based on the premise that the product and the process of research must benefit the community" As part of returning the production of knowledge back to communities, it important to let people tell their own histories, in their own way. To this end, "participatory interviews" (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.) were used here: a conversational approach that left interviewees free to tell what they believe is important about the built and natural environment. The oral histories of Nisga'a historians decided which spaces would be documented in this research. Giving each interviewee jurisdiction over the buildings and landscapes discussed became an "arbiter of value (Schama 1995): the goal became to emphasize structures or innovations prioritized by Nisga'a historians. This approach was beneficial: more rather than less knowledge was gleaned. The elders did not avoid any topics I suggested, but rather elaborated upon my questions in often surprising ways, taking the conversation in unanticipated directions. Architecture and landscape had different significance for each elder, and the stories offered to explain the significance of buildings, gardens, or places contributed unexpected depth to this research. For each interview, I came at a time that was selected by the storyteller/ historian, arranged in advance by telephone. The W W N generously provided me with the use of a telephone and contact numbers for Nisga'a citizens. My thirteen year-old son, who accompanied me on the interviews, used a video camera to tape most of the elders' histories, as long as the interviewee felt comfortable with video. (One interviewee preferred that we record using audio-tape only). The visual and audible record helped me to transcribe hard-to-understand words by cross-referencing the sounds of words with facial expression. Also, gestures were often a part of the elder's history: an elder would demonstrate the diameter of a log with circled arms or the size of a space by pointing to an object of a recognizable size or distance away. Some videotapes will be of future educational use, notably the "Longhouse as House of Learning" history provided by now-deceased leader Dr. Bert McKay. Each interview provided some instruction in protocol or methodology as well as in history. From Dr. Bert McKay, for example, I learned not to interrupt an elder telling a story, and to be patient with the pauses and silences while a storyteller/ historian collected his or her thoughts before continuing. (Fortunately that was one of my first interviews! "I was getting to that", he admonished gently after I interjected a question during a silence part way through his discussion). Emma Nyce showed me how to listen too: on my second visit to her house, she arranged some small stools around her where I could sit close by, rather than sitting across the room on a sofa as I had on my first visit. The interviews did not take place all in one field session. Rather, they occurred over a twelve month period, from March 2003 to March 2004, with one intensive summer of research part 5 way through the fieldwork. The extended fieldwork schedule was a useful way to gradually learn about the culture and to think about what I had learned before proceeding further. Returning to the Nass Valley after a few months of transcription also gave opportunities to revisit people and ideas. The early interviews and numerous visits between 1995 and 2002 prepared me for the intensive summer of 2003. Pre-fieldwork visits were instructive because I had time to decide where my son and I could live for the summer (in a cabin near New Aiyansh) and to consider what we might need to bring with us in the way of academic, interview, and other fieldwork materials (notably the four-volume Ayuukhl Nisga'a, drawing tablets, still camera, and video and audio tapes). The later interviews from fall 2003 to spring 2004 filled in gaps in my knowledge and understanding. Because my fieldwork was comprised of numerous "sessions", I was able to attend a range of traditional feasts including celebrations of weddings, a fiftieth anniversary, the Gingolx-Laxgalts'ap road opening, Dr. McKay's funeral, and several stone moving and naming feasts. Several of the feast proceedings became enormously important to this Ph.D. work. Speeches were often about history and about landscapes. Attending a feast was a lesson in the spaces people occupied and in the social uses of space. The intertwining of food and wisdom became a practice for my son and I, rather than an abstract idea. From my feast experiences, I began to see how to structure the charrettes of this research. Fellow guests at the feast would give us helpful hints about social expectations and customs, thereby helping me to learn the manners expected of people working in the communities. The information was always offered without criticism: "My grandmother taught me to stay until the end of a feast" was a guideline rather than an instruction. Sometimes I was unexpectedly asked to help with a task, such as playing the organ at a wedding. I was then compensated for my time out of the Common Bowl, and so experienced the generosity of a feast-giving culture. "Learning by doing" (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.), the foundation of Nisga'a education, informed my research as much as learning by reading, writing, and interviewing. The research undertaken in the Nass Valley follows closely the values outlined in Linda Tuhiwai Smith's Decolonizing Methodologies (1999). Particularly influential here is Smith's exhortation that research must give back to indigenous communities the knowledge that has been taken, submerged, or partially erased (Smith 1999). Returning knowledge is the antithesis of knowledge-taking research practices that had sometimes been used after 1885, when researchers and collectors became interested in British Columbian northern cultures. Removal of Native peoples' land, culture, and resources became common practice—a practice this research strives to reverse. An example of research practices not acceptable to this research was observed by anthropologist Franz Boas, who in 1930 attended a feast in Fort Rupert. "The host chief, Boas wrote, made a speech while the meat was distributed: 'This bowl, in the shape of a bear, is for you and you, and so on; for each group a bowl.' Boas had heard a similar speech forty-five years earlier. 'But the bowls are no longer there', he later wrote in his diary. 'They are in the museums in New York and Berlin'" ((NTC 1998: 5). The researchers who had come before Boas had been offered sustenance from the community, and left not only with full bellies but also with the table service. Taking more than being offered, acting with manners unacceptable to host peoples, and being secretive or subversive about what was taken, were frequent transgressions of University-based researchers. 6 Learning the manners of the feast of knowledge to which I had been invited meant giving much of the power concerning who would be interviewed, what knowledge was gathered, and how knowledge would be used, to my "hosts"—in particular the W W N and members of the Nisga'a Council of Elders. A l l continued to support and guide this research through to the final presentation at a feast in Gitwinksihlkw, when elder Horace Stevens thanked me for "the wonderful day I had chosen to become one of us" (Gitwinksihlkw Charrettes 2004). The success of participatory research and of working with the communities in equal partnership rather than as researcher and subjects (Anderson and Nyce 1999) was thereby acknowledged. If research belongs to a First Nation, then the scholarship methods must be based on the principles and practices of the Nation (ibid). Pedagogical traditions of the Nass Valley, I learned, involve listening to diverse voices from within the Nisga'a community while emphasizing the testimony of elders whose cultural knowledge is particularly respected. To accommodate people from the complex Nisga'a social/ landholding systems, people from all four crests—Gisk'aast (Killerwhale), Ganada (Raven), Laxsgiik (Eagle), and Laxgibuu (Wolf)—and all four villages—Gingolx, Laxgalts'ap, Gitwinksihlkw, and New Aiyansh— contributed to the interviews (table 1). In this selection process, the guide has been the four-volume Ayuukhl Nisga'a (cultural law of the Nisga'a) (WWN 2001), the recently published collective history of the Nisga'a. There are differences however. The Ayuukhl Nisga'a arranges orally delivered narratives into the four crest groups with the explanation "the tribal clan system provides the basic foundation for both the social organization and the system of property ownership of our people. In other words, the tribal clan system defines the two most fundamental kinds of relationships of the Nisga'a: the relationships between people, and the relationships between people and the land" (Ayuukhl Nisga'a II: v). Table one demonstrates how the four clans, and all four modern Nisga'a villages, contribute to the research. This Ph.D. document also emphasizes the four crests, but generally arranges narratives according to time frame or scale, since the present research is about history (time) and spaces (scale). Pedagogical traditions of communities must also be articulated. In Nisga'a tradition, the highest teachers are chiefs and matriarchs, particularly those who have lived in the traditional territory for much of their lives (Ben Stewart pers. comm.). These men and women are among those entrusted with the communication of cultural information to future generations, and are recognized in the Nisga'a community as cultural leaders as well as teachers. In this research, I asked Deanna Nyce to help me define who in the communities was a guardian of knowledge, and specifically of knowledge about buildings, landscapes, and their histories. Deanna's recommended interviewees were supplemented with people I had met while working on architectural projects in the Nass Valley. Community leaders from the Village and Lisims (central Nisga'a) Governments suggested additional contacts, including some young people (non-elders) in the four Lisims communities who possess particular knowledge that has been shared with them by elders. Because about half of the Nisga'a people in British Columbia live in urban centers away from the Nass Valley, Nisga'a cultural leaders in the urban centers also contributed knowledge about their personal or family histories. The goal was to include stories from many backgrounds, to perceive the diversity within a culture as well as the practices and knowledge that are shared. 7 Table 1 H I S T O R I A N S P A R T I C I P A T I N G I N R E S E A R C H The letters after each person's name indicate his or her crest: KW=Killer Whale, E=Eagle, F/R=Frog/ Raven, W=Wolf. Name spellings graciously provided by Allison Nyce, Manager of Ayuukhl Nisga'a. Gingolx Laxgalts 'ap Gi twinks ih lkw New Aiyansh Nelson Clayton Charlie Swanson F/R Allison Nyce K W Nita Morven F/R W Sim'oogit Hay'maas Sigidimnak Sigidimnak^ Ksim Sim'oogit Goypax wi l Sook' Hlabikskvv ginadahl hloks Katherine Jacob McKay E Harry Nyce E Hubert Macmillan W Clayton W Sim'oogit Bayt Neekhl Sim'oogit Sim'oogit Ksdiyaawak Sigidimnak Sagaw'een Bert McKay F/R Emma Nyce E Joe Gosnell i Sim'oogit Axd i i W i l Sigidimnak' Hlgu Sim'oogit Hleek Luu Gooda wilksihlgum Maaskgum HI bin Grace Nelson E Horace Stevens F/R Lawrence Adams Herbert Morven W Sigidimnak' Sim'oogit Ni'isjoohl K . W Sim'oogit K'eexkw Axdi i Ki iskw Sim'oogit Axdiion Akshl Hlyoon Charles Alexander F/R Deanna Nyce Rod Robinson E Sim'oogit Gadim K / W Sigidimnak Sim'oogit Minee'eskw Galdoo'o Gyaks Sgiihl Anluuhl Kwhl Psda'y Robert Stanley Mildred Stevens Jacob Nyce W Alver Tait E K W Sim'oogit Sigidimnak' Sim'oogit Baxk'ap Sim'oogit Gadee'lip Amt'ugwax George Nelson Alice Azak E Ivan Mercer K W E Sim'oogit Sigidimnak' Sim'oogit Bahlxkw Mahlhaas W i i Seeks Xsgaak Since men and women each protect and communicate distinct aspects of cultural life (Smith 1999), it is crucial to include people of both genders. Spatial knowledge can be particularly 8 gender-distinctive (ibid). This research therefore tries to balance the number of men and women who contribute their knowledge. Importantly, before using the interviews, written consent was obtained from the individual. Several Nisga'a elders were surprised to see the forms. Alice Azak commented that of the many interviewers who had come to talk with her I was the only one who had brought a consent form (interview 2003). Even after consent was obtained for this research, the knowledge has been used with care, respecting the providers' wishes. In all cases, ownership of stories has been carefully designated. Another attribute of both decolonizing and participatory research is that the results are intended to be useful (Smith 1999). To this end, "Nisga'a Architecture and Landscapes" is written so that all or portions of the research may be added to teaching materials used by School District 92 and the W W N . The document is also available as a resource for future design and construction, since history often provides insights into solutions for future needs. "Coming to know the past has become part of the critical pedagogy of decolonization. To hold alternative histories is to hold alternative knowledges. The pedagogical implication of this access to alternative knowledges is that they can form the basis of alternative ways of doing things" (Smith 1999: 34). The search for architectural histories extended beyond conversations with elders, to include other forms of orally conveyed knowledge. Carvings, paintings, dances, and ceremonies were studied to find within them conceptions of space that both include and transcend what is usually classified as architectural space. Arrangements of villages, gardens, performances, artworks, food gathering areas, buildings, and spaces surrounding and within buildings all constitute this wider definition of space. This method recognizes that diverse modes of cultural production were used collectively to record clan or family stories and convey cosmological ideas (NTC 1998). 1. 3 Measuring and construction documentation of structures Architectural traditions that are still in evidence provide another body of historic evidence. With permission of building owners, I measured, drew, and photographed a variety of above-ground buildings and associated landscapes, particularly a cookhouse at Fishery Bay that was built much like a traditional longhouse, a smokehouse, and a ganee'e or oolichan drying rack (three-poled racks for preserving oolichan, the smelt-like fish that were a key to the rich Lisims economy). Also very useful was a video camera, which enabled me to record the way buildings were being used. Still camera photographs documented many buildings and landscapes. As with interviews, I documented buildings and landscapes that the elders indicated were of importance, as well as some that I discovered during my many stays in the Nass Valley area. 1.4 Visual and textual records Before modeling or drawing buildings and landscapes, I supplemented oral history and measured drawings with research from other sources—paintings, photographs, artifacts, and descriptions found within archives or museums. Many of these histories are coloured by values that may be obscured; analytical processes therefore draw attention to preconceptions hidden within. For example, most photographs, landscape paintings, and written records used in this document were produced in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, a 9 period when "Western Science" prescribed specific modes of seeing and doing. The mostly non-Nisga'a observers and producers play an active role in the nature of information gathered. Post-missionary photographs, landscape paintings, maps, and treatises, however, were not free of the artists', writers', or cartographers' values. Early nineteenth century depictions of the Nass Valley often feature non-Native, boats, buildings, and people. One reason may be the intended audience for commercial photographs and paintings. The mostly Victoria-based artists (notably Richard Maynard and Frederick Dally) had an audience in the people who wanted the "colonies" (as the Canadian West was known) to appear "progressive"— Westernized. In the following example (fig. lb), early visual depictions of the Nass Valley may possibly have been structured so as to soften the frightening impression of wilderness: "The glories of the landscape might be appreciated by viewers in Europe, but those who know the hardships of life in the British Columbia Wilderness were more anxious to show the civilization that had been brought to it" (Jackson 1989: 21 and 23). The critics may also be wrong about the meaning in the photographs. It is possible that artist Barbara Lindley Crease painted "View from the Rocks" showing a woman on her way to the church in Fishery Bay, stopping to admire the orderly arrangement of oolichan racks and the matchless Nass Valley scenery. Perhaps the artist was painting a picture that accurately reflected the integration of cultural strengths that characterizes the people of the Nass and many other Northwest Coastal peoples. Courtesy of BC Archives c o l l e c t i o n s - C a l l Hunber: PDP02972 ^:ARo v AI BC M U S E U M Web: uuu .bca r ch iues . 9 0 u . b c . c a Emai l : 3 c c e s s@uuu.bcarch iues . 9 0 u .bc .ca 'X> - Prow i ded f o r Research F'urposes On I v - Use fo r prof 11 requ i res f ee T i t l e : VieH Fron Rocks Behind Naas R iver [Shouing Honan . . . Fig. lb. "View from the Rocks Behind Naas [sic] River showing woman with a parasol". Painting by Barbara Lindley Crease, August 1880. Courtesy British Columbia Archives. 10 Along with integrating materials from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal sources, this research brings together ideas and processes from diverse academic disciplines. Selected natural and agricultural sciences (ecology, physics, botany, ethno-botany, and landscape architecture), applied sciences (engineering and architecture), and humanities (geography and fine arts) each function within the overall project of decoding Nisga'a oral histories. For example, observing changes in the landscape is facilitated by GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies, while observing changes in architectural production employs elder-led critiques of architectural drawing and three-dimensional modeling. Combining disciplines, and resolving different languages of thought, is a key methodology of this work 1.5 Translation into drawings, models and GIS These three compilations of empirical research—interviews, measuring, and archival searches—were then translated from words and gestures into architectural drawings and models, and into GIS. The processes of translation are iterative and similar to strategies used in design: listening, changing ideas into drawings and models, adding research from other sources, and reviewing modeled results with those who first re-imagined the spaces. Scale was generally established by comparison: for example, people would describe a space as larger or with greater volume than the one they were in at the time of the interview. Sometimes elders would use gestures to show the size of a building component, particularly the circumference of poles which was shown by a circle of the arms. Several men involved in construction or woodworking specified dimensions. Detailing was more difficult, particularly finding out about how building components had been tied together. Only one interviewee, Jacob McKay, used sketches to explain his memories and the ideas his grandparents had explained to him. To reconstruct the buildings and detail described by elders, a variety of representations were used. Perspective sketches that show the exterior of buildings within their context were sometimes the easiest way to demonstrate relationships between landscape and built form. More complex buildings were built up gradually from a structural framework, and then details and cladding added as though reconstructing the building on paper. The most complex structure, the longhouse, was gradually drawn in plan, section, elevation, site plan, structural diagram, and details. Since none of the drawings on its own expressed the complexity of the longhouse, a model was used to explain relationships among the orthogonal drawings (drawings set at right angles to one another, such as floor plan—an imaginary horizontal slice through a building looking down at the floor, or a section—an imaginary vertical slice through a building, usually parallel to a wall and perpendicular to the floor, and elevations— drawings of the faces of a building, projected on a plane perpendicular to the floor). Other buildings were also shown orthogonally, using plans, sections, and elevations, most often at a scale on one-quarter inch per foot. Landscape histories were shown primarily as new, heads-up digitized map layers within a Geographic Information System. (Heads-up digitizing is adding features by measuring their position on a pre-existing map layer, such as one showing rivers or landscape contours). The new information came from photographs, archival maps, archival notes, and from stories that 11 told of adjacencies or distances between places. Pre-existing layers were obtained from Nisga'a Lisims Government, under a data sharing agreement that permitted their use for this research only. Perspective drawings of buildings and photographs of places were "hot-linked" to places identified on the new GIS layers: that is, the representative sketch was shown adjacent to the place, so that working within a GIS program I could click on the place and the images would appear. In this way the link between representations of landscape and the buildings belonging to that landscape was reinforced. 1.6 The Charette: verifying spatial histories After drawings and models had been completed, the final stage of empirical or field research involved asking the elders to review architectural and landscape representations, utilizing an interactive discussion of models and drawings—the charrette. I invited interviewees and other elders to a pre-dinner gathering. Then, in the Nisga'a feast tradition, I sent an open invitation to people of the four Nass Valley communities to attend dinner and charrettes. To both groups, I presented reconstructions of buildings and landscapes, and received feedback from the people in attendance. Through charrettes, the elders and author verified Nisga'a architecture, both as reflections about social structure and as buildable entities. "Charrette" has been defined by Professor Patrick Condon as "a time-limited exchange of design ideas among people of diverse expertise to resolve common principles" (pers. comm.). A branch of the American Institute of Architecture adds that the term derives from "en charrette, a French term referring to the old Ecole de Beaux Arts, where at the deadline of a design problem, a cart (or charrette) would roll down the studios to pick up the grand renderings of the students. Of course, there never was enough time to do render everything that needed to be drawn, and students would actually be drawing on the carts as they moved, en charrette, taking every last minute available to finish their work" (San Antonio ALA Public Studio Library 2004). In the case of this research, cultural histories acquired through oral, visual, and written records were reconstructed in models and sketches to reconstruct remembered knowledge, and then presented back to the communities during an appreciation dinner. An interactive dialogue about the form and use of spaces used models and drawings as catalysts. This is a process frequently used by the author for community design projects, as a way to make peoples' images of space match what was finally designed, and to derive practical and sustainable development solutions that are supported by the community. 12 CHAPTER TWO: No longer silent: architectural experiences in Laxgalts'ap 2.1 Introduction History is first recalled here only as a fragment of oral history, remembered by the author. Only recollections exist of Dr. Frank Calder's keynote address, which was neither audio-recorded nor written down: a two-hour history of the Nisga'a people, delivered October 6, 1998 just before the four modern Nisga'a villages voted to ratify the treaty that would verify ownership of Nass Valley lands. On this occasion, the naming feast of Laxgalts'ap Village Government Offices, Dr. Calder related his grandfather's memory from the late nineteenth century. Dr. Calder told about one sunny afternoon when Nisga'a people were gathered on the banks of Old Aiyansh. They saw eight people across the river, setting up tents and tripods. A Nisga'a contingent poled over in canoes to ask what was going on. The visitors replied, "We're surveyors, looking to set a boundary line, and when we're finished we're going to come to you and tell you that the Queen is going to give you some of this land." The next morning several canoes returned to the surveyors' camp. This time the Nisga'a people were armed with Hudson Bay muskets. "Get off our land," they told the surveyors. Some fifty years after the first surveyors left, the Nisga'a were allotted only seventy-six square kilometers of their homeland—and they did not own the land. In 1920 the Canadian Government decreed that British Columbian First Nations children must go to residential school, usually far away from home. The village fell silent (remembered speech 1998; also partially retold Calder 2003). As Dr. Calder continued his speech, now in the Nisga'a language, the imagined silence of a village without children contrasted vividly with the music- and dance-filled celebrations all present had just witnessed: celebrations that brought together all generations, two religious traditions, and worldviews of a building as a named participant in village life. I imagined the silence of a village without children. The contrast between the not-too-distant past—a silent village—and the exceptional four-part a capella harmonies of the villagers' singing that day, appeared to parallel the contrast between a view of buildings as boards/ poly/ drywall assemblages, and one of the new building which was being welcomed as a living, named entity within a dynamic political/ cultural landscape. Laxgalts'ap, which approximately translates to "village on village", was reconstructed as an Anglican Church mission in 1864 (Inglis, Hudson, et al 1990) on the site of a Nisga'a community that has been traced back to about 5500 years B.P. (Cybulski 1992). Like other villages built by the Nisga'a along Lisims, or the Nass River, the original village structures were built according to an ancient code of knowledge and laws—the Ayuukhl Nisga'a (AN) (Nisga'a Tribal Council 1993). The Code, which existed to save lives and inhabitants and to maximize safety, was also a dictum of human behavior (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). Within the Ayuuk are stories wherein the Creator directed houses to be constructed from poles, beams, and joists. The prescribed structural form followed the example of the first four lodges that represented the four crests of Nisga'a society (ibid). With their wooden skeletons, and cladding that could be removed in summer, structures based on the ancient oral code were seen as both living beings, and subsets of the world and its patterns (Nisga'a Tribal Council 1998). "The Nisga'a considered the world to be like a huge box—containing all the souls of the universe...The lineage or family group—-a collectivity of souls—was contained in a house constructed like a box" (ibid: 32). The house/ box also became a record of the family stories, the clan the family belonged to, and the animals or symbols of nature that 13 taught the family how to survive (Eli Gosnell: introduction to A N II). A system of four clans—Gisk'aast (killerwhale), Ganada (Raven), Laxsgiik (eagle), and Laxgibuu (Wolf)— represented both the beginnings of each lineage and anchor Nisga'a society: "The tribal clan system provides the basic foundation for both the social organization and the system of property ownership of our people. In other words, the tribal clan system defines the two most fundamental relationships of the Nisga'a: the relationships between people, and the relationships between people and the land" (ibid). The system also is part of survival and of preservation and sharing of resources (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). The painted fronts and decorated poles of houses depicted each clan's crest-related animal spirits, and their activities as they taught Nisga'a people what foods to eat, how to use plants, and guided people on their journeys. In doing so, the houses represented the relationship between people and the land. Fig. 2. Poles and houses in Gitlaxt'aamiks before the flood of 1917. The poles in front of the house in the foreground depict the crests and family stories of the lineage (Wilp) living in the house. The fences in the background were used to keep the horses in (Alice Azak pers. comm..). Photograph fromNTC 1998: 27; also at Canadian Museum of Civilization 70687, who record that the photo was loaned to Barbeau by C F . and W.A. Newcombe. Then, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, governments attempted to silence Northwest Coastal First Peoples' cultures in at least three ways. Song- and story-filled feasts and ceremonies were outlawed, children's voices were displaced from villages, and the retelling of stories was hampered as story-keeping artifacts were sent to museums. 2.2 Displaced cultural/ ecological systems: Silenced Feasts and the Indian Act of 1884 to 1952 In a particularly dark period in British Columbian history, traditional houses of Nass Valley villages were largely dismantled after households and lineages were devastated by epidemics 14 of smallpox (first documented in the Lower Nass Valley Dec. 4, 1836 and again in 1862-3) (Boyd 1990, Stephenson et al 1995: 15-17). Despite the continued resistance of Nisga'a landowners, British Columbian and Canadian Governments assumed ownership of the Nass Valley, without a treaty to recognize the transaction. In 1881 Lands Commissioner Peter O'Reilly visited the Nass Valley and decided that several tiny reservations would be carved out of the Nass Valley for the Nisga'a people. The Nisga'a refused to have any part of the reservation system, and what we now know as the British Columbian Land Question was born in that region (Calder 2003). Meanwhile the Canadian Government enacted the Indian Act of 1880. Under the Act and successive amendments, laws were passed that denied Nisga'a citizens a franchise (1880), deposed hereditary chiefs (1880), incarcerated Nisga'a and other First Peoples for playing music at feasts (1884), and made it illegal for First Peoples to hire a lawyer and petition for land claims (1927). Nisga'a and other Northwest Coast Native peoples' voices had been politically, culturally, and legally silenced—or so thought the federal and provincial governments and lawmakers. Despite these "black spots on Canadian history" (Richardson 2003), the Nisga'a people were not silenced. They continued to assert their time-immemorial occupation of the Nass Valley (Berger 2003). Pursuing the issue of land title, Chief Mountain and his fellow Nisga'a delegates paddled in canoes in 1881, all the way from the Nass River to Victoria. (It is interesting that his family, the later Mountain Chiefs Harry Nyce and Joseph Gosnell, went on to see the ideas through to fruition well over a century later!) (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). In 1881 Chief Mountain and his colleagues were turned away on the steps of parliament (Tennant 1995). A chance to be heard finally came at the five-day hearings of October 1887. Chief Charles Russ spoke of the Nisga'a peoples' willingness to share land and resources, and to accept the authority of the British, Canadian, and B.C. governments: however, he asked that the Commissioners be consistent with the laws of those same governments. "If you ask the Hydahs, Alaskas, Stickeens, Bella Bellas, and Fort Ruperts, they will tell you that all this country is the Naas people's land, and we don't know when any change was made, or when it was taken from us. But now it is called 'reserve' we want the word 'treaty' with it" (Russ 1887 in Tennant 1995: 60). Russ also spoke of the Nisga'a way of life that made survival impossible on the tiny reserves: "We don't live all in one place, but have to scatter all over the country to make a living. We want food, salmon, berries, animals for food and furs, timber for houses, canoes and boxes, bark for mats" (ibid). The Nisga'a people knew that their architectural and landscape traditions were threatened by the reservation system, and in particular by the incredibly small size of reservations in British Columbia, compared to those found elsewhere in North America (Harris 2002). At the end of the hearings, eleven Nisga'a chiefs supplied a written statement that reiterated their spiritual connection to the land, their equality under God and the law, and their commitment to Aboriginal title as verified within the oral history. "The land was given to our forefathers by the great God above, who made both white man and the Indian, and our forefathers handed it down and we have not given it to anyone. It is still ours, and will be ours until we sign a strong paper to give part of it to the Queen" (British Columbia 1888). Nisga'a delegations continued to be put forward, but the governments seemed not to hear the words. Even London lawyers Fox and Pearce's carefully worded Nisga'a petition of 1913, seeking intervention of the British Crown against the Canadian Government's appropriation of land without a treaty, was met with silence. 15 Meanwhile, feasts continued in the Nass Valley, during which funds were raised for legal and travel expenses. The people built community structures by donating their time and money— known as public works—so that the feasts would have a venue, now that the great houses structures in Nass Valley had been dismantled. Indeed, despite threat of incarceration under Canadian law, the gift-giving feasts had to continue, since they formed a record of land transactions and were vital assertions of land title (Bert McKay in "as Long as the Rivers Flow" 1992). "The gift-giving feast that anchored tribal society... [formed,] in essence, the seat of government for the Nisga'a and other west coast tribes" (Calder in NTC 1993: 10). Among many deprivations enforced by the Indian Act, music at feasts was banned. Songs and dances that formed an intrinsic part of the ancestral prerogative to transfer land ownership (Kolstee 1982) were deemed strictly illegal. Indian Agents, appointed by the Canadian Government, prosecuted feast performers. Two months in jail was the minimum punishment (Sewid-Smith 1979, Raunet 1996). The Nisga'a, and other Northwest Coast Nations, were forced to be secretive about their uses of traditional music to confer property and title, and about their use of feasts as times to raise funds for land-claims. The "silent feast" was not so much silent as furtively musical: people would set sound traps, such as tin cans with string attached, that would vibrate in warning when someone approached (Gallagher, pers. comm.). Many songs were forgotten. The threat of six months in jail may have kept the songs from being passed on through generations but change in lifestyle was a major contributor: The only thing I am so sad about is the songs they teach us. I was so busy looking after my children in [Prince] Rupert... songs are one thing I forgot. And they are not recorded. They have songs in Aiyansh too. Rod Robinson used to say that he can't remember the songs. All the work I was doing while my children were growing up, I forgot about the songs. But the carvings on the poles keep the stories alive. Whenever the pole is going up anywhere, you have to be there to listen to the story that is told at the pole-raising (Emma Nyce 2003). The loss of knowledge in songs was somewhat mitigated by the cultural wisdom still retained within carved architectural details. Structures of wood were a less ephemeral form of cultural production than music, and became a key to "keep[ing] the stories alive" (ibid). 2.3 Displacement of children's voices The best change for today is education. Our young generation has the best schools to attend. They are no longer sent away at an early age—not until they enter college or university. Grace Azak, in Neel 1992: 36 The second silence was heard across British Columbia, where, in 1920, the Canadian Government legislated compulsory attendance of First Nations children in residential schools (Nisga'a Tribal Council 2001). The silence of the villages after the children's departure is etched in oral histories, such as in Dr. Calder's afore-referenced keynote address (1998). Far 16 from home, the children too were silenced: they were often punished for speaking or singing in their own language (Joseph 1991, Lucy Williams in Neel 1992, Neel 1992). At residential school, remembers one former student, "You don't talk before the bell rings and you don't talk after the bell rings either" (Whitehead 1984). Infractions of the code of silence were punished with physical pain or deprivation (ibid, Neel 1992). Sim'oogit Sagaween (Chief Harry Nyce) added that the structure of residential school in Edmonton was based on a military model, which was excessively strict and often unpleasant (pers. comm.) In contrast, pre-contact education delivered knowledge audibly, through stories and songs. The oral delivery was sometimes musical: "...children, you should gather them together and tell them...what our elders used to tell us...That is what they used to sing in the early days. They used to sing about everything" (Alfred, in Neel 1992). The tradition of singing remains strong. An example from the present is Deanna Nyce's song "I love my jijii (Grandmother) and my jijii loves me" was expanded by grand-daughter Star to include ye'e (grandfather) and other family members: Nisga'a words and family cohesiveness are still taught through the medium of song (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). The physical settings for the song-filled lessons are the landscape and villages, where family members responsible for education, mostly maternal aunts and uncles (McKay and McKay 1987), share knowledge accumulated over generations. The setting and the sound of education changed in the late 1870's, when Christian missionaries formalized education in the Nass Valley. Lessons moved to the living room or basement of the mission house. English lessons replaced learning in Nisga'a, and teacher centered lessons stressed "visual/auditory comparisons to written materials" (McKay and McKay 1987:67). After 1920, a few children stayed home in the Nass Valley villages, but their formal education in the one-room schoolhouse only reached Grade six level (McKay and McKay 1987, Azak in Neel 1992, Swanson in Neel 1992). The majority of Nisga'a children, living in residential schools as far away as Edmonton, experienced a school system managed and administered by agencies from outside the Nass Valley. The residential school system, by its enforcement of an alien way of life and absence of vocational and academic counseling, failed to encourage students to pursue high school or post-secondary education (McKay and McKay 1987). School district #92 (Nisga'a) was born from the Nass Valley people's rejection of one hundred years of mis-education. Under the leadership of Alvin and Bert McKay, new schools were built in the Nass Valley, to house a bilingual-bicultural education system. Nisga'a language and songs rejoined the soundscape within school buildings that were technologically advanced, yet reflective of longhouse traditions in their cedar cladding and sloping roofs. Among the best-attended events at Nisga'a school are the concerts. (Even before the school system was reborn in the Nass Valley, the Anglican Church Women's Home League would sponsor concerts that attracted many people from Nisga'a communities) (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). Culturally aware architectural solutions and a modern/ traditional soundscape followed for both the older students and the very young. In 1993 the Nisga'a House of Learning Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a (WWN) offered Bachelor degrees along with academic assistance for 17 Masters and Doctoral students (Hak'ak'a'a 2002). In 1999, the newly built Laxgalts'ap Daycare Center opened (fig. 3), one of several Nass Valley daycare facilities that now extend the offer of Nisga'a language and culture to preschool citizens. Fig. 3 Laxgalts'ap Daycare Center with child-sized crest pole and canoe. Architecture and photograph by the author. 2.4 Displacement of history-telling artistry The priest that was working against the totem poles and the potlatch was J.B. McCullough, up by Old Aiyansh...He didn't consult with the people before he arranged for the totem poles to be taken out of the Nass River area. He did that behind the people's back—the whole Nass River...They cut them down, took them down the river—that's why you don't see any totem poles. Chief Charlie (James) Swanson, quoted in Neel 1992: 90 A third cultural silence occurred when representative architectural components, along with songs and stories, were removed from Nass Valley villages. Some people attempted to save their carvings by burying them in the structural fabric of buildings. When used as foundations, as structural beams, or as part of a fence, the pts'aan (carved pole) were less likely to be taken downriver and shipped to museums (figs. 4 and 5) (Joe Gosnell pers. comm., Emma Nyce pers. comm.) 18 Fig. 4. Pts'aan from Git'iks (near Laxgalts'ap) being launched into the Nass River on its way to the Royal Ontario Museum. 1929 Photograph by Marius Barbeau (Canadian Museum of Civilization Catalogue number 73045). Fig. 5. Poles cut into sections and used as supports for houses. To keep their carved crests from being taken away to museums, some Nisga'a people used pole sections in a place where they could not be removed without great difficulty (Joe Gosnell pers. comm.). Photograph 1929 by Marius Barbeau. Museum of Civilization Cat. Number 69649. Ethnographer and ethnomusicologist Marius Barbeau, misunderstanding the resilience of the Nisga'a, recorded both the music (using gramophone and hand-written score) and the architecture (in photography), fearing them to be the works of "a vanishing race" (Barbeau 1957: 2). Much other anthropological collecting was, however, closer to piracy than scholarship: "The scramble for aboriginal artifacts went on until it seemed that everything that was not nailed down or hidden was gone" (NTC 1998: 7). New York, Berlin, Ottawa, Chicago, and Victoria—all filled their burgeoning museums with artifacts from the Northwest Coast (ibid). 19 The artifacts, tapes, and musical scores later became silent teachers, alongside orally conveyed wisdom that still resided with village elders. Some carvings and ancestral remains are now gradually being returned to First Nations villages across British Columbia (Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs 1998) as foundations for material well-being and cultural strength. 2.5 Architecture as lived history When first designing for this then-remote community, I was immediately aware only of the latter silencing: the rich display of totem poles and paintings evidenced in early photographs of Nass Valley villages were no longer present. Planner Zeno Krekic admonished, "Do not look for architectural solutions in museums and books, since most (except those published by the Nisga'a Tribal Council) represent the removal of culture from the village." Instead, I listened to the elders and other members of the village Council. Slowly, architectural solutions evolved under community direction. Early in the process, I saw some interesting three-poled structures in the yards of some Laxgalts'ap houses. Wondering about their origins, I consulted the British Columbia archives and found, in photographs from the 1880's, three-poled structures nearly identical with the ones present in the village. The photographs that follow, one from 1884 and one from 1990 (figs.6 and 7), demonstrate constancy of form across generations. Over a space of more than one hundred years, the design and use of triangular racks had changed little. Courtesy of BC Archives collections - Cal l Nunber: C-07435 R O Y A L BC M l J S F U M web: uuu.bcarchi v«« Email: •t requires fee T i t l e : Indians Drying Oolichan, Nass River. Fig. 6. 1887 photograph of oolichan drying racks (called ganee'e in Nisga'a) courtesy B.C. Archives. 20 Fig. 7. 1990 Photograph of ganee'e, a structure that has been in use since time immemorial in the Nass Valley. Photograph by Gary Fiegehen, used with permission. Even though longhouses and totem poles were no longer present in the valley, the persisting form of the ganee'e evidenced longevity of Nisga'a architectural ideas. The three-poled racks also had significance in the British Columbian treaty process: it was during oolichan season that the Nisga'a people gathered with other Northwest Coastal peoples, to pursue their claim that Aboriginal title to land had never been extinguished (Canadian Museum of Civilization display by Allison Nyce, anthropologist). In fact, throughout the long history of First Peoples on the British Columbian coast, oolichan were a key to survival: as the first fish to arrive in the Nass River after the long winter, Nisga'a and other Northwest Coastal nations relied upon them to prevent starvation (Drake and Wilson, n.d.). The oolichan is a resource that is unique to this area. The Nisga'a really were the central figures for the oolichan fishing. Even though they do have it in some of our neighbouring groups, this was the largest gathering site, traditionally. We had up to five thousand people who would gather at Fishery Bay each year to trade and to fish for the oolichan. In that, it was a sort of a forum for everybody, all Nations, it was a forum. And so when contact was made and then there was starting to be an encroachment on the land, this became the forum for the discussion of the land claim, the oolichan time, because it was the one time when everybody would be together. And so it provided that opportunity. And so it was at the time of the oolichan that they had their meetings about the land to decide what to do: what are your people going to do, what are the Haida going to do, what are the Gitksan going to do. And so it was the time for the Nisga'as to meet as well. And that was when it was decided that we were going to have one claim, for all the families; not that each family would be 21 separate, but they would be all together. That was the Common Bowl idea because of the oolichan, which is a common resource. You cannot deny that resource to anybody. The resource is shared—that's the whole concept of sharing. That was around the late 1800's. We had the petition in 1913, but they started working on it, I think it was 1897. There was an actual meeting of all of the chiefs of the Nass Valley, and quite a discussion on what to do, what could we do. There was a meeting towards Greenville of all of the chiefs, and they all placed their name in a bowl, saying okay, "I submit my name and my title to this land for this claim". It was a unanimous decision, to move forward (Allison Nyce Interview 2003). The oolichan drying structure (ganee'e) became my starting point, an architectural symbol of cultural resilience generally, and specifically of the Nisga'a effort to regain land that had been taken away without a treaty. In early design sketches, I imagined sets of parallel poles that abstracted those of oolichan drying racks (fig. 8). Fig. 8 A comparison between the 1887 photograph of ganee'e and 1996 construction photograph of Laxgalts'ap Village Government Offices. The office structure is intended to symbolically recall the importance of the ganee'e in Nisga'a ancient and modern culture. The totem pole can be seen in the distance on the axis defined by the row of paired poles (photograph on the right). Photograph at left courtesy B.C. Archives (C-07435), photograph at right by Nancy Mackin. 22 Fig. 9. Evolution of the Laxgalts'ap Village Government Offices site plan, showing orientation of the entrance towards the pts'aan (pole) depicting all four village crests. Drawings by N . Mackin The paired poles formed an extended entry sequence facing the main roadway and bridge into Laxgalts'ap. For Sim'oogit Alvin McKay, the processional pathway defined by the poles suggested a modern-day meaning that outweighed all other spatial references. He explained that the entry sequence had to begin with the totem pole, since it was the first to be constructed in the village in over one hundred years. The Pts'aan had to face the entrance, or pdo'o, so each person coming to the new building would remember the attempted erosion of Nisga'a culture, and the resilience that led to a cultural renaissance. The new building had to be turned one-hundred-and-eighty degrees on the site. Chief McKay's change surprised several councilors, and dismayed some members of the design team who were committed to the circulation and parking efficiencies of the original site plan (fig. 9). The modern significance of the pts'aan to the renewed government emerged during the process of site planning. The planning process, in turn, became an extension of the tradition of conveying history through story telling, supplemented with non-verbal, visual media. Community-led design seemed to follow procedures used in the re-telling of oral history, particularly since both involve interaction between spatial representations (carving and three-dimensional artworks), cultural history and narrative, recollection of site attributes and significance, and reconstruction of remembered images of space. Council's discussion of drawings helped the new building to participate in oral history. As the silent lines on paper enhanced processes of communication, they became an acoustic map, expressive of the interchange between sound and space. Later, Councilors would assign additional audible roles to their new structure, including participation in the sound-filled choreography of village ceremonies. The building was becoming an oral peg within the audible map that traced a procession through the village, to the totem pole—symbolizing the 2 3 revival of traditions that were once suppressed—to the council chamber—locus for political and economic renaissance. The opening ceremony and feast was conducted amid a blending of sounds with many meanings: the bishop's prayers; Nisga'a singers, drummers, and dancers' rhythms and melodies; four-part harmonies of a capella hymns; bird calls from the nearby river and forests; and chiefs calling out, in Nisga'a, the building name and the name of each guest and elder. The sounds brought together nature and culture, marking space with meaning and connecting past with present, the natural world and the human one. Reinterpreted within the sounds of Laxgalts'ap, the three-dimensional design of the Government Office Building also began to express connections between past and present. During the ceremonial procession, the paired-pole-to-totem-pole progression that Alvin McKay had requested while we were planning the site became a way to recall the original Nisga'a houses, which also had paired poles surmounted by exposed stringers and roof ridges. The exposed structural elements seemed to recall the exposed cedar skeleton of the first Nisga'a lodges built when the Chief of the Heavens placed people to live in the Nass Valley (Nisgha Cultural Infusion Resource School District 92 (Nisgha) 1982, Nisga'a Tribal Council 1993) The Council Chamber wall was intended to bear carved bas-reliefs of the four crests, one for each of the original lodges (although this artistry had not been completed). The tradition of evoking the four crests on the outside and inside of buildings responds to Nisga'a oral teachings or adaawak: "The ancient people were given animals to be used as crests by each Wilp. The crest animals are the ones, which showed them how to live, what to eat, and how to catch and prepare the different food animals. This is the way our forefathers lived" (Nisga'a Tribal Council 1993: 22). I had hoped that wolf, eagle, frog and raven, and killer whale crests would be etched or sandblasted onto the large windows that faced the river, because the process would be affordable and the artwork would then be part of the building envelope. Council elected instead to add the artwork afterward, as carvings on the large front wall of the building. Perhaps because of other demands on Council's post-construction budget and list of priorities, the idea remains incomplete. Still, the pole in front of the entrance recalls the four crests, as do interior fittings and furnishings, making the new offices expressive of the unity of the four crests. By depicting crest spirits, acknowledging traditional and modern totem pole/ entryway relationships, and evoking the oolichan as symbol of cohesion and survival, the office building participated in the representation of oral history. Space and meaning, inseparable in architectural thought (Cavell 2002), had joined during planning and design, but a final stage remained. The building had yet to become lived history: it was "a place waiting to be enacted by an assembly of people" (ibid). To this end, heads of church and state began preparations for the naming celebration. Wilp Saytk'ilimgoothl Laxgalts'ap, A Place That Lives As One, took its place among named places of the Lower Nass Valley. At the Wilp Saytk'ilimgoothl Laxgalts'ap official opening in 1998, song, language, dance, and architecture all contributed to the moment when representational space was acknowledged. The author witnessed fusion of the arts that had astonished early European visitors: in 1791 Etienne Marchand wrote: "[Northwest Coast First Peoples'] architecture, sculpture, painting, and music, are found united" (Fleurieu 1801: 338). Then, as in the late 24 twentieth century, architecture, music, and other forms of artistic production both represented and facilitated the persistence of cultural institutions, moral codes, and political strength. Laxgalts'ap Government Offices were designed to recall both impending and historic events. The alignment of the totem pole with the building entrance and the conference room beyond recalled an ancient practice of facing building entrances towards a totem pole, and having chieftains face the entry from their seating place opposite (Alvin McKay pers. comm.). The community named the building, in accordance with an ancient practice of naming places and buildings, and recognizing their participation in historic events. As a named building, Wilp Saytk'ilimgoothl Laxgalts'ap is asked to signify more than its functions. However, in retrospect the building could have been still more significant. Many ecological innovations intrinsic to Nisga'a designs have only recently come to my attention: bringing some of these ideas into the building design would have improved the overall comfort and sustainability of the structure. Importantly, I also would like to have designed the building with very large or interconnected spaces that could accommodate full-community celebrations. The site for the office building barely accommodated basic programmatic needs for indoor functions and parking. The landscape was constrained by the boundary that did not seem to have meaning in visible space: the Indian Reserve (LR.) boundary. A second architectural experience in Laxgalts'ap further demonstrated cultural continuity coexisting with community-led change. The Laxgalts'ap Daycare Center heralded cultural change in its provision for early childhood care and education outside the home, while its program and layout stressed continuity of culture. The new center came to be largely due to the efforts of young Nisga'a women, whose complex roles within familial and economic spheres necessitated a facility where young children could learn and grow within the community. The place marked for the daycare center was a residential house lot, thereby keeping young children within their familiar neighbourhood and surroundings. Though somewhat smaller than a house, the structure uses house-like construction technology and materials, but an exposed-structure extended canopy differentiates it architecturally. While the canopy's practical use is to provide play space protected from snow and rain, it is also intended to recall the posts, beams, and triangulations of traditional houses and drying racks. Both exterior and interior layouts placed greatest importance on listening to, and producing, Nisga'a language, music, and art. In doing so, the center acknowledges the role of children in perpetuating traditional culture, and in enabling that culture to grow as the world changes around them. Importantly, the role of children in conserving cultural memories has both political and economic significance. Learning language, songs, dances, and oral history teaches the very young skills they will need to participate in, and eventually lead, the settlement feast that "tells what land belongs to what person...our oral proof of title... [that] was not and will not be stamped out because it is essential to our being, essential to our tie to the land" (Nisga'a Culture website accessed 2002). Voices from outside the village also contributed to floor plan layouts. Provincial legislation and funding agency requirements restricted the way space could be utilized. At first, detailed 25 floor plan reviews by provincial representatives left the young women who had instigated the project somewhat disappointed. The open area for teaching dance had to be reduced, and the kitchen made more isolated from other daycare spaces. In the end, however, the story-telling corner worked as planned, and the villagers added a carved canoe in which the children could take imagined voyages. Site size was also a constraint, when paired with the regulatory requirements. The outdoor play space was not ideal. More space for the mobile toddlers was desired, for riding their toy cars and running about. Also, more space was needed for snow clearing and for mechanical systems, both away from play spaces and entrances. Finally, the vehicular drop-off area was far too small to make an effective loop, so some backing up was needed, a less than ideal situation in a facility for children too small to be seen out the rear window of a vehicle. The restricted site size was only that of a single house lot, which meant that the building "front yard" was too small to allow a full turning radius and drop-off/ parking area. Further, the building footprint had been predetermined to accommodate a single-family house. The very soft soils and high water table of Laxgalts'ap meant that the footprint had to be preloaded (compacted over a period of about a year with engineered loads of sand and gravel) before foundations could be built with the necessary stability. Also the site had been serviced with swales along the street and a restricted fill-and-culvert area where cars could cross the swale. It was impossible to change the footprint of the building or the point of access without a very long delay, so the front (street-facing) layout was adapted to daycare center vehicular needs as best we could. A third project, Laxgalts'ap multi-family housing, began with the intention of acknowledging the Nisga'a peoples' cultural distinctiveness while providing much-needed housing and a way to reduce over-crowdedness that was causing dissatisfaction (Zeno Krekic pers. comm.). The cultural importance of feasts influenced project planning. Since goods collected for years to prepare for feasts had to be stored in peoples' homes, ample storage was (and still is) vital. However, providing ample spaces within the relatively small dwelling units became a design challenge. Unlike the two-story houses found elsewhere in the community, the fourteen townhouses offered alternatives to extended family living for seniors, young families, and single adults. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation provided construction loan guarantees, which included mandatory design responses and restrictive construction cost expectations. Known as "modesty guidelines", the C M H C regulations predetermined spatial allocations with nearly formulaic rigidity. Inadequate storage space allotment to satisfy geographic and cultural needs was one problem identified by the villagers. Quantities of food for winter isolation and goods for gift-giving feasts were not considered in the meager C M H C storage space allotment. As a compromise solution, the design combined spaces: goods storage combined with laundry, and food storage was added within specially designed kitchen millwork. Equally vital to future residents were smokehouses, or wilp-sihoon, needed to preserve oolichans and salmon. However, the loan would not cover construction of smokehouses, so each dwelling was designed with a secondary access from the kitchen to the rear of the dwellings, for access to future wilp-sihoon. The photograph below shows the construction of a wilp sihoon, about six years after the main buildings were completed (fig. 10). 26 Fig. 10. Smokehouse (at left) added behind the multi-family housing (portion shown at right), about six years after the main project was completed and occupied. Photograph by the author The C M H C budget for the multi-family project also did not allow for architectural meetings with the community. Perhaps as a result of insufficient community participation, this project has received somewhat less enthusiastic community response than the other two, and is looked upon as temporary housing while people await a single family house lot and structure. Community involvement in all three projects was constrained, to differing degrees, by non-Native government loan guarantees, and by community loss of control as a result of those funding arrangements. Nonetheless, whenever village council and citizens from Laxgalts'ap had an opportunity to participate in project planning, the design team received careful, useful feedback. Traditional practices, and their importance to the buildings, were patiently explained. The people of Laxgalts'ap then adapted the projects after completion so they would better suit their village. Adding a smokehouse for new housing, a canoe for the Daycare Center playground, and artwork within the Government Office council chamber all reinforced the principles that the people knew had both present and historic value. The resilience of Nisga'a cultural values overcame any shortcomings in the expressive or useful qualities of the structures themselves. 2.6 Architecture as a dialogue: across time, among peoples, with the landscape Because the Laxgalts'ap projects were undertaken at a very important time in Nisga'a—and world—history, they become case studies in how a community renegotiates the way space is perceived, owned, and used. While the architectural planning was underway, the historic Nisga'a treaty was pending. A cultural renaissance, begun by Eli Gosnell and continued by educators Bert and Alvin McKay and Deanna Nyce, was in progress, bringing ancient values and practices back into present usage. The Ayuukhl Nisga'a histories had been painstakingly collected and published. Long-standing relationships between groups of people and governments were being renegotiated by James and Joe Gosnell, Harry Nyce, Edmund Wright, and other members of the negotiating team. 27 By 1998, when the Laxgalts'ap Village Government Offices received its name and opened its doors, Nisga'a communities had spent one hundred and eleven years correcting the injustice of having their land taken away without a treaty. Women and families were working to combine much-valued traditions with their goal of improving access to employment and education. Economic inequities with non-Native communities were being examined under new cooperative agreements. Because of this timing, each project was focused by its position within a changing political, legal, and cultural context. The opening celebrations of the Laxgalts'ap Village Government Offices coincided with a vote wherein the people of each Nisga'a village would elect to support or reject the draft treaty that had just been negotiated. Thus the government offices partook in new agreements for co-sovereignty even before they officially opened. The daycare center encapsulated questions about the role of women in remote communities. The housing project questioned the uniformity of reservation system housing options. Each architectural work represented a change desired by the community, within a history of many changes. Despite the optimism of the times, and the impending resolution of the Nisga'a land question, the reservation system and the attitudes that had created it continued to restrict all three projects. Invisible on the ground, but highly visible on surveys, were the words LR. (Indian Reserve) Boundary. The large bold letters, "LR. Boundary" determined how the landscape could be used and the size of building footprint that would fit in the space. The very words were emblematic of conflict, as they had never been accepted by the Nisga'a people, nor ratified by any treaty. Importantly, LR. Boundary also summarized the monumental cultural impact of the reservation system. "The reserve system was a particular instance of the assault on custom associated with the expansion of market economies and the increasingly regulative role of the state in a regime of disciplinary power" (Harris 2002: xxx). The three near-silences resulting from Canadian and British Columbian legislations and policies were in fact displacements of treasures: the treasures of land ownership, of children and communities, of highest artistic productions. Outlawed feasting, the residential school system, and artifact removal were all regulatory and disciplinary extremes, and displacements that assaulted custom. Planning spaces within an I.R. boundary made me aware of those assaults, and of the need to better understand the power structures and arguments that rationalized them. Just as "a new geography of Native-non-Native relations in British Columbia may be built more easily and securely if we know more about the arguments, policies, and modalities of power that underlay the old" (Harris 2002: xxvi), an architecture suited to both new and ancient cultural patterns must rely, in part, upon a knowledge of what has been built in the past. Soon after completing the three projects, the words LR. Boundary were erased from surveys of the Nass Valley, a provision of the May 2000 Treaty. Nisga'a people regained the right to build outside the cramped delineations of the reservation system. Further, Nisga'a people now could own land and manage resources as they had for millennia before European traders, missionaries, and resource industries arrived in the Nass Valley—but now as a Nation that is fully brought into Canada. Architecture will continue as part of the negotiation between past and present that is needed to make those changes effective. This research seeks to be useful to architecture's participation in bringing wisdom of the past into the present, by clearly illuminating the rich legacy of building and landscape knowledge that has been part of the Nisga'a Nation's long and vibrant history. 28 Worldwide, architecture also participates in the larger project of negotiating across time, between cultures, and with the landscape. The author's architectural experiences with the Nisga'a Nation can be seen as a case study in the on-going and still incomplete project of decolonization that concerns many peoples the world over. Other spatial changes in the Nass Valley encapsulate worldwide mediations between globalization and regionalism, historicism and modernity, conservation and economic advancement. Since the decisions made about space—designing, naming, occupying—are part of architectural and landscape architectural practice, this history seeks relevance within larger issues. Specifically, it strives to show how architectural history guides place-making decisions, and that those decisions must emphasize respect for and knowledge of the land. In the case of the Laxgalts'ap projects, addressing these larger issues becomes possible through the direct involvement of Nisga'a elders whose wisdom and story-telling abilities will always been far beyond what this writer can achieve. 29 C H A P T E R T H R E E : Histor ic Overview of Nisga'a Cu l tu ra l Landscapes This chapter looks back through time at cultural interactions influencing landscapes in K'alii Aksim Lisims (the Nass Valley and all its resources). Like an archeological dig that uncovers layers of history from most recent to most ancient, this particular historic overview begins in 2003 and finishes with the beginning of Nisga'a time. Unlike a dig, however, each layer of history remains undisturbed (or nearly so) by the examination. Also dissimilar with scientific excavations, this chapter identifies places through the people who remember them: people whose memories go back to earliest times through a meticulous system of oral history and story-telling. The landscape memories of Nass Valley people also demonstrate the many fields of landscape: political, cultural, legal, ecological, as well as geographic attributes. A l l are memories of place: "Memories of seasons, and of stories that were told at many places: in clan houses, in hunting and trapping camps" (Dauenhauer 2000: xi). Two aspects of Nass Valley history led to the choice of a reverse chronology as a way to introduce context and major events of Nass Valley landscapes, and the architecture belonging to them. The first is a reflection on time itself within the context of Nisga'a history. As Anglican Bishop Father John Hannen tells: "Nisga'a time is not linear or limited: it is time immemorial. Unlike many of us who trace our lineage to arrival in North America a century or two ago, Nisga'a people have a sense of the eternal, and of being directly connected to the time and events of the Old Testament. This is even more far-reaching than the Jewish connection with Exodus. Nisga'a adaawak reveal the origins of Light, the Creation, and the Flood: all part of remembered history. This sense of connectedness underlines Nisga'a spirituality" (remembered interview July 6 2003). Significantly to this work, spirituality in Nass Valley architecture also derives from a sense of connectedness between present-day and ancient times. The second impetus for going in reverse is to emphasize that chronologies of landscape change are a continuum, and not two blocks of knowledge labeled as "before contact" and "after contact". Admittedly, the labels are sometimes useful because they distinguish between an age of written and photographic documentation and an earlier age when those two packages of knowledge were not, in the same form as now, being produced in North America. However, the pre- versus post-contact labels applied to many North American histories tend to obscure the reality that vibrant cultural achievements and advanced societies have been exchanging knowledge and accumulating vast stores of wisdom to an extent that is still not fully understood by Western Science (Ostrowitz 1999). This overview only touches upon moments in time, knowing that a more detailed spatial history will follow in subsequent chapters. The reverse history is also used as a way to introduce the main references for this research. In particular this chapter explains spatial history applications of the Ayuukhl Nisga'a (abbreviated here as A N when used in parenthetical references), or Cultural Law of the Nisga'a. The compendium of oral histories provides a literary map of people's life experiences in their homeland (Allaire 1984), a map which supplements, often coincides with—and sometimes contrasts with—published histories in the sciences and humanities. 30 3.1 May 2003: The Nisga'a Highway opens The most recent event in this research, and the starting point in this reverse landscape chronology, is the Nisga'a Highway completion. On May 17, 2003, two feasts serving hundreds of people celebrated the opening of the Laxgalts'ap-Gingolx (Kincolith) roadway. A l l four Nisga'a villages now have road access, completing one of many promises within the Nisga'a treaty, ratified three years before the celebratory road-opening feasts. Replacing isolation with connectivity, the highway will facilitate other treaty provisions, including restoration of watersheds, forests, and fisheries; repatriation of cultural artifacts; province-wide recognition of bicultural post-secondary Nisga'a education; enhancement of government-to-government communications; and reaffirmation of Nisga'a access to employment, health, and trade (Gosnell 2002). When fully complete in 2004, the Nisga'a Highway will finalize an array of visible and unseen connections between the First Nations landscapes and the rest of Canada. Before the road was completed, travel to Gingolx from other Nass Valley communities usually meant a boat trip that took several hours, and even that was possible only if the tides at Laxgalts'ap allowed enough depth for boats to navigate between sandbars, if the river was not frozen, or the winds were not too treacherous. For my son and me, traveling to interviews in Gingolx was initially made possible by the kindness of the road crews, who gave us free passage and the opportunity to witness the arduous task of building a roadway along the rocky promontories lining much of the Nass River. The Nisga'a road builders offered us histories of place, recalling a Japanese fishing settlement at Red Bluff where we docked for supplies and an ango'oskw (lineage territory) of a grandparent up a nearly-vertical cliff beside a rocky outcrop crowded with fat sea-lions. Interestingly, we traveled the ice-free Nass River in March, a month when ice had traditionally made boat travel impossible—as recently as five decades ago. Ecosystem change, cultural change, and now, with the road grading, landscape change were all occurring simultaneously along the Nass River. One of our guides spoke of times from three hundred years before, or fifty years before, or back at the beginning of memory itself, all as though the distant events had just occurred. A non-linear sense of time, the immediacy of the past, and the connections of remembered times to places viewed as we traveled were often evident in two years of conversations with People of the Nass. The way time was perceived by people traveling to and from Gingolx was now changing: a trip to Aiyansh would take only just over an hour, replacing a day of unpredictable water travel. Further, the road to Terrace was soon to be widened to two lanes all the way. The route to Lava Lake would no longer have hairpin corners bound on one side by mountain and the other by a deep lake, single-lane—and with the potential of meeting a logging truck or other vehicle head-on. With the road completed to Provincial highway standard from Terrace to Gingolx, people in the valley would have easier and safer access to health care, groceries, and cultural events in other Nisga'a communities. 31 Fig. 11. 2002 photograph of the single-lane road at Lava Lake, en route from the Nass Valley to Terrace. The road continues invisibly around the cliff, making a hairpin turn near the right of the photograph to which on-coming traffic was invisible. Friends of the author's related a time when they collided with a logging truck, and were saved by a large rock that somehow kept the vehicles from plunging into the deep lake. "T'ooyaksim' Nisim' Wil Bakwsim', we thank you for coming" was the greeting at the mid-day road-opening ceremony at Laxgalts'ap, which began with a moment of silence for all the people who lost their lives traveling to Gingolx by boat or seaplane. Blessings in English and Nisga'a, a cedar ribbon cutting (fig. 12), and a bountiful feast followed, and then a procession of vans and cars moved slowly along the river-fronting roadway. The diversity of life visible even through the windows of a car, was remarkable. Seagulls and hawks watched from the river (fig. 13) and bald eagles glared from the tall cedars adjacent to the road. 32 Fig. 12. The May 2003 road opening ceremony at Laxgalts'ap included blessings by His Excellency Bishop John Hannen and by His Excellency Bishop Sim'oogit Haymaas, Charlie Swanson. The Laxgalts'ap Daycare Center is visible in the background. Photograph by Robert Mackin-Lang. Fig. 13. Seagulls and hawks on a log in the Nass River, spotted en route to Gingolx for the road opening feast. Photograph by Robert Mackin-Lang. Arriving in Gingolx, each car was welcomed by the Nisga'a dancers, singers, and drummers. The people's renowned, tradition-based artistry was matched only by the great diversity of delicious foods served, mostly from the tidal estuary where the Nass River, Observatory Inlet, and the Portland Canal meet the Pacific Ocean. From dried oolichan to fresh crab to salmon, the skilled fishers and food-makers of the Nass had provided, from their own waters, food to feed at least five hundred people at one feast. Knowledge of the land and its resources, of ancient dances, of history-telling, all came together at the Gingolx Road opening. A postscript of the feast story reiterates the depth and importance of landscape knowledge held by Nisga'a elders. Before and during construction, the elders had advised highway engineers to reinforce the banks of streams that were being re-routed to accommodate the widened and straightened roadway. The streams and other waterways have a life of their 33 own, warned the elders (Deanna Nyce 2004, pers. comm.). Undoubtedly the engineers worked to the highest standard they had been taught in universities, to design the Nisga'a Highway, but elders' knowledge did not factor into their design choices. In November 2003 heavy rains washed away completed roads and bridges between Laxgalts'ap and Gitwinksihlkw. The elders' knowledge, it appeared, exceeded that of the engineers: or at least had to be woven with engineering science to find workable, lasting solutions. 3.2 1968 to the present: Decolonizing the Landscape Among the less visible links revitalized by the treaty and its provisions is the interweaving of Western Science with Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Wisdom (TEKW: the first letters are capitalized to emphasize T E K W as a discipline, defined here as knowledge about ecosystems and the land that has been accumulated by a First People over a very long time through careful monitoring, observation, and inter-generational communication) (adapted from Berkes 1999 and Blackstock 2001). T E K W is also a component of the emerging field of ethnoecology. The ways indigenous peoples perceive and manage interrelated cultural, economic, and ecological components of their environments, in turn, describes ethnoecology (adapted from U.Vic. 2003). Educating new generations in traditional Lisims knowledge was made possible in 1975 when the Nisga'a bilingual and bicultural school district first brought schools back to the valley. Now, in School District 92 (Nisga'a) and at the post-secondary Wilp Wilxo'oskwhl Nisga'a (established 1993), students learn history with the assistance of adaawak, ancient oral histories. The adaawak assemble Nisga'a laws, the Ayuukhl Nisga'a. Respect is the guiding principle of the Ayuuk, and of the knowledge contained within. "You respect the forest and its creatures, the fowl of the air, and the take what you need to survive and leave the rest" (NTC 1993: 66). A leitmotif found throughout Nisga'a oral and modern history, respect is also the essence of the political systems established within the treaty. The new education system responded to changes in the cultural landscape, and to serious problems in the ecological landscapes of the Nass Valley. Many Nisga'a people had dispersed from their homelands to work in resource industries, while industrial practices in the Nass were causing environmental devastation. Abandoned copper mines leached poisons into land and rivers, clear-cut logging exacerbated erosion and sedimentation: fish stocks, the essence of Nisga'a livelihood, plummeted (NTC 1993, Rose 2000). Elders became very worried about what was happening to the land, and observed that communities were losing contact with their leaders (Calder 2003). Sim'oogit E l i Gosnell recognized that the architectural expression of the Nass Valley communities was an important part of bringing back the adaawak and Ayuuk, "life values which can form the basis for high self-esteem, self-identity, self-reliance, and self-determination" (Sim'oogit Daaxheet, Alvin McKay, in School District 92 1996: xii). Sim'oogit Gosnell designed and funded a community hall in New Aiyansh that was painted with the four Nisga'a crests: Ganada (Raven/ Frog), Laxgibuu (Wolf/Bear) Gisk'aast (Killerwhale/ Owl), and Laxsgiik (Eagle/Beaver) (ibid: 31). Then he funded the carving of the Unity Pole, to be raised outside the new Nisga'a Elementary Secondary School (NESS). 34 Yes, that was designed by Eli Gosnell. Eli Gosnell really helped revive the culture in the late 60 s and early 70 s. Because it was such a stigma to be a part of anything cultural, because of the residential schools and the role of the missionaries, a lot of people were afraid to look at the culture and use the culture, the language, the songs, the dances, Eli Gosnell was one of the ones along with a few others here in New Aiyansh who decided "We need this", so one of his first projects was to create the housefront painting, and then the Unity Pole at the school (Allison Nyce Interview 2003). Since the school system symbolized and actualized the restoration of Nisga'a language and culture, the school's identity was expressed in stories carved on the Unity pole, the first totem pole to be raised in the Nass Valley for over one hundred years (School District 92 1996). On the pole were stories of all four villages and all four crests. Children from all different communities could look at the pole, and know they belonged at this school. The unity pole symbolized pride in many vital cultural institutions that had been obscured by the residential school system: a near-erasure that left many students unaware of their clan and ancestry. At the opening ceremony, Sim'oogit El i Gosnell urged all teachers (who, at first, were predominantly non-Native) to become involved in the community, and to be adopted into a clan if possible. He urged them to strive for successful students—and to thereby achieve success themselves (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). The tradition of story-telling on poles had been revived with the raising of the Unity Pole. Other stories told at the raising of the pole were written down in the Ayuukhl Nisga'a project, which received funding approval five years after the raising of the Unity Pole. Architectural and landscape histories were a large part of the Ayuukhl Nisga'a project, during which three extensive field trips with elder historians mapped place names and traditional territories (AN III). Elders' histories, many of them about places and architecture, were taped in Nisga'a, and then translated into English. The architectural stories in the four-volume Ayuukhl Nisga'a are sometimes richly detailed with descriptions of crest symbols, carvings, and paintings that had much meaning to the historians, since (as this research tried to do) elders could tell the stories in their own way (ibid). Just over a decade before the founding of School District 92, the legal and political landscapes of the Nass Valley, of British Columbia, of Canada—and many say, of the world—changed in 1969 to 1973 with the Canadian Courts considering seriously the meaning of aboriginal title (Tennant 1995). The Nisga'a instigated, and paid for, "The Calder Case" (Tully 2003), in which the peoples' "rights to possession of the lands...have not been extinguished by the Province of British Columbia..." (Justice Emmett Hall 1973 in Tennant 1995, 221) remained the undefeated view. During the court challenge, the judges wondered exactly what aboriginal title signified, and concluded that title is not just a document with seals on it, but also clearly includes landholdings that are held communally (Calder 2003). The Ayuukhl Nisga'a project, an extensive documentation of cultural and physical landscapes of the Nass Valley as evidenced by elders' memories, began in the aftermath of the Calder Case. The express purpose of the project was to document the "entitlement adaawak" (AN 35 I l l Appendix p. 9), the oral histories of land title. Many narratives went far beyond this category, however, and became recollections of architectural and landscape decision-making. The ratification of the Nisga'a Treaty, publication of the Ayuukhl Nisga'a, founding of a bilingual/ bicultural school system, and land title implications of the Calder Case are all examples of what is sometimes termed "decolonization", or reversal of colonization. To understand why the landscape had to be decolonized, it is necessary to clarify the meaning of "colonialism", both as an ideal and as a practice that changed nineteenth and twentieth British Columbian landscapes. Cole Harris's Making Native Space: Colonialism, Resistance, and Reserves in British Columbia (2002), Paul Tennant's Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land Question in British Columbia 1849-1989 (1995), and Nisga'a leaders' statements recorded in the Ayuukhl Nisga'a are references used here to illuminate the geographic, legal, and cultural context of "colonialism" as it was applied to the Nass Valley. 3.3 1870-1968: A collision of cultures and landscape change Colonialism, like other "isms" was initially an ideal. In eighteenth and nineteenth century England, colonial ideology was seen by administrators in London as a way to administer British settler colonies (Harris 2002). In this context the ideological underpinnings of colonialism oscillated between what were seen as humanitarian concerns—"concern for the plight of the British poor, the opportunity to spread Protestant Christianity, and a sense of responsibility to civilize savage peoples" (ibid: 3) on the one hand, and economic motives— to secure prosperity and "imperial grandeur" (ibid) for England—on the other. The Northwest Coast of British Columbia, one of the more distant settler colonies, came to the attention of Colonial Office in the mid-nineteenth century when humanitarian concerns were losing ground to economic motives. Convictions based upon Charles Darwin's "scientific racism" (ibid) combined with fears that Native peoples' rebellions against British authority would escalate. The two negative (although unsubstantiated) viewpoints of Native peoples culminated in a Colonial Office policy to set aside "reserves" for Native people, initially to keep them separate from settlers, but eventually to permit complete assimilation of indigenous peoples into the dominant society. Colonialism had evolved from a fencing match between humanitarian and economic discourses into a way of engineering land allocation, ownership, design, and economics in favour of the British Crown. As humanitarian and economic discourses fenced within the meaning and practice of colonialism, the James Douglas-led government of British Columbia had what they saw as a practical reading of the matter: extinguishment of Aboriginal title. Native land must be purchased (the humanitarian thing to do) so settlers could have maximum access to the wealth the land could provide (the economic impulse) (Tennant 1995). However, the source of money was at issue: neither Britain nor the British Columbia government had, or would part with, the funds needed to purchase Native-held lands. After Douglas retired from government office in 1864, chief commissioner of lands and works Joseph Trutch would declare to the new governor, "The title of the Indians in the fee of public lands, or any portion thereof, has never been acknowledged by the government, but, on the contrary, is distinctly denied " (Trutch 1870 in Tennant 1995: 39). 36 At this point the word "colonialism" became summarized, in the discourse of Native peoples, as the "land question": the question of aboriginal title. Aboriginal title, for the Nisga'a and other Northwest Coast peoples, was also linked with the system of house-groups or Huwilp (the plural of Wilp—literally "house" or "extended maternal family" (WWN 2001), the social and economic unit that has managed Lisims landscapes and economies for thousands of years (McNeary 1994). The system of landholding, explained Nisga'a chieftain Gadeelibim Hayatskw 1897, was simultaneously communal and a system of lineage rights to specific tracts of land, called ango'oskw: No one man ruled a piece of land. Rather one chief held the rights to land and shared the land with his people. Whenever a chief decided to go out hunting, he would call his people together and show them where he wanted to hunt. He did the same at harvest time for berries and to everything else that was edible. He shared his wisdom and knowledge of the land with his people. He called to all his people who were able to work to come along with him when it came time to go to prepare foods for the winter months ahead of him. This is what the people in the early days called ango'oskw (Gadeelibim Hayatskw, 1897, in A N (Ayuukhl Nisga'a) Vol . I: xviii). Against the continuous, shared, interlocking pattern of ango'oskw or traplines that spread over most Pacific Coast landscapes, Canadian and British Columbian governments decided to allocate tiny fragments of land for Northwest BC's First Peoples to live on. The process of drawing the reservations was allocated to Chief Commissioner Peter O'Reilly, who in 1881 spent just over one week of one season in the Nass Valley, completely missing the vital spring and summer fishing seasons and all year-round hunting grounds high in mountains and deep within forests. The areas that O'Reilly witnessed being utilized, near the end of October 1991, were only a fraction of the lands actually used by the Nisga'a peoples in other seasons. Further, the Commissioner did not spend time wondering if he had made a mistake: "O'Reilly was never really in touch with the Native people. He had his agenda, listened a little, made his decisions, and rushed on" (Harris 2002: 172). When O'Reilly finished mapping out reserves in British Columbia, only a handful of small allotments were set aside—and the Native People did not own the land. Nor were treaties signed to confirm the "exchange" (Rose 2000, Harris 2002). The peoples of the Nass and Skeena Rivers objected most strenuously and vocally to the injustices of the reservation system, including the absence of treaties, the denial of aboriginal title, and the misrepresentation of the extent and complexity of pre-contact land-use and ownership. The decision to set aside reserves—without compensation—and allocate all "unencumbered" land (which included the reserves) as Crown Land emerged from an ideology of colonialism that had evolved up to that time that mythologized the land as empty, a blank page on the map waiting to be filled (Tennant 1995: 41). "Native space" (Harris 2002: title), as delimited by the reserves, "was the product of the basic settler assumptions, backed by the colonial state, that most of the land they encountered in British Columbia was waste, waiting to be put to productive use" (Harris 2002: 265). 37 Under the reservation system, "Productive use" became nearly synonymous with ecological devastation. Many Nass Valley forests were clear-cut beginning in 1958 with the completion of road from Terrace to New Aiyansh (McNeary 1992). The road also gave access to rich mineral deposits: copper extractors at Anyox left behind rivers heavily polluted with industrial waste. While the majority of Nisga'a wage-earners supported their families by tree-cutting in the woods or transporting logs down-river (ibid) (commercial fishing and canneries also employed some people, although mostly close to the Nass River estuary or further down the coast) (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.), the profits from resource extraction were distributed far from the Nass Valley (Calder 2003). The landscape altered. Diversity and abundance of fish diminished drastically with increased sedimentation and contamination of the river (Joe Gosnell pers. comm.). Despite declines in resource abundance and ecological health of the lands, the system of traditional land ownership remained, although the reservation system had altered the actual placement of houses along with the recording of title deeds. Gadeelibim Hayatskw continued his explanation of the ango'oskw with a description of how the Nisga'a people reconciled the traditional system of title and place of residence with the newly imposed reserves: They [the ango'oskw] are all gone now but the people from the same village are responsible for the ango'oskw. Look at what is happening to it now, over the past years when there has been no one to look after it. Our great grandfathers took and looked after this land with great pride and now the white people are taking over our land. They do anything they want to. This isn't the only place that white people are taking over, but all over the place. They think there is no ownership" (1897, in A N Vol . I: xviii-xix). As Gadeelibim Hayatskw tells it, the new reservations had become villages whose people would look after all of the ango'oskw belonging to those villagers. However, he acknowledges that the degree of care that the Nisga'a people could offer to the land was much diminished, after the commissioners left and when title deeds of northwestern British Columbia did not list any lands whatsoever as Native-owned. Nonetheless, Gadeelibim Hayatskw says only that the white people "think" there is no ownership. Although others are taking over, he assures his people that there is still responsibility for the land. So even once the villages were drafted onto Commissioners' maps as tiny coloured blocks within a sea of white space, Nisga'a leaders assured their people that the question of how the land was to be looked after was not resolved by the settlers' assumptions. Indeed, the food gathering, hunting, fishing areas that are a part of the house territory remained in peoples' active memories. Away from home, working wherever resource-related employment was offered, people recalled how resources had been used in ancestral landscapes. The Ayuukhl Nisga'a explains how ancestral landscape holdings are founded on the system of four crests, and how the same crests provide an order for the set of Nisga'a laws governing property and society: The [Ayuukhl Nisga'a] narratives have been collected and arranged into four groups, which represent our four pdeeks or tribes: Gisk'ahaast (Killerwhale), 38 Ganada(Raven), Laxsgiik (Eagle), and Laxgibuu (wolf). The tribal clan system provides the basic foundation for both the social organization and the system of property ownership of our people. In other words, the tribal clan system defines the two most fundamental kinds of relationships of the Nisga'a: the relationships between people, and the relationships between people and the land (AN II: v). "Through the clan system we will be recognized on our land," promised Sim'oogit Wii Gadim Xsgaak, Eli Gosnell, during the writing down of the Ayuukhl Nisga'a (AN II: vii). The four crests, and the way the crest spirits "provided, or rather showed, foods which were edible" (ibid), formed the foundation of the ango'oskw land-holding system. The system lived through generations because of memories, and the clan system—but also because the land-stewardship system was based upon watersheds and other physical landscape features that remained tangible even if memories were to fail. The geography-based system ensured that the lines on the map had longevity. As long as the rivers flowed across a place, the ango'oskw boundaries existed, and the building sites for homes and other structures would be clearly defined. "The land you would build on would be your ango'oskw. Every family right from the coastal region to the headwaters of the Nass had certain areas which were their traditional family hunting areas...The Nass River and the creeks and smaller rivers were the natural boundaries on the land that separated the different families' land" (Interview Joe Gosnell 2003). Colonial concepts of land ownership held at the time of the Joint-Land Commission that was based on a narrow European-based definition of "maximum productivity", and the ango'oskw system that perceived the land and its beings as part of the Wilp and crest system, collided— but were not mutually exclusive. The Nisga'a people found a way to mediate between the two systems, through the villages that pre-dated the reservation system. The four main Nisga'a villages that had been established in the Nass Valley by the time O'Reilly came to lay out reserves were themselves mediations between the ancient land-holding system and new settlement patterns advocated by the missionaries who had, by then, become active participants in Nass Valley communities. Missionaries and Nisga'a people decided together upon sites for the new villages, built upon places that had meaning and names within Nisga'a tradition. Christian villages gradually gained citizens from nearby "old villages" (School District 92 1996: 74), which were numerous and were usually located within the traditional territories of resident families, although some villages such as Fishery Bay did not belong to any one family (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). The "Christian villages" (School District 92 1996: 60) were thereby linked directly to the ango'oskw-based villages. The old villages were becoming less numerous than before (though all the places were still used, owned, and named) by this time, not only because of Christianization but also because of the devastating effects of smallpox and other diseases brought to the North coast by visitors from other continents. After the epidemic or 1836 the population was much diminished (Boyd 1990, Stephenson et al 1995). Subsequently, some Nisga'a people moved from the longhouses of old villages only reluctantly—and often because of their need to receive medical supplies (Collison 1915, Kelm 1998). Indeed, the arrival of several Nass Valley missionaries is coincidental with the end of the devastating smallpox epidemic of 39 1862-3: an aspect of the humanitarian side of colonialism emerged in the works of some of the medically trained missionaries. European-trained physicians brought medicines to help treat the diseases that the settlers had brought with them, such as smallpox and measles and whooping cough (in 1899, see Kelm 1998). Some missionaries, such as Missionary Dr. Robert Tomlinson from Gingolx, also worked as advocates for the Native people's health concerns. Tomlinson's son remembered his father's disgust with the Department of Indian Affairs, who had sent inferior medicines to the Native communities because the supposedly protective agency believed poor medications to be "plenty good enough for Indians" (Tomlinson in Kelm 1988: 145). Other missionaries became advocates for Nisga'a leaders pursuing the land question, a fact that made British Columbian government officials uncomfortable with the influences of the church. For example, when the 1887 delegation of one Tsimshian and three Nisga'a chiefs paddled all the way to Victoria (an astonishingly long way by canoe!) to discuss the land question with then-Premier Smithe, they were told in advance that the Methodist missionaries could not attend. The chiefs had intended that the missionaries, including Reverend Green of Laxgalts'ap (Tennant 1995), would serve as interpreters. Smithe and his colleagues, however, were "firmly of the view that Methodists were causing much of the North Coast unrest" (Tennant 1995: 56). The interview with Premier Smithe, Land Commissioner Peter O'Reilly, Federal Indian Commissioner Israel Wood Powell, and Attorney-General Alex Davie, was most unsatisfactory to the Nisga'a/ Tsimshian delegation. "Powell spoke to the chiefs as equals; Smithe, O'Reilly, and Davie were curt and condescending" (Tennant 1995: 57). Provincial officials seemed unable or unwilling to understand that Nisga'a chieftains Charles Barton, Arthur Gurney, and John Wesley, and Tsimshian chieftain Richard Wilson, did not want to talk about reserve acreage. The Premier's comments encapsulate the myth that the land was empty space waiting to be claimed: "When the whites first came amongst you, you were little better than the beasts of the field" (BC legislature Sessional Papers 1887: 264), then proceeded to lecture the chieftains that their views of land ownership were unfounded. Undeterred, Charles Barton replied, "As I said before, we have come for nothing but to see about the land which we know is ours" (ibid). Sim'oogit Barton's calm and issues-focused response to the then-Premier's racial prejudice-laden deliberate falsehood is an historic example of the great dignity, leadership quality, and wisdom of chieftains. In response to the delegation, a commission came to the Nass Valley in 1887, with the intention of staying for as short a time as possible. "The timing was good for the province since the approach of winter storms would allow only a brief period for travel in the region" (Tennant 1995: 59). The government left early, and many Nisga'a people were unable to travel because of gales, so the time allotments for exchange between commissioner and Native peoples were brief. Still, the Nisga'a people were prepared. Nisga'a Chieftain Charles Russ spoke eloquently about the meaning of land ownership for his people. He connected language to landscape use, and noticed that changing the name of "land" to "reserve" was a monumental, unacceptable change. We have no word in our language for "reserve". We have the word "land", "our land", "our property". Your name for our land is "reserve", but every mountain, every 40 stream, and all we see, we call our forefathers' land and streams (Nisga'a Chieftain Charles Russ speaking to the BC Commission 1888: 18). Still refusing to hear that the concept of land, not reserve area, was the Nisga'a peoples' issue, O'Reilly laid out seventeen additional tiny reserve allocations in 1888. The Nisga'a were not appeased, and continued to express, in writing and speeches and petitions, the meaning of land ownership and title. Yet despite not being heard, despite the unacceptable expropriation of their lands and decimation of their legal rights, the Nisga'a people did not wholeheartedly reject the foreign aspects of the cultural landscape. To the contrary, many western innovations braided together with Nisga'a tradition. Villages and their architectural components provide material evidence for the syncretic lacing together of European and traditional Northwest Coast cultures. For example, spring fishing villages featuring smokehouses and oolichan racks (ganee'e) also included European-styled dwellings built of milled lumber. The large spring village of Fishery Bay also included churches, where elders recall celebrating weddings and Easter festivities (Charles Alexander interview 2004). Winter villages, also church-centered, had large Victorian dwellings and formal gardens alongside traditional plank-covered pole-and-beam houses. The large family houses and the spring fishing village houses both accommodated expanded family units, often following the matrilineal pattern but sometimes diverging from tradition for practical reasons. Thus the Huwilp definitions of household remained significant while the actual form of house and village diversified: see in the historic photos the great sort of Victorian style houses [in the Nisga'a villages]. Those houses were built so that the extended family would be there and would be part of the house. That is very important that you had those grand houses...a great grand house that everyone could be in and participate in (Allison Nyce interview 2003). However, another non-humanitarian act of government was about to make a change in the cultural landscape that was not as easy to lace with the ango'oskw and other long-standing components of the integrated social and land-holding system, and the clans that are the Nisga'a "foundation on this land" (Eli Gosnell in A N I: viii). At about the same time as the reservation system was being delineated on the maps of British Columbia, and in the lives of Nass Valley people, the Federal Government was deciding to change the way Native schooling would be funded in British Columbia. Up until 1880 "Indian Day Schools", built and supervised by the Nisga'a people (Patterson 1982), received a paltry salary and maintenance allotment from the federal government—far less than the per-pupil provincial government allotment made to non-Native B.C. schools (Barman I 1995). Nisga'a communities made do with the too-modest funding. Then, in 1880, the Canadian Government decided to transfer all Native school funding to residential schools. The Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) reasoned that residential schools would disassociate Native young people from their families and traditional ways, thereby causing full amalgamation with the "white" community (DIA 1880). The churches collaborated with the government, agreeing to run the residential schools. 41 The Nass Valley felt the effects of the DIA decision immediately. Following the 1880 decree, Gitlaxt'aamiks School closed because "no government aid was given to the school" (Patterson 1982: 87). "For Aboriginal Peoples in British Columbia, the consequences of federal policy favoring residential schools were particularly poignant, for it removed an educational option already in place that might have given the children rough equality with their [non-Aboriginal] contemporaries across the province" (Barman I 1995: 59). In 1920, legislation supported by Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs Duncan Campbell Scott stated that aboriginal children in Canada must go to residential school. Most Nass Valley children were moved from their traditional lands to residential schools as far away as Edmonton, Alberta (George Gosnell in Brody et al 1991, Tennant 1995). So the cultural landscape of the Nisga'a village changed again. Now the villages had only small, under-funded schools for a few children in the lower grades (McKay and McKay 1987). Many children away from home forgot about what clan they belonged to and how to speak their language (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). Some Nisga'a words about land and place were forgotten. Others, though, were still communicated from grandparent to grandchild during the summertime when the students were out of school and could be back with their families: / was wishing I was older when my grandmother died. I was seventeen, all she did was teach and tell me things, and that's where I learned. I thought it would never be of any use. Even my mother said to my grandmother, "Why are you telling him this?" I was very fortunate to meet my great great grandmother, and my grandfather, he knew so many things...! used to go packing with him, fishing, and he would tell me about this... I went to school in Alert Bay, St. Michael's (Horace Stevens Interview 2003). As elder Horace Stevens attests, the Nisga'a tradition of passing knowledge from generation to generation resisted even the residential school system. This very "Ethic of Persistence" (Tully 2003) was the core of the Common Bowl decision from the end of the nineteenth century. The people would act as one. The land question would be addressed. Money was raised, put into the Common Bowl from individual Nisga'a families' pockets, to resist the land-holding and education systems that were changing their cultural landscape against their will (Calder 2003). The cognitive map of Nisga'a lands still contained all the ango'oskw, and the municipalities that had emerged from a combination of considerations from reserve geography to religion to health to traditional significance of place. The houses within the villages expressed both the Common Bowl and the feasts and gatherings that reinforced lineage landholdings or ango'oskw (Allison Nyce pers. comm.) With the Common Bowl decision, the ango'oskw edges were clarified to be not boundaries, however, but patterns of land use of a people with common goals and interests. But the 1924 boundaries defining a final total of seventy-six square kilometers of Nisga'a reserve land remained as lines of confinement. To make sure the reservation system stayed uncontested, the Canadian Government under Duncan Campbell Scott added an amendment to the Indian Act that included a prohibition on hiring lawyers or raising money for land claims: 42 Every person who, without the consent of the Superintendent General expressed in writing, receives, obtains, solicits, or requests from any Indian any payment or contribution for the purpose of raising a fund or providing money for the prosecution of any claim which the tribe or band of Indians to which such Indian belongs...has or is represented to have for the recovery of any claim or money for the benefits of such tribe or band, be guilty of an offense and liable upon summary conviction for each offense to a penalty not exceeding two hundred dollars...or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months (Indian Act Amendment 1927 in Rose 2000: 79). Unlike the Nisga'a people's cognitive map, upon which ango'oskw boundaries became less distinct than those features expressing the unity of landscape and homeland, the Canadian Government had made the lines on the cognitive map of the reservation system metaphorically darker, and legally forming a difficult (though not insurmountable) challenge. 3.4 Asian contacts with the Nisga'a The time-honoured relationships among watershed units, land stewardship, and social system remained on the Nisga'a cognitive map despite attempted erasure by heavy-handed legislation within the Canadian Indian Act. Nisga'a custom and land-ownership patterns were resilient. The people had, over millennia, become experts in maintaining their cultural, social, and ecological landscapes while trading ideas—including spatial concepts—with other cultures. Predating the arrival of French, Spanish, and English traders, Asian peoples were among those with whom the Nisga'a shared goods as well as architectural, artistic, and space-planning ideas. The earliest dates of exchange between peoples from opposite sides of the North Pacific are not confirmed. "There is some evidence that goods from the Asian mainland were acquired centuries before direct contact, although these are rare and may be from shipwrecks rather than trading records" (Marsden, Anderson, and Nyce 2002: 269). Nisga'a pre-written and written history includes many exchanges with Russian-speaking peoples living in what is now Alaska; the Nisga'a people traveled a great deal to exchange goods and ideas with the Tlingit peoples to the north as well as with Russian settlers. The Nisga'a record evidences contact with the Russians in the 1780's at the mouth of the Nass River (Marsden, Anderson, and Nyce 2002). Carvings, paintings, foods, and buildings reaffirm that methods and ideas were exchanged between Russian-Alaskan and Nass Valley peoples: There were lots of poles then [in the old days before the longhouses were taken down]. They tell the history from long ago, Giiksihl wilp they call it. All of this is part of the history, what they encountered on their way back from Alaska. They lived in Alaska for quite a number of years, but they knew there was a land that belonged to their ancestors. They looked for the land, and made their way back. On their way back they became aware of other types of houses... There was some strain of Oriental blood in us, that is why we look like this. They moved freely back and forth. My great-grandfather said it was more for survival. You know they say the songs have an Oriental swing to them. I've been watching movies and television, and they sound like 43 us! So whether we had influence from them, or they were influenced by us, I don't know...I wanted to go up to Alaska and take a look at them [the Russian American people]: a lot of our past is tied in with the foods of the area. (Sim'oogit Minee'eskw, Rod Robinson, Interview 2003). Northern and Eastern Russian peoples had many commonalities with North American natives that suggest possibilities for the successful exchange of building ideas. Both peoples made their living within landscapes of active volcanoes and icy winters, economies dependent on fish and furs, and cultures known for wood construction, design, and fine craftsmanship (EVA 2002). Among the traded goods were Russian construction tools and technologies, which were much appreciated by Nass Valley builders for the relative ease in felling the huge trees needed for longhouse construction. Nisga'a seafaring skills made it possible to transport heavy tools over long distances, as elder Ni'isjoohl (Horace Stevens) explains: During the end of the seventeen hundreds my grandmother said they started building with saws. It was so much easier [than before], we didn't have to split the logs. They call it the donkey engine because it was so strong. They brought [the engines] back in pieces because they were so heavy, the flywheel and the iron and the belt. They /me Nisga'a peoplej were good sailors, good seamen. Sometimes they had to row, and the whole family rows. Why I am telling you this, they couldn't have just got that from somebody. There were Russians way before, because if you read the history they already knew about the fur trade and all that. We traded with the Russians way before the other people came in from England or France (Interview 2003). In the eighteenth century, French explorer Etienne Marchand (whose travels are recorded in Fleurieu 1801) notes that iron had long since arrived on the Northwest Coast, and connects the trade of iron tools with Russian trade sources. The first [European] navigators who visited the Northwest Coast of America, in ascending from the forty-second parallel to the sixtieth parallel, found that the knowledge and use of iron had long since arrived there; and they saw, in the hand of the Natives, various instruments and tools of that metal. [...] The trade of the Americans of the Northwest Coast with the Russians must, for upwards of half a century past, have made them acquainted with iron and copper; for, as far back as the year 1741, Bering and Tschiricow, having sailed from the coast of Kamtschatka [Kamchatka] discovered that of America from the opposite side (Fleurieu 1801: 229). While constructing more than 800 villages in the regions north and east of Nisga'a lands, Russians brought their architectural traditions. Evidence of Russian architectural influences on Nisga'a architecture is found in adaawak, in written histories, and in the architecture itself. Horace Stevens attests that the design of the roof ventilation system (called ala in Nisga'a tradition) changed with the influence of Russian people. Nisga'a builders exchanged the moveable ala to be a stationary unit like those found in Russian Alaska (fig. 14). Minee'eskw points to the prevalence of square towers and rounded domes, particularly in the rebuilding of Gitlaxt'aamiks and Aiyansh (fig. 15). 44 Fig. 14. Russian-style smokehouse vent (vent style identified as Russian by Emmons 1991: 71. Drawing by N . Mackin based upon smokehouse near Angoon, Alaska photographed by Frederica de Laguna. Fig. 15. Russian influences in Gitlaxt'aamiks: Domes and cupolas were inspired by Nisga'a travels to Russian settlements in what is now Alaska. The church steeple and the domed house element shown under construction near the right of the photograph are specific influences (Sim'oogit Minee'eskw interview 2003). Photograph taken by Marius Barbeau c. 1929. Canadian Museum of Civilization Photograph Catalogue Number 69691. Nisga'a architectural traditions, then, were amenable to adaptation and change. They were also a source of resilience, as attested by Nisga'a survival strategies used after the terrible volcano that altered Nass Valley geographies about three hundred years ago. 45 3.5 The volcano About three hundred years ago, from a vent near the headwaters of the Sii Aks Mountains, a great lava flow spread down through the valley and spread across a plain about thirty square kilometers in area, killing thousands of people and changing the landscape into a lava plain, much of which is now called Lava Bed Memorial Park (Anhluut'ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga'asanskwhl Nisga'a). The Nass River moved to the North side of the valley (School District 92 1996, Ayuukhl Nisga'a, Fladmark 2001). The Nisga'a people resettled in the areas around the lava plain, and re-learned the landscape that had changed so dramatically. The volcano was only one among many tremendous landscape changes that had occurred over time in the Nass Valley. "Natural variables influenced cultural adaptation, defined the basic availability and nature suitable for occupation, and controlled the long-term survival of such sites in the geoarcheological record", notes Knut Fladmark (2001: 40), listing the Sii Aks Mountain volcano among the truly catastrophic events that influenced cultural change in the Pacific Northwest. The Ayuukhl Nisga'a retells several elders' retellings of the volcano as it was in turn recalled by their elders. In each retelling, the volcano is used as a reminder of their vitally important ethic: respect for nature. Within the adaawak (oral histories), the Ayuuk (law) of respect for nature is nonnegotiable. Human misuse or abuse of the environment instigates cataclysmic environmental events, warns the Ayuuk. "The volcano occurred just before the white traders came to this land. The leader of the young boys responsible for the eruption of the volcano...had an innovation to amuse the children. He would catch a male humpback, the males of course were very broad, slit it at its broadest part and place a piece of shale there. The children thought this was very comical because the pink salmon was unable to swim on an even keel, as it was too heavy. This kept on every day" (Eli Gosnell, Wii Gadim Xsgaak, Ayuukhl Nisga'a TJ: 210). Then the volcano erupted, a "flame like rolling water". The story addresses a time and event so cataclysmic that the ethic of persistence, on its own, might not have been enough to ensure survival. As the adaawak continues, a great supernatural spirit comes and places his beak in the path of the volcano, thereby stopping the flow of lava and saving the downstream villages. The ethic of respect for nature was also needed, as was connectivity between people and the beings of the natural and supernatural worlds. Without respect for and connectivity with nature, environmental processes become chaotic (Fladmark 2001). The devastating volcano became a lesson instilling crucial environmental values. 46 Fig. 16. The Sii Aks volcano, a catastrophic event, was sometimes recalled with the intention of teaching crucial environmental values including the value of respect for all living things and the knowledge that human actions have a direct impact on the environment. 3 . 6 Cu l tu ra l exchanges with other Native peoples Between the time of the Nass Valley volcano (c. 300 years B.P.) and 2000 years B.P, interactions among Northwest Coastal peoples increased. Both adaawak and archeological records explain the enhanced cultural exchanges: neoglacial advances impelled Athapascan peoples to migrate southward (Cybulski 1992, Fladmark 2001); intertribal trade was lucrative; and marriage across boundaries increased knowledge, wealth, and diversity. The Nisga'a, who lived in a landscape rich in trade-worthy resources, were a vital part of the trade network. The People of the Nass harvested a diverse selection of resources at different times throughout the year. Nisga'a resources were so vital to northwest coastal economies that the trade routes, Genim Sgeenix or Grease Trails, were named after the valued Nass Valley oolichan grease, a commodity produced by rendering the finger-length fish whose mid-March arrival marked an end to winter scarcity (Bert McKay pers. comm.) The Nisga'a people exchanged people, goods, and ideas with many other peoples on the Northwest Coast (McDonald 1984, Ayuukhl Nisga'a, Cybulski 2001). Architectural ideas were among those exchanged. The craftsmen and woodworkers of the Nass and other Tsimshian speaking peoples have a long history of architectural excellence (Nabokov and Easton 1989), and many were commissioned to work on buildings outside of their homelands. 47 Marriage alliances between Northwest Coast peoples were common. Because the crest system was common to peoples across the region, and marriages could only occur between people of different clans and crests, the architecture brought together symbols from different crest lineages as well as ideas and stories from different parts of the region. "The adawx [the Tsimshian spelling for adaawak, oral histories], together with totem pole carvings and sacred songs, commemorate historic events and are akin to the classic epic poetry of the ancient peoples in other regions of the world" (Marsden, Anderson, and Nyce 2002: 279). By measuring the skulls of excavated individuals, and finding familial similarities among them, and by documenting similarities in cultural artifacts, archeologists surmise that the Nisga'a peoples probably married most often with the Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit, and ancient Namu (south of Bella Bella) peoples (Cybulski 2001). The adaawak substantiate archeologists' claims, telling of migrations and exchanges with nearby peoples, and of the architectural paintings, detailing, and pole carvings that expressed the histories of some of the migrations and crest exchanges. During this time, adaawak and geoarcheological evidence concur that coastal peoples' sociopolitical and legal systems became increasingly complex, as societies shared knowledge, people, and goods. Sacred and practical uses of landscape, essential to survival, underpinned other histories. Protecting abundance and diversity was a key to prosperity, and prosperity in turn inspired new allegiances. The corollary was also evident: in times of scarcity, wars erupted. Through times of prosperity and scarcity, the Nisga'a people both shared and guarded their resources, aided by an evolving land-stewardship system and its supporting clan structure. Sometime between 2000 and 2500 years B.P, some archeologists argue that excavated villages near Prince Rupert offer evidence for a change in the way Northwest Coast land ownership was organized. Basing their conclusions on the size and arrangement of depressions which indicate the layout, size, and form of houses, David Archer and Knut Fladmark suggest that ranked or non-egalitarian villages replaced earlier, more egalitarian village layouts (Archer 2001, Fladmark 2001). According to Archer's research, settlement patterns changed to reflect inherited social ranking. In a village carbon-dated to about 100 A D , houses of different sizes seemed to be arrayed according to social position (the largest chieftain's house in the center, flanked by houses of the next highest rank, with the lowest ranked houses in a row behind the others) (Archer 2001). Nisga'a adaawak do not acknowledge that there was a change in the crest and chieftainship system: to the contrary, the adaawak indicate that social ranking has since earliest times been a key to systematic ecological monitoring and harvesting, thereby ensuring resource abundance. Highest ranked individuals have responsibility to educate others, and to manage resource distribution. In Archer's interpretation of archeology, harvesting and food storage technologies, such as oolichan grease used to keep many foods free of airborne bacteria (like a flavorful edible non-plastic wrap!) increased salmon abundance, and expansion of regional trade, are among the explanations for the emergence of social ranking among Northwest Coastal peoples (Archer 2001). As during other historic "layers", both the technologies of landscape use, and the dissemination of landscape knowledge, explain social and structural systems. 48 Fig. 17. Oolichan processing was vital to food storage. Photographer unknown, date 1884, courtesy British Columbia Archives. Wood detailing, including tied connections, is evident. In the bottom right hand corner is a drying rack made of tied poles and places on top of a food storage box. The woman in the photograph is wearing a mixture of grease and soot used as repellant for biting insects and as sunscreen (School District 92 1996: 107). An earlier layer of the cultural landscape, from about 3000 (or as early as 4000) to 2500 years B.P., sometimes known as the "North Coast Interaction Sphere" (Sutherland 2001), is characterized by archeologists as a time when Northwest Coast peoples, including the Nisga'a, exchanged knowledge, goods, and people over long distances. Trade routes over land and waterways enhanced cultures and ecosystems from the Olympic Peninsula to Alaska. In earliest times, the adaawak and archeological reports concur that the earliest Nisga'a and other Tsimshian-speaking peoples lived mostly in "paired single-clan communities of several house-groups, each led by a head chief or other lesser chiefs" (Marsden, Anderson, and Nyce 2002: 275). In these early times, as later, transitory settlement patterns were an environmental necessity. "For reasons of limited dry firewood supplies and for food conservation purposes, our ancestors moved their villages often" (Ayuukhl Nisga'a I: 74). 49 3.7 Earliest clan histories recorded in the landscape Mostly the early years, we wondered, how far back can you go? They say in our language dawihl, years ago. And after awhile they carve and I taught my children how to carve, and that's what they did [to teach the old stories]. It's so far back, the years roll by so fast, that when they [the elders] talk about way back we never believed them, until they started finding petrified cockles and clams here and yet there is a river! Just below us [at Laxgalts'ap], and when the banks gave way there were baby clams below us, they were right. We knew about that, [that the sea was up this far] by passing on from generation to generation (Horace Stevens interview 2003) How far back can you go in memory? wonders Horace Stevens. The elders' stories go back very far indeed, if they knew about rising sea levels that occurred after great sheets of ice melted in North America. Science tells us that people lived in the area as early as sixteen thousand years ago, when pollen records evidence ice-free areas that supported diverse ecosystems and plentiful sources for food (Fladmark 2001, Oberg 2003). Adaptability to change would have been an essential characteristic of the people living in those early times. "The region formed a very dynamic natural context for human endeavors with significantly shifting ice fronts, rising and falling sea levels, and changing biota" (Fladmark 2001: 40). About thirteen thousand years ago sea levels were about one hundred meters lower than they are today, and lands that are now beneath the sea were livable landscapes. Then about ten thousand years ago, geological records also tell of a great flood, when huge glaciers melted and sea levels rose to over one hundred meters above present levels. The waters subsided to near-present day levels by about 9000 B.P (Fladmark 2001). The Nisga'a adaawak tell that the four clans were brought to the Nass Valley by the Creator, K'amligihahlhaahl (Marsden, Anderson, and Nyce 2002), at the beginning of time, before memory. From the starting place of a village on the upper Nass River, the people encountered tumultuous times, including a great flood which they escaped by fleeing to the mountaintops. The land that Nisga'a ancestors first lived on not only disappeared, but had all traces erased by the great ice sheets or buried deep beneath the sea. The adaawak continues with stories that tell of the glaciers, and how the people learned to live with changing and sometimes chaotic environmental conditions (Ayuukhl Nisga'a). The histories later became encoded in crests that helped the people know how they would deal with difficult times. The crests would reflect some encounter that was very important to the family. In a way it was like your genealogy, as you evolve. Some of the people came after the great flood, they came overland, and as they embarked to come here they ran into great obstacles, some of them were profitable, others were very sad. Usually the spiritual side of all that would intervene, and that always is shown on the totem pole: the Naxnok (supernatural being or power) came and saved us here (Dr. Bert McKay interview 2003) 50 Nisga'a elders knew that the sea-levels had risen, and how people had coped with the change, just as they knew about the sheets of ice and who had traveled over them. The memories of all these events were retold in the crests.. 3.8 Completing the circle from time immemorial to the present The final layer of this overview reaches back from the beginning of time immemorial, and circles forward to the present. "You are going to stand just where you stood in the beginning, and you will stand there as long as the world exists" (Ayuukhl Nisga'a I: 93), promised Sim'oogit Wii Gadim Xsgaak (Eli Gosnell), speaking in 1977 both to the Unity Pole being raised and to the Nisga'a gathered to watch the historic event. As the first totem pole to be raised in the Nass Valley in over one hundred years, the unity pole is an ayukws, or pictorial representation of an adaawak (School District 92 1996) of great significance. At the raising of the pole, Sim'oogit Gosnell recalled several adaawak, including the recounting of red-cedar, the first tree in Lisims history. "In the beginning of Nisga'a existence...when there was only semi-darkness and no daylight...the land on Lisims was nearly bare" (Ayuukhl Nisga'a I: 88). Then the tree of life—the Simgan, or red-cedar— appeared, and Txeemsim, grandson of the Creator, taught Nisga'a ancestors to use the fronds for tonic, balm, and medicine; the roots for nets and rope; the bark as roofing, siding, rain gear, blankets, and fire starter; the wood as walls, posts, beams, canoes, and pts'aan. The cedar tree becomes a key to Nisga'a culture and livelihood. Sim'oogit Gosnell related the coming of the cedar tree with the beginnings of the great longhouse architecture for which people on the Pacific Northwest Coast were famous. Looking at landscape history as layers of entwined natural and cultural transformations offers an opportunity to examine present-day landscape change as still another layer within an on-going transformation. Within their historic context, the Nisga'a Treaty and Highway can be seen as a continuation of millennia-old negotiations with globalization and connectivity. This layered historic overview of landscape change also suggests the importance of landscape and architectural evidence in reconstructing a First Nation's ideas about the environment, society, and cultural interactions. Three links between constructions and ideologies are traced in the section that follows. Firstly, materials used to create Nass Valley architecture demonstrates the in-depth ecological knowledge that is needed to adapt those materials to different functions and sites. Secondly, specific architectural/ landscape works are reconstructed in drawings and models, and their significance and details are verified through elders' testimonies. Thirdly, maps of Nisga'a places are correlated with different architectural productions, thereby illuminating correlations among social systems, ecosystem pattern, and the design of structures. Within these three tasks, elders' memories of places are recorded and, when possible, transcribed into drawings. Elder Alice Azak says that her memories of spaces "just keep flashing" (pers. comm.); these flashes of recollection are pieced together to form the images found in the next three chapters. 51 CHAPTER IV: Materials for Architecture and the Landscape 4.1 Introduction Many Nisga'a historians who contributed to this research spoke of materials used in pre-contact buildings and landscape constructions; methods of teaching and learning about those materials; and the reciprocity among tools, materials, and the design of structures. In most interviews, the three factors interrelated. This chapter records present-day elders' recollections of tools and materials. Adaawak from other sources, archeological evidence, and personal observation add to elders' memories of construction materials. Nisga'a oral histories stress that learning about materials was a vital part of education. This is exemplified in an adaawak from very early days in Nisga'a history, at a time when there were only two Nisga'a winter villages. When the story begins, one of the two villages had recently been decimated by warfare, and only three inhabitants remained: a young woman, her jiits (grandmother), and her infant son, named Hasa Galyeen. (The traditional story was adapted by Niitkw'ililtkw) (School District 92 1996: 258). The education of the young child began with lessons about tools and materials, which were undertaken using all senses, and with respect for every substance, plant, or animal. He [the very young Hasa Galyeen] spent many hours studying plants, bugs, and other fascinating objects in his environment. When he was little, he already knew a great deal about rocks. He knew what they tasted like, what they sounded like when he banged them together. He knew what it felt like to walk on pebbles and on rocks. He could sort them out by colour, shape, and size. To encourage him in his learning, his mother made him a rattle by putting pebbles in a hollow bone and securing each end with a piece of leather tied with a thong. He loved to make music with his rattle (School District 92 1996: 259). Using the adaawak of Hasa Galyeen as a guide, materials are discussed here in the approximate order that they are learned about in a pre-contact Nisga'a child's life. Beginning with stone and minerals; then water, animals and small plants; and finally specific uses of large trees, the pedagogy-inspired re-telling emphasizes the importance of experiential teaching and learning in the acquisition of traditional ecological knowledge (Turner, Ignace, and Ignace 2000). As Hasa Galyeen's education continues, he learns about a crucial first step in knowledge: keen observation, and an ability to look beyond initial perceptions. Before he could be trusted to harvest plants and animals for practical purposes, Hasa Galyeen had to come to know how materials in the environment are alive and are replenished. So that her son could acquire the necessary depth of understanding about his environment, Hasa Galyeen's mother engages a blind teacher. What Hasa Galyeen had begun to notice was that colours had become more vibrant and that sounds had become more distinct. When he looked down on the ground he marveled at how the duff in the forest seemed to be alive, especially the seeds from 52 the deciduous trees. Without looking for them he was now able to see insects on the bark of the trees (School District 92 1996: 261). Awareness of the sensory qualities of materials is then translated into skill. Hasa Galyeen constructs implements from different woods, learns how to haul and store water, and prepares plants for medicine. Then, his awareness and knowledge are tempered by respect for the sources of useful materials. Before shooting his first deer, the boy learns to direct his arrow through a soft spot behind the ear so there will be no holes in the valued hide. After his first hunt, he uses all parts of the animal. He cleans the animal without contaminating any of the meat, cuts the meat in strips and climbs high in the house to hang them to dry, and saves the marrow so his grandmother can eat it and be warm. Conservation, attests the story, is as important to the hunters' success as meeting the mark. Other oral histories convey content and methods of architecturally-directed education. After learning the skills of implement carver, water gatherer, maker of medicines, and hunting, young Nisga'a men showing promise in woodworking became highly trained in the uses of different tree species (McKay 2003). Carvers and builders were highly trained, and valued within Nisga'a society both for their botanical knowledge and for their power in creating structures that enhanced people's earthly living conditions and relations with the spirit world. The following section on tools and materials approximately follows the order a young Nisga'a, such as Hasa Galyeen, would follow in learning about the environment, presenting technology and materials approximately as they would have been organized in pre-contact Nisga'a pedagogy. Materials are presented in parallel with the "learning by doing" and "lifelong learning" principles that underpin Nisga'a, and other aboriginal peoples' traditional ecological knowledge (Turner, Ignace, and Ignace 2000, Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). Also, as in traditional learning, both oral history and a collation of observed evidence contribute to this discussion. Western science helps to situate technologies and materials within a specific time frame. Technologies useful for dating archeological re-discoveries include carbon dating (calculating the time since an organism died by measuring its emissions of carbon-14, a radioisotope found in all organisms that gradually decreases at a set, predictable rate after death) (Potter and Stockley 1987). Western science rarely provides complete explanations, however, and many theories of Western Science remain challenged. Therefore, as with many reconstructions of the non-written past, this research relies upon adaawak and elders' memories to guide archeologists' explanations of the tools and building parts they re-discover (see de Laguna 1960, MacDonald 1984b). Adaawak also help this research to explain how cultural and spiritual realms inspire technological and architectural advances, working within a changing ecological context. Included here is a history of materials used for interior and exterior fittings and furnishings as well as fixed building parts. The history explores how, when, and where different materials were used, and their significance to architectural production. Changes in materials used, and the reasons for change, provide a means to explore relationships between changing ecological and cultural conditions, and evolving Nisga'a architectural and landscape constructions. 53 4.2 Rocks, metals, and minerals Stone tools Vital to construction were stone tools, as described in 1976 by Laxsgiik chieftain Sim'oogit Titus Minee'eskw, recorded and translated by Harold Wright: This was the story of our original ancestors, passed on through the centuries, and it cannot be erased as the wise old people kept this in their memories. These stories were passed on continually. At this time there were no steel knives. Stones of very thin and hard blade-like edges were implemented. Not just any flat rock was used. There were special places where they could be obtained. There is a place above present-day New Aiyansh where this stone can be procured, for example. The stone had many uses, such as the daawiis which, although not having a very sharp edge to it, served its purpose in many ways. Also, our forefathers were very powerful men to be able to use their hand-made tools (AN I: 4). Stone adzes (daawiis) have been found in Northwest Coast archeological sites as early as 5500 years ago (Carlson 1976: 2003). Like many other innovations, the daawiis emerged from a number of earlier traditions. Precursor tool-making traditions included the microblade tradition, found thirty thousand years ago in North China or Siberia, in Alaska 11,000 years ago, and in other Northwest Coastal communities between ten and nine thousand years ago; and the pebble tool traditions, originating on the Northwest Coast about ten thousand or more years ago and continuing until six thousand or fifty-five hundred ago (Carlson 1976). These precursors to the adze are part of the "Early period" of Northwest Coast architecture (sometimes called Period one) (Carlson 2003), a time of rapid change as ice continued to retreat, new plant communities emerged, sea levels fluctuated rapidly, and distinctive cultures evolved (Fladmark 2001). By contrast, the relatively stable Middle Period of Northwest Coast traditions (also called Periods two through six) from 6000 or 5500 years ago to about 1500 years ago, cultures exchanged ideas and goods through trade, ecologies stabilized, people experienced material abundance, longhouse structures become evident— and the stone woodworking tools, including the adze, become prevalent. "About 5500 years ago there occurred a world-wide change in sea levels. This change affects the archeological record of coastal areas, and roughly coincides with a change in technology of coastal cultures" (ibid: 22). Quartz was the main stone selected by Nisga'a adze-makers: The woodworkers, they had to know how to fall the tree. There wasn't just any way. We didn't have the implements that make it easy today. We did have stone adzes. The main implement they used was quartz (Bert McKay 2003). At about the same time as adzes are found in the Northwest, cedar increased in abundance in the Northwest Coast (Hebda and Mathewes 1984), supplying straight-grained, rot-resistant poles and planks that characterize Northwest Coastal structures. The advancement of woodworking tools, the availability of cedar, and the design of longhouses (ibid) all have parallel histories, giving insight into how architecture, landscapes, and technologies form overlapping spheres of enquiry. The co-evolution of tools, materials, and building forms in 54 the Nass Valley also tells a specific story of interconnectedness among ecology, technology, culture, and architecture. Copper Copper, according to archeological sites near Prince Rupert on the Northwest Coast, was used by the Nisga'a and their neighbours as early as 3000 years B.P. (MacDonald and Inglis 1976). Native copper, or copper stored in the earth in metal rather than as soluble crystals requiring ionic transfer (Knapp 1996), was found near the Copper River and on a tributary of the White River. These were the major sources of copper traded among people of the coast. Other sources closer to the Nass and Skeena Rivers, notes surveyor George Dawson during his work for the Geological Survey of Canada, were kept secret by the Native people. "[I was] shown fine specimens of copper pyrites and bornite [a copper ore material] by an Indian. [It was] said to come from a place a little below the Forks of the Skeena, and to exist, of course, in great quantity. Indian believes the locality unknown to whites" (Dawson 1878, published 1989: 521). Dawson's information suggests that copper would have been available to the Nisga'a through regular trade routes along the Grease Trails. Although copper does not appear to have been used on the exterior of buildings, some stories tell of copper canoes. Nagunak (the two-headed whale spirit in Tsimshian and Nisga'a oral histories) gives a chiefs party a magical copper canoe as insurance that the people will be kind to all sea creatures (Miller and Eastman 1984). Carvers valued copper for its resistance to water-induced damage or corrosion. However, the rarity and value of Native copper would likely have made it too expensive to use for flashing or other exterior construction purposes (Drucker 1965, Emmons 1991). Trade increased the value of copper still further. Each time a piece of copper was sold, its worth escalated, until the southernmost recipient of a piece of copper paid more than double its original price. Copper also had other symbolic associations related directly to architectural production. As items of wealth and decoration, "coppers" were displayed by a chief during ceremonies and feasts. Hammered to form a slab between one foot and three feet high, a copper consisted of a keystone-shaped upper section and square section below, reinforced with a t-shaped thickening horizontally across and center, and from the center to the base. Northern coastal peoples then incised coppers with crests, thereby working out of themes that would later be used for housefront paintings (Miller and Eastman 1984). Coppers represented a link among wealth, souls, and the universe: the longhouse portrayed similar linkages. In comparing housefront designs with the coppers belonging to the same family lineage, similarities are found, both in design characteristics and in the way both houses and coppers are named. "The symbolic relationship of coppers to house front designs is supportable. The main difference [between copper and house front designs] is that the side panels of the house and screen design structures...have been rearranged and placed below the central panel" (ibid: 134). Copper was sometimes used as rivets to join together parts of fine household items, such as spoon handles and bowls, or other works in bone, horn, or shell (Emmons 1991). Spoon 55 handles, in turn, had crest significance and, like copper slabs, may have been used to work out design ideas for larger structures. Another direct use of copper in architecture was at the final stage of finishing: as blue-green pigments. "Copper-impregnated clays" (Garfield and Wingert 1979: 63) were traded at the Copper and White Rivers, and mixed with fish eggs to form a prized blue-green paint. Copper oxide, probably azurite, was also used as pigment (McLennan and Duffek 2000). I ron Iron was amply evident on the Northwest Coast some time before the arrival of eighteenth century European traders, and available in small quantities, perhaps since about 1000 B.P. (Drucker 1965) and possibly as early as 1630 B.P. (MacDonald and Cybulski 2001). The possibility of iron use by early Northwest Coastal peoples has architectural implications, mostly in terms of the woodworking details that are possible with iron tools, and not with known tools of stone or bone. Indeed it would seem that peoples of the Tsimshian language group had the ability to carve with iron tool-like precision long before the last millennium. In Prince Rupert wet site excavations, for example, one of the surprising features of the heavy woodworking were the smooth and broad cross-grain cuts, and detailed mortise-and-tenon joinery, neither of which would seem to be the product of mussel shell adze blades or stone tools. (Mortise and tenon joints link two pieces of wood, one of which is the mortise—slotted to receive wood—and the other the tenon—a tongue that fits into the mortise). In the same excavation, dated by the surrounding peat to be from 1630+100 B.P., archeologists found straight shafted chisel handles and elbow adze handles—but no tool blades for either. "Unless the blades were very thin ones made of jade" (MacDonald and Cybulski 2001), the assumption is that iron tools were used by peoples of the North coast over fifteen hundred years ago. Where did the iron come from? Archeological sites in northern Tlingit territory, near Pillsbury Point, contained iron tools, including a chisel and barbed arrowhead (Drucker 1965). As to Tlingit sources of iron, anthropologist Philip Drucker speculates: "The source of iron, which was not smelted on the North Pacific Coast, is something of a mystery. I am of the opinion that it must have been traded in a long series of exchanges, via Bering Strait, from some Iron Age in Siberia. It is known that the Inuit of the Bering Strait region received iron in small but increasing amounts from the beginning of the archeologically defined Punuk horizon, dated about A.D. 1000, and it seems reasonable to believe that some of the metal was traded along the coast until it reached the hands of the North Pacific Coast Indians" (Drucker 1965: 23). Trade with the Tlingit, of which there is a long tradition, probably provided pre-contact Nisga'a with iron. Mobley and Eldridge (1992) offer a wider range of possibilities. Pre-contact Northwest Coastal peoples could have obtained iron from trade with Mexico, or from Siberia, or from Japanese vessels that were washed onto the west coast of America by the Japanese current. Supporting the latter theory, Frederica de Laguna noted that the Native people had obtained iron from driftwood. The "drift iron" was shaped by beating and pounding, skills the people had perfected through long work with native copper (de Laguna 1960). The Pillsbury Point site also contained some wooden artifacts that were likely carved with iron tools, judging from the finely detailed workmanship (ibid). 56 During the "exploration and fur trade period" of the North Pacific Coast that spanned from Bering's arrival in Alaska in the early eighteenth century to the "epoch of establishment of administrative and religious controls"(ibid) in roughly the last third of the nineteenth century (Drucker 1965: 191), iron became still more available in the Northwest Coast. Researchers are divided on the influence of increased availability of iron on architectural production. Drucker (1965) attests that the eighteenth century iron tools had little cultural effect, since the native people were probably already familiar with iron. Further, carving styles were already established, and technologies for carving did not change with the more abundant iron supply. Perhaps, he concedes, there was some increase in the volume of carvings produced— but not in the actual production itself. Records of the traders themselves concur that iron was already available on the Northwest Coast before their arrival: The first [European] navigators who visited the Northwest Coast of America, in ascending from the forty-second parallel to the sixtieth parallel, found that the knowledge and use of iron had long since arrived there; and they saw, in the hand of the Natives, various instruments and tools of that metal. [...] (Fleurieu 1801: 229). Other traders' journals of the late 1700's indicate that there was a demand, among coastal peoples, for additional iron in the form of iron adzes, chisels, and picks. These were purchased by Northwest Coast peoples in exchange for Native-owned goods (MacDonald and inglis 1976). However, the demand for iron was not as intense as the traders may have supposed. Spanish, American, British, and French traders all vied to sell goods, including iron, to the Native people. Markets for iron were quickly glutted, discovered Captain Cook, who returned from the Pacific Coast of America to Canton with barrels of unsold iron in his ship (Drucker 1965). Some analyses suggest that abundant iron obtained through trade with Europeans led directly to a renaissance of building and carving throughout the exploration and fur trade period (sometimes called the proto-historic or early historic period). For example, Gunther (1951) asserts, "When the early explorers brought iron into the Northwest, the Indian [sic, meaning Aboriginal] craftsmen seized upon it to improve their tools and the great development of art can be traced partially to this stimulus" (Gunther 1951: not paginated). The greater ease with which the traditional plank house—in production for about 5000 years (Fladmark 1976, McLennan and Duffek 2000)—and the carved pole could be constructed using iron may have influenced volume of production. However, a much larger factor was likely the greater availability of wealth from increased trade, which would affect the "number of housing starts". Also, more elaborate housing would be enabled by vibrant, fur trade-fueled eighteenth and early nineteenth century Native economies. Improved access to iron tools may have facilitated fabrication of mortise-and-tenon joinery in house construction, replacing earlier tied joints in some cases. In the nineteenth century Nass Valley, and earlier, tied joints continued to be used on some buildings and in some situations (Jacob McKay 2003), with mortise-and-tenon joinery selected for the main connections on 57 more permanent structures. Tied joints remained common on less expensive structures, such as smokehouses (Emmons 1991, Jacob McKay 2003) but the main poles, planks, and beams of longhouse construction were interlocked with intricate woodworking details. Joints that were probably made with iron tools common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are shown in the building drawings that follow. Among the intricate joints used in Nisga'a buildings were those at the corners of the longhouse. The sizable planks were slotted to receive side beams from two directions, and were grooved at the top to hold the gable end beam that spanned across horizontal or vertical wall planks. Kerfed joints were also used, as were lap joints that were either bound together with spruce root rope, or doweled together with hardwood dowels. While post-contact iron tools are easy to attribute to European trade, the question remains as to what very hard, thin tool blade enabled architectural craftsmen from sixteen hundred years ago to fashion the intricate cross-grain cuts needed for different woodworking joints. Just as the last longhouses were being constructed on the Northwest Coast, sometime in the 1880's, nails and Western-style platform framing were introduced. The increased abundance of iron due to European trade was, in all likelihood, not the reason Nisga'a builders came to choose nails over mortise-and-tenon. In the eighteenth and earlier centuries, nails were expensive and rare. Further, the massive poles and beams used in much Nisga'a construction would have required sizable spikes and bolted connections to withstand wind, earthquakes, and other forces—even more expensive than small spikes or nails. Iron connections remained expensive until about the 1880's, as the iron produced until that time was hard and required hand-forging. In the 1880's a new manufacturing system for making inexpensive soft steel, the Bessemer process, facilitated the marketing of factory-built nails from soft-steel wire (Visser 2004). By the beginning of the twentieth century, nails were affordable and easy to obtain. Once available in the Nass Valley, nails became the preferred way of joining wood building parts together (Jacob McKay 2003). The availability of nails coincided with increasing availability of milled lumber in the Nass Valley. After the missionaries arrived, mills were constructed in or near many villages, to produce the milled building materials favored by the missionaries. Gravel The longhouse, it's built right on the ground. You see all the thick gravel, the clean gravel? That's what they used all around as a floor, on the inside and the outside. Every so often they take that out and change it. They bring in new clean gravel. They don't just use it for years. The same way they use the wing of the bird to get the spider webs, to clean up. I can't go without the vacuum myself (Emma Nyce pers. comm.). Being able to change the material on house floors, for cleaning purposes, was an innovative use of gravel, a material readily available and easily cleaned. Andesite pebbles Still another use of pebbles, this time larger than those used for flooring, was round pebbles were made into scrapers. This use is archeologically evident as early as 10,000 B.P., a time 58 when glaciers had mostly receded from the Northwest Coast. Scrapers continued to be uncovered and dated (by radio-carbon dating of nearby organic materials) through the close of the Lithic Stage of Northwest Coast history—that is, until about 5500 B.P., when sea levels dropped close to modern levels (Fladmark 2001, Archeological Survey of Canada 2004). The Greenville (Laxgalts'ap) excavation, dated much later than the Lithic Period, mostly from 1500 B.P. to about 800 B.P., nonetheless uncovered eight relatively flat andesite (hard, grayish black volcanic) rocks or pebbles that had been "flaked" in the manner of microblade tools: that is, one or both faces of one end were chipped off or "flaked" to form a sharp steep blade; the other end was left rounded to fit into the hand (Archeological Survey of Canada 2004). Scrapers were used in woodworking, which makes them important to architectural production. The presence of the scrapers in the Greenville site indicates the very long tradition of woodworking practices: consistent use of tools for millennia. From their size, the Greenville stones appear to fit nicely in the hand, since they ranged in length from 35.2 to 61.2 mm., slightly narrower in width than in length, and between 5.9 to 10.9 mm. thick (Cybulski 1992). Slate Mirrors, worn about the neck, were part of personal decoration, although they may also have enhanced small interior spaces when not being worn. Likely, mirrors were a Nisga'a innovation. "The Nishka (sic) claim to have been the originators of the mirror in this region. They fashioned it from a homogenous, grayish-black slate found in a ledge on the north bank of the Nass across from the old village of Kitaix, flushing the rock with water to procure pieces of suitable size for working. It is a fact that specimens found among the Nishka an Coast Tsimshian seem to be of like material and are similar in form, thus tending to substantiate the Nishka claim" (Emmons 1921: 10). Unlike most building elements or accessories, slate mirrors were not shared between cultures of the Northwest Coast. "The stone mirror...was the product of the Tsimshian, and if known to their neighbours of the coast, the Tlingit, Haida, and Kwakiutl, it was never used by them, and is not represented in any of the very complete collections gathered among them (Emmons 1921: 7). Carved and shaped slate mirrors are found in the Greenville excavation. The slates are about six inches high and four inches wide, and several are shaped approximately like the shadow of a front-facing (but flattened) head, neck, and shoulders. The keystone-like "head" narrowed to a neck-like extension and then widened at the base or "shoulder, a shape that enabled the mirror to be attached to a cord made of hide or twisted root and worn as a pendant necklace (Emmons 1921). Other Nass Valley examples are more like the shape of "coppers", but smaller: a shape indicating wealth and also connecting the bearer to family crest spirits and wealth from the land. Like other carved works in the Nisga'a repertoire, most mirrors are crafted to a near-perfect bi-symmetry, sometimes engraved on one or both sides. Zoomorphic, or animal-like images (MacDonald 1976) were carved on some, whereas others had more geometric designs. An additional example from the Nass Valley was carved with finger grips (Cybulski 1992: 212), 59 showing it is probably intended to be used as an implement other than a mirror. As with other decoration on household, personal, or architectural elements today or in the past, the choice of carved pattern likely indicated personal preference of the artist or wearer (McLennan pers. comm.), or different meaning, function, or significance accorded the object. Individuality of design choices, as in the slate mirrors of the Nass Valley, becomes an indicator that individual experimentation was often a key element within cultural wisdom, as were everyday objects and the discourse of daily life (Turner, Ignace, and Ignace 2000). One of the slates found in the Nass Valley is incised with a pattern of parallel lines and cross-lines in a style reminiscent of Tahltan or Babine hunting knives (Emmons 2001). Since these are peoples who came to the Nass Valley in the adaawak histories, it is possible that this slate is a work from the time of those particular migrations. Trade and migration, another set of keys to the origins of ecological knowledge and wisdom, are suggested in the artistic patterns of Nass Valley mirrors. The slates had numerous uses, as indicated by the shapes and carvings. Several mirrors have notched top edges, indicating they may also have been used as scrapers (Emmons 1921). Nisga'a people used the hard, reflective implements as palettes for mixing minerals and fish eggs used for paint (Cybulski 1992). Some were also ground to form ulu-shaped knives (ibid). In effect, it was not unusual for people to have multiple uses for their artistic works, and more than one reason for making them (McLennan pers. comm.) Obsidian The continuous presence of obsidian between Tsimshian-speaking peoples and the British Columbian Interior is verified by the presence of obsidian tools in excavations as old as 5000 B.P.(MacDonald 1989, Prince 2001). The trail network that connected the Nass Valley with Interior and Coastal trading partners facilitated the transport of a continuous supply of obsidian to coastal regions. The hard volcanic glass was quarried south of the Nass Valley at Anaheim Peak ("Mount Bess"), and north of the Nass at Mount Edziza (Pokotylo 1988). Obsidian was highly valued for the extremely sharp tools it produced. Fine cuts in wood made with obsidian blades would have enabled carvers to express details common in Nass Valley carvings, such as the very small faces within eyes of crest figures, and other delicate work for which Nisga'a carvers were known. 4.3 Zoomorphic Materials Birds' wings and feathers Several historians of this research mentioned the importance of selecting construction materials that could be kept clean, and of having implements to maintain order in the household. Neatness, explained Emma Nyce, was always important to the Nisga'a. For this task, birds wings were carefully selected. 60 They have their own way of cleaning where they are, so it's not messy. They use a wing of a grey bird from the sea. I forget the name. They use it to clean where they are so it is always neat... (Emma Nyce 2003). Most archeological sites, including Greenville (Laxgalts'ap), evidence collections of bird wings. At Prince Rupert archeological sites, "almost sixty percent of the identified bird bones were wing elements, whereas such bones comprise less than ten percent of the total number of bones in a complete avian skeleton" (Stewart and Stewart 2001). Wings collected at the Greenville site include those of Bald eagles (of the nine bones collected, six were from the wing), gulls (Larus sp.) (sixty-six bones collected, of which twenty-eight were from the wings), five different duck species (four of the seven collected bones were wings), and raven (two wing elements collected out of a total of three bones). Judging from the archeological discoveries at Laxgalts'ap, the grey bird from the sea that Sigidimnak' Nyce refers to was probably a mew gull or glaucous-winged gull. These birds were also captured for food in early spring during the oolichan run (Bert McKay 2003), supporting Dr. McKay's assertion that the whole animal was used, following principles of conservation. For example, the gulls whose wings were saved for cleaning were also used for food at certain times of the year: Certain types of seagulls are edible. That is part of the new foods that are being harvested now [in March]: not as much as they used to. I had my last seagull feed about five, six years ago. It's not just any kind of seagull; these are what you call the herring gull. They are white with sort of a grayish blue on wings. There are others too, that are almost brown from the soil, but they are garbage eaters who have come in from the urban centers. You don't eat those. The hunter has to know exactly what kind he is hunting. It is part of the foods that come with the spring season (Bert McKay 2003). Animals whose parts were used in dwelling construction or maintenance were rarely used solely for those purposes. Whenever possible, the remaining parts were used for food or for utensils. For example, the long hollow limb bones of birds were used for construction tools such as awls (ibid); they were also used for tubes, whistles, and beads. Drinking tubes for medicine were made from eagle wing bones (Stewart and Stewart 2001). Multiple uses of resources was one key to ensuring that each resource would be sustainable over many generations. Spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias, Nhga'a=gasgaasts) Nisga'a builders used dogfish skin as "sandpaper", to complete the finish on wood carvings and structural components. The Greenville excavation, along with other archeological sites of peoples with whom the Nisga'a exchanged ideas and goods, contained bones from the spiny dogfish, and their use as sandpaper is remembered by elders (AN IV). Swimming close to the surface, the shark-like fish can be caught relatively easily. The skin is sandy-rubbery to the touch (Bob Lang pers. comm.). Nisga'a people would have been able to catch immature spiny dogfish year-round and mature specimens in summer, where they were found in Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance (Cybulski 1992). 61 Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus, Nisga'a=matx) The most important resource is the mountain goat, because the total animal is used. The horns, for instance, were used for arrowheads, or for knives, and used as a breastplate for warriors: they were stringed together so the arrows would bounce off. So that was the importance of that resource (Bert McKay 2003). Mountain goat horns were also used for spoons (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). The intestines were used for tying building elements together, particularly inside a building (Horace Stevens pers. comm.). The wool was manufactured by hand and used for making sweaters, socks, slippers and gloves, and the goat hide made ceremonial drums, men's pants, and shoes (AN IV: 68). The rich meat was "the first meat of winter" (Robert Moore (Niisxbakhl) in A N IV: 68), and was eaten fresh or dried. Mussel shell blades Very sharp blades were made from mollusk shells. The blades of adzes—important woodworking tools—were made from mussel and other mollusk shells in the "Early Pacific" period of about 3500 to 1600 years B.P. (Ames and Maschner 1999: 92), coinciding with the earliest recovery of planks in wet-site research on the Northwest Coast (dated to 3000 to 3500 years B.P., see Hebda and Mathewes 1984: 712). The use of mollusk shells has been correlated with the emergence of longhouse construction technologies and practices (ibid). Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis; Nisga'a=wan) Hasgaltkw or antlers were used for tools and for utensils (School District 92 1996), Archeological discoveries of deer teeth were also found at Greenville archeological site; the mandibles and bones of deer extremities were used to make tools as well as for ceremonial items (Cybulski 1992: 89). For example, a chisel 105.5 by 14.7 by 11.9 mm. was formed from a metacarpal of a Sitka deer (Cybulski 1992: 221). Awls were also made from split land mammal bones, including those of deer (ibid: 215). Fish egg proteins Used as the binder for paints, fish egg proteins were vital to the expressiveness of painted buildings, boxes, poles, and other wood carvings (McLellan and Duffek 2000). . 4.4 Small plants Fireweed (Epilobium augustifolium, Nis,ga'a=Haas; inner fiber= Waahaas) String from fireweed stems was sometimes used for tied connections (Hahiimagoonisgum Algaxhl Nisga'a 2001: 182). The availability of fireweed in the Nass Valley and surrounds is readily observed: even the lava fields have sufficient soil and nutrients to enable the tenacious and colourful plants to thrive. 62 Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica, Nisga'a=Sdatx) Stinging nettle was an important source of twine. Both the stem fibers and the roots were softened and then twisted or rolled together to make a fine cord (Turner 1998: 175). Stinging nettle twine was commonly made into oolichan nets as described below: The oolichan net was made from the roots of the stinging nettle. Within our family's hunting area which starts just a little north of this community and continues up, is Lax Ansdatx which means the rotten stinging nettle. Its roots were used to make the nets in the early days. The roots were softened and then woven together; they look like modern day twine. It was fine enough to be able to be used for nets. In fact I think a stinging nettle net from the Nass may be in the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull (Joe Gosnell, Hleek interview 2003). 4.5 Trees Evidence of wood and fibre uses from as long as six thousand years ago are found in water-logged, or wet sites, since wood and fibre remains are often preserved in water-saturated environments (Makah Nation 1984, Croes 2001). Wet site research has enabled scientists to verify that Northwest Coastal Peoples spent millennia utilizing various trees, optimizing the individual qualities of each species (MacDonald 1984a), and making woven or tied connections (Croes 2001). Prince Rupert Harbour, an excavated wet site close to Nisga'a lands, demonstrates that Tsimshian speaking peoples from as early as 3000 B.P. used crabapple, western fir, alpine fir (alda) yew, birch (haawakj, juniper (ts'ex), alder (luux), and pine (sginist) as well as Western red-cedar (simgan), yellow cedar (sgwinee), spruce (seeks), maple (k'ookst), and Western hemlock (giikw), for architectural and interior components (all italicized words in this paragraph are Nisga'a). Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, is not recorded by the archeologists at Prince Rupert site, is missing from lists of trees in Nisga'a dictionaries (see W W N 2001), and is noted in Turner (1998) as absent from most of the central or northern coast; yet in 2004 botanist Nancy Turner found Douglas-fir near Gitwinksihlkw (fig. 18a). Climate change may be a factor in this observed change in vegetation, since climate change was noted by numerous elders interviewed in 2003 (Bert McKay, Alice Azak, and others). Fig. 18a Douglas-fir is now found in the Nass Valley, which is north of the expected range of this wood. Photograph by Nancy Turner 2004, taken across from a fishwheel.near Gitwinksihlkw 63 When testifying about trees, most Nisga'a elders include a proviso that trees should only be used with a thorough understanding of their properties. Cedars had particular value, and many elders spoke about cultural laws of conservation while specifically addressing the great value of cedar. Cutting down a tree of any species was a matter of great deliberation. Experts were consulted before a tree was cut: ...some of the guys were good at knowing which trees would split straight. They know just by looking: they would walk around the tree. They would take the bark off and then lay the tree down flat. They would put it on a nice level area and then they would walk around it. They would always use wedges that were made out of the hardest type of wood, and especially the branches of the trees—spruce and [Western] hemlock. Hemlock branch is pretty tough. It doesn't crack no matter how many times you use it to split the cedar. That's what you use for wedges. (Jacob McKay Interview 2003) .. .And they were very selective with the types of trees they cut down for whatever purpose. Cedars were cut for building longhouses, because of their light weight and length, and making shakes. Never at any time did you see trees just laying about rotting. Only at the time of need did they chop any trees down (Ksdiyaawak—Hubert McMillan in A N IV: 237). ...the woodworkers, they had to know how to fall the tree. There wasn't just any way. We didn't have the implements that make it easy today. We did have stone axes. The main implement they used was quartz. They had to know how to control that (Bert McKay 2003). In Nisga'a law, trees could not be cut from just anywhere. Trees, like other resources, were owned by the wilp (lineage) on whose ango'oskw the trees were found. However, the Nisga'a had sharing agreements: that is, if a tree was needed for a canoe or building, permission would generally be granted by the wilp chieftains. The "purchaser" would acknowledge his debt to the tree's "owners" after the house or canoe was complete, usually with gifts at the dedication feast: In the case of an ango'oskw, such as Bayt Neekhl's, which was known for its large cedars, anyone could cut down a tree for use as a totem pole, but the wilp could expect payment at the time of the totem pole raising in recognition of the fact that the tree came from their ango'oskw (Bayt Neekhl—Gordon McKay in A N IV: 49). The ango'oskw pattern of land ownership reinforced Nisga'a conservation principles. Since each wilp was responsible for the trees on their ango'oskw, wilp members became stewards of the trees, recognizing their value and protecting the family resource. Knowledge of resources did not end with one's own ango'oskw, however. Nisga'a people were expected to learn about other territories beyond their own (AN III: 64). Knowledge of the land and its resources was conveyed at the same time as knowledge about the social structures on lands throughout the Nass Valley and beyond (ibid). For the Nisga'a, resources and social structure formed inseparable constellations of knowledge. 64 Woods for wedges and dowels: Wi ld Crabapple (Malus fusca, Nisga'a=milks), White Maple, Douglas Maple (Acer glabrum, Nisga'a^kjsoksi) spruce (Picea sitchensis or P. glauca Nisga'a=seeks) or Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla, Nisga'a=giikw) branches I think the pegs, again [used to fasten longhouse planks together] were a hardwood, usually the white maple or the wild crabapple. That was very hard (Bert McKay 2003). Longhouses were not only carefully crafted with fine joinery and many woods; the joints themselves were pegged at critical junctures to ensure stability and longevity. Sometimes the pegged connections were designed with great ingenuity: Nita Morven spoke of longhouses that were constructed so if one pin was removed, the whole longhouse would fall down. That way if a village was under attack, the people could keep the attackers from taking everything (Nita Morven Interview 2003). Wild crabapple is a member of the rose family, and can be recognized by its dark green leaves, pinkish clusters of blossoms, and in fall clusters of pale, yellowish or purplish elongated fruit. The branches of the tree were selected and then seasoned with oil before being made into pegs (Turner 1998: 182). Sim'oogit Baxk'ap relates specific usage of crabapple: They [Nisga'a ancestors] looked for wild crabapples, because they are hard. They take small little pieces, branches, and they burn them through and then they wedge pieces in like these. They make these long too, because of no nails on the shingles everything was bound by weights and wedges (comment made during the April 3 2004 charrettes). Crabapple was also used to make hooks for fishing. Construction materials rarely had only one form and application, and ideas were traded between disciplines, from house-building to resource extraction to food preservation. This interchange is indicated in Volume four of the Ayuukhl Nisga'a, which documents how land and resources were used by Nisga'a ancestors. These men made hooks of [crabapple] wood; the halibut would swallow the wooden hooks and the men pulled them ashore (Rufus Watts, Gadeelibim Hayatskw, in A N IV, 153). Horace Stevens explains how the pegs were made: "The pegs were [white] maple. They used that because it's really hard. They burned make it sharp. Then they used kibax to make holes, and then they make it so that they put the nail in" (comment during the April 3 2004 charrettes). Bert McKay added: "The implements were obtained from the white maple, and that grows up on the banks, especially the Lower Nass. Here again, the wood was all part of it. They used it for decoration (Dr. McKay gestured a crescent shape). It was hard, durable. It became part of the longhouse, where they did the ornaments" (Interview 2003). 65 Fig. 18b Wild crabapple wood was important for making pegs and other construction uses that required a very hard and dense wood. The fruit is distinctively pale compared to many domestically grown hybrids. Photograph courtesy Nancy Turner Wedges were used for splitting cedar into planks, and to tighten mortise-and-tenon joints. Very hard and fine-grained woods were required for wedges, so they could be sharpened to a thin cutting edge and driven into wood without breaking on impact. Although Sitka spruce and Western hemlock branches were most commonly used for wedges (Jacob McKay 2003), the small, very hard branches of crabapple also made excellent wedges for splitting cedar. Chief Mountain, Sim'oogit Sagaween, tells a story of a girl and her grandmother, left alone in a Prairie town after the Chief of the Heavens sent the rest of the children away for making too much noise at play. The girl found an old wedge made of crabapple wood, one made of sloe wood (possibly Viburnum edule, highbush cranberry) (Felter and Lloyd 1898), one of spruce wood, and she also found a little grindstone, a little knife... (Killer Whale story told in 1894, recorded in A N II: 42). Western Red-cedar {Thuja plicata, Nisga!a=simgan), Yellow-cedar (Chamaecyparis nookatensis, Nisga'a=sagwinee), spruce (Picea sitchensis, Nisga'a=seeks) maple, and Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla, Nisga'a= Giikw) In the old days, the buildings would be cedar... The trees they used for wood were spruce and hemlock. Hemlock was a very hard wood, so it was used for all different purposes, like the anchors for the oolichan nets, because they could withstand the ice floes and the currents. They were durable, they bend, and they had their stake. That was the hemlock. The spruce was a lighter wood, and that was used for boards. That was the most accessible, but certain areas, towards Lava Lake and down towards the salt water, the red-cedar was more abundant, red-cedar and yellow cedar. The yellow cedar they would find in areas like up by Portland Canal, Observatory Inlet. These were all traditional territory. What they looked for was a tree that was straight. They did that, for one reason, so they didn't have to labour at de-branching. Also, it provides straight grain, easier to split. So they looked for that. I am told that they grew so 66 expert at it they would pick a tree, and prepare it; they would make it stand and dry for over a year, in other words cut off the sap so they become dry. They were using boards about this wide (Dr. McKay gestured about two feet by three inches thick). I did see them at Fishery Bay, when we used to move there in oolichan season. They were in use in some of the buildings, where you house the produce, but you don't see them any more. Anyway, they were able to make lumber, and they did this by selecting the trees they wanted. The most expensive would be the yellow cedar, a very classic wood, and the red-cedar. They were very huge and straight grained. Both are used for carving, the totem pole—but not the implements [which were white maple: see above] (Bert McKay interview 2003). In the history of Nisga'a architecture, different woods had both practical and expressive significance. Western red-cedar and yellow cedar were vital to the evolution of longhouse and other Northwest Coast pole-and-beam structures (Hebda and Mathewes 1984). Bert McKay's assertion (interview 2003) that "The wood was all part of it" helps to explain the how the emergence of cedar in the Pacific Northwest coincided with the evolution of the longhouse: how wood was selected, its technological potential, its cultural significance. For instance, bringing together different woods in works of architecture is expressive of the cohesion essential to the Nisga'a nation. "The trees are there for a purpose, they are just like us. We're all born for a purpose, for a job on this world. Some of us do lots, some of us a little. But we're all used for one thing or another. The Nisga'a came from all one root that makes us strong" (Sim'oogit Hay'maas, Reverend Charlie Swanson, in A N I: xxv). Cedar withes and their use as connections Wet site research unveils surprising distinctions between Tsimshian and Tlingit-Haida uses, of cedar withes and ropes (Croes 2001). Dale R. Croes (2001) notes that "basketry and cordage artifacts appear to be much more sensitive for the identification of ethnicity than procurement related stone, bone, and shell artifacts" (150). Specifically, mats and baskets found in wet sites near Prince Rupert B.C. are typically made of plaited or twined cedar bark; these Tsimshian baskets were square based, then becoming rounded-cylindrical (ibid): this is also the form most frequently seen in the Nisga'a repertoire. Tlingit baskets were mostly round-based and made of Sitka spruce root; instead of a combination of plaiting and twining, the Tlingit used mostly twining (information from Silver Hole archeological site dated 6000 years B.P., see ibid: 157-159). Thus the more northerly baskets contrasted in form, material, and technique with Tsimshian baskets and mats. The Nisga'a people seem to occupy a cultural "ecotone" (on the boundary between two systems) that is enriched by influences from both the North and South. Ideas and materials were readily available because the Nass Valley is near the center of trade routes linking the Upper Skeena with Alaska (Prince 2001). Further, Nisga'a people used both Western red-cedar and Sitka spruce for cordage (Charles Alexander interview 2004, Bert McKay interview 2003, Horace Stevens charrettes 2004), depending on regional availability. It is therefore possible that the Nisga'a people used a variety of cordage techniques in building 67 construction and other uses. Techniques used in fishing and fish processing may provide the key to construction tying technology (Charles Menzies pers. comm.). To this end, photographs of fish processing constructions at Fishery Bay reveal tied connections used by the Nisga'a people to bind multiple wood elements together, sometimes with one or more parts moveable (hinged connections). The sketch below is adapted from an oolichan press connection used in an 1887 photograph of Fishery Bay (BC Archives photograph C-07433, see fig. 17). In this particular construction, the pole inserted between the tied pair of poles became a lever used for pressing grease from aged oolichan. Fig. 19a. Cedar withes were used to tie poles together, often for the purpose of holding a third component in place. The third component might be a lever pole (shown here) or planks for roofing or siding. The poles shown here are about three inches in diameter. Drawing by N . Mackin Adaawak confirm that rope made from cedar had many architectural applications, although few examples of tied connections remain in museum collections (McLellan and Duffek 2000). A rare example is the photograph below of a wooden storage box, which demonstrates how expertly the cedar ropes were wrapped and tied to make connections secure (fig. 19b). Fig. 19b Lids of red-cedar bentwood boxes were held down with twisted cedar bark rope, as shown in this late nineteenth century Heiltsuk box showing the original rope lashing. The tying system on the box, as on buildings, wrapped each section twice and evidences knots that provide strong connections in multiple directions. This box, on display in the Vancouver Museum (AA913), no longer has its ropes. The box is 45.5 X 39.6 X 34.5 cm. Royal British Columbia Museum photo PN 14447. 68 Cedar Implements Even cedar boughs were not wasted. The boughs and branches could be used for brooms and to protect food: / guess in our great great great grandmother's time, there were some people that lived just like the ordinary people now, they used the branches of the cedar for a broom (Alice Azak, interview 2003). They used branches too: to keep the food, the cedar boughs. They wash them when they are really new: they are ready to pick next month. They used to tell us to pick it, and leave it around the house. The food would be covered by the cedar boughs. It would keep the flies and spiders off too (Emma Nyce, interview 2004). Alder (Alnus rubra is red alder, Nisga'a=/w«jc) and cottonwood (usually Black Cottonwood, Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, Nisga'a=ammaal). Alder and Cottonwood were used primarily as fuels for smoking fish. They are included here because the two woods were used within smokehouses, as fuel but also as a kind of flavoring. ...the wood suppliers not only supplied the main house with wood, they also provided the smokehouses. This is where the salmon was prepared, fully smoked, half-smoked, or fully smoked and dried. There are special kinds of wood for that. Right now it is oolichan season, and people are preparing for that. My wife is working now, getting ready to work with her mother to smoke, get them ready for putting on the sticks. They are smoked oolichan on the sticks. I think there are twenty-four to a stick. It is pretty low ceiling, and there are two or three fires underneath, but it had to be hardwood fire, not just any wood would do, because the flavor is very sensitive to the kind of wood. The oolichan fish required the hardwood, which right here the most available is the alder. I noticed last night when I was coming home that there were two trucks loaded down with alder, so I know that they were smoking oolichan. When the salmon season comes there is another measure of observance, prepared because the salmon requires longer periods of smoke exposure. A softwood was required, and only the cottonwood was used. That way there is no bitterness in the taste, and the completed stock is pliable, it's not wood-hardened. So that, then, is the smoking, done outside the longhouse (Dr. Bert McKay interview 2003). Turner (1998) explains that red alder was used by most First Peoples in British Columbia as a source for red paint or dye. The Tlingit people, northern neighbours of the Nisga'a, extracted red alder dye by carving bowls from red alder and then filling the bowls with children's urine, which gradually became red in colour. Items to be dyed were dipped into the bowl (151). Amabilis F i r and Sublpine Fi r (Abies amabilis and A. lasiocarpa, Nisga'a=a/<ia) 69 "The Nisga'a sometimes split house planks from Amabilis Fir trees (Turner 1998: 80). The prevalence of the tall straight trees in the mountainous Nass region was noted during research undertaken by Steven McNeary with Nisga'a elders in the 1970's. Amabilis fir is less than ideal for construction, as the wood is somewhat brittle and soft (Turner 1998: 80). Sheets of bark of the smaller Subalpine fir were used for roofing by neighbouring Gitksan people (Turner 1998: 82). Hemlock(Tsuga heterophylla, Nisga'a=g//£w) In addition to using Western hemlock for wedges, Nisga'a people valued the wood of the thirty to fifty meter tall tree in construction because of its resilience and hardness (Bert McKay interview 2003). The observance for using Western hemlock that was mentioned most often, however, was the preparation of the inner Western hemlock bark or ksuuw as a food. Hemlock bark could even be obtained in the middle of winter when a hunter's supplies might become scarce (Christopher Calder, Laay, in A N IV: 78). Nancy Turner (1998) adds that hemlock gum, like that of other conifers, could be made into glue. 4.6 Finishing wood structures: materials for Paint Paints were a critical part of Nisga'a architecture: building exteriors provided large, relatively smooth surfaces upon which families could express linkages between long-past history and important event of the near-present. Monumental house front paintings expressed spirit powers and clan histories of important lineages, while storage boxes, decorative and useful implements, and structural poles displayed colourful histories within. To express stories on building exteriors, structural components, crest poles, and interior furnishings, a variety of pigments were developed using biotic and abiotic materials from the Nass Valley and nearby places. Earliest origins of the pigments are told in the adaawak, recalled here in 1894 by Titus Minee'eskw, James Woods, and Moses of Kincolith (Gingolx). The history tells how Txeemsim prepares to visit his grandfather, the Creator, to ask about bringing fire from Laxha (the heavens) to people on earth: He made an Amhalayt [wooden headdress] and a beautiful Gwiis halayt [spun yarn blanket]. To match the carving on his headdress, he also dyed the mountain goat wool and put a blue and red design into the Gwiis halayt. The ksamk' (dyes) were made from clays which he found nearby in the valley, the red clay coming from a site very close to New Aiyansh today and the dark blue from the vicinity of Canyon City. After baking and pulverizing the clay, Txeemsim then applied it to the cloth either dry or wet, depending on the type of material being woven. Because of the importance of the animals to him and to the other residents of K'alii'aksim Lisims, Txeemsim drew animals into the design on his ceremonial outfit. He did this as a mark of special respect and reverence, as well as in appreciation to the Chief of the Heavens for having blessed those on earth with the fish and animals on which they survive (AN I: 84-85). 70 In the history above, some sources of the pigments are identified, and their use is connected to respect for the land and the Creator. The use of rich blue and red pigments is a sign of gratitude for the abundance that ensured survival. Adopting the colour scheme in the story of Txeemsim above, pre- and proto-contact Nisga'a artisans used red in their designs, with accents in the more rare blue-green, green, or blue (Holm 1965, McLennan and Duffek 2000). However, on housefronts, boxes, and other larger wood surfaces, black was the most often-used colour. The "characteristic swelling and diminishing line-like figure delineating design units" , called formline by Bi l l Holm (1965: 29), resulting in a "continuous grid of relatively even weight and complexity..."(ibid). Black was also nearly always used for painted free-floating "ovoids" (ibid), flattened oval or bean-like shapes used within formlines for features such as the irises of crest figures. Red, sometimes used for formlines instead of black, most often delineated cheeks, tongues, hands, feet, and arms (ibid, 30). Blue-green pigments were the least used, most often in recessed areas of a carved relief such as eye sockets (McLennan and Duffek 2000). Fig. 19c. Nisga'a (and other Northwest Coast) housefronts and bentwood boxes were painted with artwork featuring mainly black and brown-red pigments and "formlines" (Holm 1965) "the flowing, almost calligraphic line, which delineates every unit of design...and lends a quality of inner life and dynamism to every object on which it appears" (NTC 1998: 20). The cross-hatched eye sockets are apparently unique to Nisga'a art (McLennan and Duffek 2000: 149). Reprinted with permission from NTC 1998: 21. Some Nisga'a poles and paintings, such as those carved and painted by Charles Alexander's grandfather, featured only black and red. The pigments' sources varied depending on the surface to be painted: My grandfather knew how to make paint with berries and hlam [hematite, also known as iron oxide red or red ochre—se also A N IV: 90]. When you go in the creek it is only about a foot deep, and some kind of orange stuff builds up year after year. My 71 grandfather would take the rocks out of the river, and scrape the stuff off, and when you put it on wood it's almost like paint, it doesn't come off. That's how he makes red. For black, you go down about three layers, and it's smelly and black, and he adds black berries, and you can't wash it off. Fish eggs are used in paint for baskets, eggs are not poison so we use it on baskets. We mostly use berries and a little bit of seal blood. For the food boxes, they use the same paint as they use on the totem pole because it is thick. My grandfather had three boxes. When they had a feast they bring all of these out (Charles Alexander Interview 2004). Minerals found deep within streams, combined with very dark berries, formed a rich black pigment that could be painted directly onto wood. The red hematite pigment described by Charles Alexander is an inorganic earth pigment that many first peoples obtained from natural "paint pots" (McLennan and Duffek 2000: 94). The pigment, found mixed with mud in certain streams or rivers such as the one near Laxgalts'ap referenced by Charles' grandfather, was sometimes collected in a wooden box that had a hole on the side near the bottom through which water and least dense solids would drain (Curtis 1915: 45). Remaining in the box would the densest solids, either iron oxide or umber, a mix of iron oxide and manganese dioxide (Garfield and Wingert 1979, McLennan and Duffek 2000). About two centuries ago, pigments from other continents became available to Nass Valley artisans. By 1836 the Hudson's Bay Company was marketing vermillion, a mercuric sulphide paint, from their store that was located first near Gingolx, and then at Port Simpson south of Gingolx. The paper envelopes of powdered red paint, manufactured in China, were used about half the time by Tsimshian speaking artists (McLennan and Duffek 2000). The more brown-red hematite continued to rival the new bright red paint's popularity in Nass and Skeena Valleys, possibly because of colour preference for a given design or because commercial paints were expensive and required a voyage to Port Simpson, whereas traditional paints could be freely obtained, usually close to artists' homes. "The ground itself and mud and clay were also important resources" observes the Ayuukhl Nisga'a (IV, 90). Properties of clays and ground rocks used in paints were understood through many generations of learning by doing (Bert McKay 2003). For example, when describing paints used by his grandfather's generation, Charles Alexander stresses that only non-poisonous materials were used to manufacture paints for food baskets. Paints for baskets, made from seal blood and berries mixed with fish eggs, contained all edible materials. Wooden structures that did not touch food, such as box exteriors or housefront paintings, had a different formulation, from things you would not eat: materials such as rocks and river mud. However, even the relationships between earthy materials and human health were well understood, because clays and mud were used in the preparation of food. "Clay was used in the cooking of oolichan grease..; mud was used in the preparation of certain types of fermented food products; and the ground was used as the Nisga'a food refrigerator, for keeping the preserved foods" (AN IV: 90). By contrast, the highly poisonous nature of many nineteenth century trade pigments was not conveyed to purchasers. Vermilion, or mercury sulphide, was produced from pure sulphur and mercury (Ball 2001). The toxicity of mercury was not readily understood in the nineteenth century: "Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the nervous system. The 'mad hatters' of the 19th century suffered from mercury poisoning which caused personality 72 changes, nervousness, trembling, and even dementia" (Environmental Protection Agency 2004: 1). By the middle of the nineteenth century vermillion was supplemented with an also-poisonous paint called chrome red or red lead, made from lead chromate. Originating in ancient Egypt, lead-based paints at first included lead antimoniate, later termed Naples yellow, and lead tetroxide or "red lead" (Ball 2001: 2). Later lead-based paints were made from a bright red mineral called Siberian red lead or crocite, so brightly coloured that it was named chrome, the Greek word for colour. Lead paint, a "mysterious" cause of illness and death worldwide, became commonly used within Northwest Coast architecture by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (McLennan and Duffek 2000). The toxicity of post-contact trade paints was not easy to discern. Hudson's Bay sold powdered paints wrapped in plain white paper envelopes (Holm 1965, McLennan and Duffek 2000); sometimes artists could buy premixed oil paints that came in collapsible tin tubes (Ball 2001) "What this meant was that painters became ever less familiar with what it was they were buying, and had no way of assessing the quality [or safety] of the new paints they were being offered" (ibid: 5). Unlike paints made using knowledge of the land passed on for generations, the new paints held untold health dangers. Until the 1950's lead paint continued to be used on and in residential structures without warning, even though scientific studies on the dangers of lead had been undertaken in Europe since the 1700's. Some argue that the suppression of information was deliberate. "Lead and paint manufacturers suppressed information about the toxic effects of lead-based paint products and actively stymied development of alternatives to lead in paint. In the 1920s, painters' unions became aware of the occupational hazards of lead exposure, resulting in workers getting protection from lead poisoning while children of uninformed consumers still ingested paint chips" (Brayton and Purcell 2004: not paginated). By contrast, fully understanding the properties of nature-derived pigments, and then communicating those properties from generation to generation, is an example of how Nisga'a knowledge was conveyed: "knowledge would be useless to us if it couldn't be communicated, discussed, and passed on" (AN IV: 133). The next chapter tells of how detailed knowledge of materials and the land translates into specific construction solutions, and introduces how those buildings were, at the same time, themselves instruments for gaining and disseminating knowledge. 73 CHAPTER FIVE: Buildings: oral histories, uses, drawings, and models 5.1 Introduction: bringing together the measurable and immeasurable In the Nisga'a worldview, each house was envisioned as a box housing the souls of extended family members: a smaller version of the box of the world that contained all the souls of the universe (NTC 1998). Even the house itself had a spirit. The spirituality of each structure is defined within a worldview that perceived buildings as living beings "...with both skin (made of removable cedar planks) and bones (the house posts, beams, and rafters, which are considered to be arms, legs, backbones, and ribs) (NTC 1998: 38). A building as a living being can be understood within Nisga'a and other Tsimshian speaking peoples' worldview in three distinct ways: emphasis on skeletal structure and relationship to food supply; communication between people and food supply; and axes of spiritual power (MacDonald 1976). The first of these recognizes that living beings, including buildings, are essentially a skeleton, and all parts of the skeleton are important individually and as part of their order to each other and the universe. This principle relates to the honour accorded to different woods, and principally to Simgan, red-cedar, tree of life. To the skeleton is added a spirit: "The [cosmological] principle, also widespread in Siberia and northern North America, states that the ultimate reduction of a living creature is to its skeleton as a concrete form, and to its spirit as a power form" (MacDonald 1976: 120). The spirit guides who help the Nisga'a survive appear once the skeleton is complete, as in the Laxgibuu adaawak told by Amelia Morven: It was still daylight when the young braves reached what appeared to be a frame of a house. That's what the old people said, there was no house, just the frame...That evening the house transformed itself into a finished dwelling. All of a sudden, that area around the house became active and noisy (AN II: 228-9). Buildings as living beings and as part of the universe can be linguistically, as well as graphically, linked to this cosmological definition of living being. In the Nisga'a language, many parts of buildings are also parts of the human skeleton. For example, wit is the Nisga'a word for wooden crossbars for drying fish, and also means collarbone. Names of building parts also double as places within the universe. Laxha is heaven and a high place in a building, such as the upper floor or a high shelf. The next section explores how building spirituality directs aspects of architectural design, including ecological responses and formal considerations. While doing so, the chapter reconstructs drawings and models of Nisga'a structures and their components. Reconstructing the buildings themselves is in some ways the core of the research, firstly because the models and drawings were informed by interviews held with elders in this research and in the past, and secondly because the architectural reconstructions became the focus of the charrettes held with the elders in Gitwinksihlkw. Initially, reconstructing buildings from mental and visual images did not seem too difficult, since the production of "as-built" construction drawings is a skill I had honed through architectural practice. This research effort proved more challenging than other "as-built" tasks, however. In the case of Nisga'a architectural history there were very limited visual materials. Fortunately, the elders' testimonies were 74 richly detailed and helped fill in many of the gaps in visual resources. Combining resources, I found there was often enough information to draw the structures. The story-tellers' descriptions helped to explain design principles, structural concepts, technical adaptations to site and climatic conditions, ceremonial significance of buildings, carvings and paintings, buildings uses, and many other attributes. While most compendia of stories about a given building or building type was not quite enough to lead to a complete drawing or model; in other ways the stories provided much more information than any visual resource. Adaawak provided "the immeasurable" qualities of past structures (Scully 1962: 43): the qualities of poetry and dreaming, the spirit of the space that sometimes literally begins as a dream. The "measurable" qualities usually emerged from the immeasurable, along with in-depth examination of archival materials. In Nisga'a stories, new works of architecture often began as something immeasurable: a vision. The story of a house that starts as a dream in re-recorded here as told in 1953 by Mrs. Emma Wright (Hleek) of the Laxsgiik at Gitlaxt'aamiks. As she begins, a girl and her grandmother are traveling by canoe down the coast, after abandoning the town of T'imlax'aam because it remained snowed in and frozen into the summer months. The two travelers have many adventures. At one point along the coast they see a huge whirlpool and a strange being. Their canoe drifts into a branch of the Skeena known as Wilsk'aluux, meaning "among the alders". There the canoe landed, and the grandmother led the girl into the woods where they erected a shelter under a tall spruce tree. Here they rested and ate a small amount of food they had left. This place is about where the sockeye station is now on the C.N.R. line. As the girl and her grandmother rested they were surprised to see the larger canoe in the distance. They had thought that this canoe had been destroyed by the huge whirlpool, and that its occupants had perished. The girl and her grandmother watched while this other canoe landed and the men began to build a large house at the water's edge. When it was completed, then men painted on its front the figure of the whirlpool and the monster, Gitimnak', with the body of a man and the head of a woman. It had a wide labret in its lip and long braided hair. In the interior of the house the men painted daxhaaw (sea urchins) and dayts (a type of seaweed). All this time the men were singing dirges. The grandmother also noted that they were dressed in very strange costumes. Then the girl and her grandmother awoke to find that they had seen all these things in a vision. But the old woman had heard the songs and learned them, and she had seen the images and remembered them. She knew that it was intended for her to take all these things as crests for her house, that is, for the WU Seeks wilp (AN II: 60-61). In the above adaawak, buildings appearing as visions, thoughts one seems to see. In order to re-envision the house, the woman imagined past events and sang songs that had been part of her original experience with supernatural events. The new building had to be experienced 75 through song and drama as well as tools and measurements. A l l these artforms helped to reestablish interactive connections between the spirit world and the world of land and buildings. The process described in the story, of translating the visions into structural form, is also reminiscent of the design process itself, during which ideas sometimes seem to form mental images that initially seem complete enough to become drawings. During design, however, the seeming exactitude of descriptive images often fades when pen (or curser) begins to translate them into lines and shapes. In architectural design, as in historical reconstruction, much work must be done to make "the immeasurable" ideas into measurable drawings and models. As legendary American architect Louis Kahn insisted, buildings "make 'being' determinate—which is why [one] insists upon both the 'measurable' and the 'immeasurable'— ...reuniting the rational preconceptions of science with the non-rational assertions of art" (Scully 1962: 43). The measurable was needed within the reconstruction process that is part of this research. Discerning exactly which "measurable" images could be attributed to Nisga'a history was not an easy task, yet the importance of accurate attribution could not be underestimated. I knew, from casual discussions with artists of several First Nations, that sensitivities surround the claiming of artistic merit by one group when the actual creative progeny is either uncertain, or properly shared among several Nations. Bi l l McLennan, curator of Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology, writes about the dilemma of artistic or architectural attribution, when he characterizes certain painted cedar chests as Nisga'a: A number of carved and painted chests now dispersed throughout museum and private collections share a similar style or character in their compositions. Some are catalogued as Haida, some as Tlingit, others as Tsimshian. Certainly, each shows stylistic links to several regional styles of the northern coast. Yet within this group are chests collected in the Nass River area and accompanied by reliable documentation. The strong affinities among these examples and ones with unclear provenance suggest a possible Nisga'a attribution for all (McLennan and Duffek 2000: 196). Other archivists and ethnographers shared McLennan and Duffek's concern, that credit for Nisga'a cultural production had, at times through history, been mis-assigned. Much lack of clarity ensued from ethnographers' writings in which the Nisga'a people, lands, and creative productions were portrayed as indistinguishable from those of their Tsimshian neighbours to the south. Adding to the architectural mystery, Nisga'a craftsmen, renowned for their excellence (Emmons 1921: 8, Halpin 1972: 26, Garfield and Wingert 1979: 70) would often build for high ranking chiefs of other nations. Nisga'a builders and carvers were in demand, and accepted commissions to undertake works in many regions away from the Nass Valley. The dispersal of architectural and artistic ideas by Nisga'a carvers was, in part, due to their high achievements in both fields. Numerous ethnographers, specialists in Northwest Coastal cultures, write of Nisga'a carvers' and painters' excellence, ingenuity, and renown. In her Ph.D. research notes, Halpin writes: "It is accepted among specialists that the Nass River 76 carvers were on the whole the best in the country. Their art reached the highest point of development ever obtained on the Northwest Coast. And their totem poles—more than twenty of which can still be observed in their original location—are the best and among the tallest seen anywhere...It is noteworthy, besides, that the Tlingit poles resemble in character those of the Nass River, and the Nisga'a claim that a number of totem poles at Tongas (Cape Fox), the southernmost of the Tlingit villages, was the work of their carvers, within the memory of the passing generation" (Halpin 1972, attributed to TPG? P. 26). Emmons was also impressed: "The Nishka people occupy the valley of the Nass...and are artistic in a high degree. In fact, I think that the most delicate and pleasing examples of carving and painting gathered throughout the whole of the coast are from this people" (Emmons 1921: 8). Viola Garfield, whose "memory ethnography" (Miller and Eastman 1984) is among those most highly regarded by several later researchers (Nabokov and Easton 1989), writes of early post-contact years: "Carvers developed individual styles, introduced new designs, and trained younger men. Their services and the things they made were in demand in distant villages and decorative arts diffused. Thus, totem pole making spread from the Nass into Gitksan (sic) territory, and Nisqa (sic) carvers were hired to fashion poles and train younger men (Garfield and Wingert 1979: 70). The sharing of ideas was reciprocal: Nisga'a builders both taught and learned beyond their homelands. While artistic ideas diffused from the Nass Valley to other areas, adaptable builders, carvers, and painters selected the best ideas of their travels and used them in their work (Minee'eskw 2003, Jacob McKay 2003). Complex affiliations, including those between Nisga'a artisans and other Nations, are the nature of Nisga'a prehistory. Much traveling was done during the past several thousand years, some for the purpose of migration (long-term moves from one place to another). Migrations into and out of the Nass Valley have been extensively documented in zoology (Stewart and Stewart 2001) and archeology (Archer 2001, Sutherland 2001). During migrations, materials and technologies were exchanged as populations resettled. These exchanges were instrumental in blurring the boundaries between architectural ideas and styles. Migrations between Tlingit ancestral lands and the Nass Valley related to movement of glaciers and melting glacial waters, such as in the story of Daql'awedi (a Killer Whale-crested group of the Tongas, Hutsnuwu, and Chilkat) shaman of Hood Bay: After the Flood, people came down the Nass River from the Interior. Then when the flood went out, they went all over...People from the Nass River also stopped at the North End of Kruzof Island, near Sitka, called kuwatrxi-'an (de Laguna 1960). In other stories of dispersion, Laxgibuu move southward to the Nass Valley: Territorial expressions are to be found in the...migrations of the Laxgibuu from the headwaters of the Stikine, their settling for a time here and there with other Laxgibuu, who permitted the newcomers to exploit their territories for a while before expelling them, and their final settlement on territories of their own on the Nass (Halpin 1973: 124). In addition to migrations, seasonal patterns of movement created opportunities for architectural thinkers to share construction methods and building ideas. Yearly trade travels 77 to Fishery Bay for the Nass River oolichan run were particularly rich opportunities for the exchange of ideas as well as goods. Ideas about construction were vitally important during the oolichan run, since temperatures were most often below freezing (McKay interview 2003, Emma Nyce 2003) and many people required shelter. Because ideas and skills were exchanged so readily, the quest for architectural principles, forms, and technologies that are either unique to the Nisga'a, or unique to several groups including the Nisga'a, is not without challenges. The solution, for this research, has been to rely most heavily on evidence directly attributable to Nass Valley sources. This includes elders' testimonies, which are the keystones within the research structure, along with collected materials labeled Nass or Nisga'a. Other materials that demonstrate Nisga'a qualities or craftsmanship are also carefully considered here, with elders' assistance or with ethnographic or adaawak confirmation that they relate to Nisga'a production. In all cases, when some Nisga'a involvement idea is provable, but absolute attribution is in question, the stylistic accomplishments are shared with other nations. Specific building designs remain the property of the families of ownership (Allison Nyce pers. comm.). This chapter begins where the adaawak begin: with the first Nisga'a buildings, and construction lessons from the Creator to the first people in the Nass Valley. The first Nisga'a architectural adaawak date back many millennia, to time before memory, the time of the great flood and the movement of ice sheets across the continent. Tracing beginnings of the longhouse also relies on efforts of Western science to retrace intertwining ecological and cultural conditions that led to the evolution of the massive wood structures. 5.2 The first Nisga'a buildings The first Nisga'a architect identified in Ayuukhl Nisga'a was the Creator, or Great Chief. The Gisk'aast (Killer Whale) adaawak of the original mother Sgawo relates the story: Each ofSgawo's children was educated by the Great Chief. [...] When they were fully trained, the Great Chief of the Sky called his grandchildren together. "Tomorrow, I am going to put you back to earth, at the village of your grandfather's", he told them. "These four houses here I will put down... "(AN II: 26). The adaawak goes on to explain how people on the opposite shore heard noises that sounded like buildings and chopping coming through the thick fog: Then the fog disappeared and, behold, the people saw four houses very bright with house front paintings that seemed alive. The first one had house paintings of the Sun, the next of the Stars, the next of the Moon, and the last of a Rainbow in many bright colours (ibid). The housefront paintings, and the cedar wood from which the houses are made, connect the houses with the cosmos. The Universe itself is as a house-like structure complete with an ala or smoke-removing device leading to the sky. "The ultimate house/ box is the Universe, through which the sun passes everyday, entering the front entrance (symbolic of life) and 78 exiting from the back (symbolic of death). During the night the sun passes over the world house but can be seen as starlight shining through the holes in the r o o f (NTC 1998: 34). The four original longhouses explain the universe/ house connection in their paintings and design. Fig. 20. The first four houses connect architecture with the cosmos. Gradually seem through a lifting fog, the imagery suggests that the houses are connected with water as well as the land and the universe. Drawing by the author. The oral history goes on to explain the social structure of the Nisga'a Nation, and its building-related origins. In the story, the four crests, and the animal and cosmological spirits that are one with the people within each crest, become part of the buildings and part of the peoples' identity: 79 Thus began the four clans: first the Gisk'aast, then they are together like one company—Bear, Killerwhale, Moon, Star, Rainbow, and many others; and next there are the eagles, and they are also like one company—Eagle, Beaver, Halibut, and also others. Raven and Frog and Sea-Lion, and Starfish and others are the crests of the Ganada; Wolf and Crane and others are the crests of the Wolves (AN II: 33). The crest spirits of each clan were carved onto structural elements, including the massive poles supporting longhouse roofs. Because these carved poles could not be removed without destroying the house itself, the spirit carvings remained in place to remind family members of their origins (Bert McKay 2003). Similarly, house fronts and sides portrayed guardian spirits on their carved and painted surfaces. Other structures, furnishings, and regalia associated with the longhouse also evoked the crest spirit. To attempt to date this and other adaawak of longhouses origins, Western science has developed a range of technologies that, when combined, estimate a time frame for longhouse construction. Substantiating the origins of longhouses in different areas of the Northwest Pacific coast involves the integration of disciplines including paleobotany, paleo-ethnobotany, archeology, ethnography, palynology (the study of pollen, spores, and similar palynomorphs, living and fossil), paleoecology, and zooarcheology (Hebda and Mathewes 1984, Cybulski 1991, Archer 2001). Working across disciplinary boundaries, scientists have been able to demonstrate strong correlations between the evolution of longhouse technology and woodworking tools, and the abundance of Western red-cedar (Thuja plicata) in given areas of the Pacific Northwest (Hebda and Mathewes 1984, Fladmark 2001). Specifically, radio-carbon dating of archeological artifacts and pollen specimens has been used to estimate the age of early houses, artifacts, and plant materials found in or near settlements of the Tsimshian language group (Hebda and Mathewes 1984, McLennan and Duffek 2000, Archer 2001). Radio-carbon dating, also called Carbon 14 dating, only applies to materials six or more centuries old, however: there is presently no known method enabling us to accurately date artifacts two or three centuries old (McLennan and Duffek 2000), in the absence of verbal or written evidence about the artifact's providence. Dating the earliest longhouse structures themselves would be impossible, because wood does not preserve well in most sites. The oldest actual longhouse remains found so far are those of a two thousand year old dwelling at Milbanke Sound on the central British Columbian coast (Hebda and Mathewes 1984). What can be found, however, are the tools used for massive woodworking. Richard Hebda and Rolf Mathewes found close correlations between the appearance of specialized woodworking tools—mauls, antler and wood wedges, hammerstones, and stone or shell adzes—and the arrival and abundance of Western red-cedar (Hebda and Mathewes 1984). Comparing curves of cedar abundance with radio-carbon dated artifacts of woodworking tools, both found in discrete areas of the Pacific Northwest Coast, enabled the scientists to comment on the age of longhouse evolution. "The implication is that cultural patterns related to the working of massive timber may not have developed until suitable supplies of Thuja plicata had become available" (ibid: 712). Even wider implications for architectural history can be construed from this evidence. The parallel history of red-cedar and the longhouse indicates that cultural change, and specifically the 80 development of architectural ideas, runs parallel with environmental change. The idea that architecture and environmental conditions co-evolve, suggest Hebda and Mathewes (1984), has wider applications. In the instance that cultural production—in this case longhouse architecture—relies strongly on the prevalence of a single resource, such as a low density, easily worked and rot-resistant red-cedar, the availability of the resource may limit or inspire the architectural tradition and attendant technological advances. Applying the research directly to the Nass Valley requires some interpolation, since wet site research has not yet been undertaken in the specific area of study (Fladmark pers. comm.). Extensive archeological research at Prince Rupert provides a similar cultural and ecological context (ibid). A bog wood sampling near Prince Rupert confirms that cedar was present as far back as 8500 B.P., with essentially modern vegetational communities beginning about three thousand years ago (Banner, Polar, and Rouse 1983: 926-940, Archer 2001). "There, a community of pine, alder, ferns, and, perhaps, small numbers of cedar, appeared some time before 8500 B.P. That was followed by a richer array of [Sitka] spruce, alder, [Western] hemlock, skunk cabbage, and ferns, subsequently replaced by a less diverse assemblage of cedar, Western hemlock, and pine" (Archer 2001: 38). Near the Prince Rupert area, cedar began to become more abundant in about 6000 B.P., with maximum abundance between 5000 and 2000 B.P. Coincidentally, tools used for large-scale woodworking have been carbon-dated to about 5000 years ago, although tools for smaller scale woodworking have older dates. The researchers suggests that large, mature trees needed for longhouses and totem poles may have taken some time to grow and develop, so the optimal time for longhouse development on the mainland coast near Prince Rupert may well have been somewhat later than 5000 B.P. 5 . 3 The Longhouse "The longhouse keeps the stories alive" (Emma Nyce interview 2003). Longhouses were more than shelter, to the Nisga'a and other Northwest Coastal peoples. The great wooden structures were also repositories of cultural memory. Many elders contributing to this research stressed the story-telling role of the longhouse. Each individual longhouse, the elders said, helps storytellers to recall details and images of historic events that are vital to longhouse occupants. In addition, several elders, notably Sim'oogit Minee'eskw (Rod Robinson) attested that the history of Nisga'a-built residential structures becomes a revelation of the nation's interactions and migrations. The stories are told in all parts of the structure, in particular beams, columns, housefront paintings, totem poles, ceremonial entrances, and houseposts (Halpin 1973). At the same time as they keep the story alive, the longhouses are widely recognized as admirable works of architecture (Nabokov and Easton 1989). Because longhouses are both story-tellers and magnificent dwellings, then, the task of reconstructing Nisga'a longhouse history consists of two interrelated and inseparable tasks. Along with documenting physical and structural characteristics using drawings and models, the history of the longhouse is a narrative through which Wilp histories, and the wider histories of the Nisga'a nation, are re-imagined and remembered again. 81 Reconstructing the drawings and models, requires elders' testimony, ethnographic analysis, and examination of visual records. A l l three, I discovered, are essential to enable the creation of measured drawings. While elders' stories are often rich in detail, they rarely discuss construction methods or measurements. Visual materials also do not permit easy reconstruction of Nisga'a longhouses. A few early paintings and some photographs directly mention the Nisga'a or the Nass Valley. Even these records are limited to the last few hundred years, a very small segment of time within the ten- or eleven-thousand year long Nisga'a history. Interior information is even more difficult to find, leading School District 92 (Nisga'a) to the conclusion that "No photographs were ever taken inside a Nisga'a longhouse" (1996: 102). (Photographs do exist of the Whale House of Klukwan building interior that was at least partially built by legendary Nisga'a architect Oyee (Allison Nyce pers. comm.), and of a later longhouse in Gitlaxt'aamiks photographed by Marius Barbeau, see NTC 1998: 27 and fig. 2 of this research). Emily Carr produced a drawing of a Gitlaxt'aamiks house; showing little architectural detail but considerable emphasis on the crest spirit carvings. Ethnographic information is in field notes and published works of those who spent time in the Nass Valley. Ethnographers and their years of working in the Nass Valley include Franz Boas (1894), George T. Emmons (worked sporadically in the region 1905 to 1920); Israel Wood Powell (1879), C F . Newcombe (1911-14), Marius Barbeau (1924, 1927, and 1929), and William Beynon (the son of a Nisga'a mother and Welsh father, Beynon did Nass Valley research sporadically from 1915-1956). Particularly well-documented as to their Nisga'a origins is Marjorie Halpin's Ph.D. dissertation based on Barbeau and Beynon field notes, since her research stresses the differences among the three Tsimshian-speaking nations. In the past, numerous other ethnographers have been far less careful about provenance, rarely distinguishing between Nisga'a, Coast Tsimshian, and Gitksan and not recognizing the works of Nisga'a carvers within other Nations. Boas, for example, produced drawings of longhouses from the Nass and Skeena Valleys, titling his figures "houses of the Tsimshian and Nisqa" (Boas 1916: 46). Over a century before Boas, eighteenth century European visitors to the northern mainland coast wrote of the longhouses, although again the Nass Valley is not mentioned directly. In 1791, French explorer Etienne Marchand was astonished by houses of Northwest Coast (described by the explorer as the coastlines and nearby islands between the fifty-second and fifty-seventh parallels, likely including some coastlines very near the Nass River), "...we have found houses of two stories, fifty feet in length, thirty-five feet in breadth, and twelve or fifteen feet high, in which the assemblage of the framing and the strength of the wood ingeniously make up for the want of more solid materials [such as quarried stone] (Fleurieu 1801: 337). Speaking in some detail about houses near Norfolk Sound (near Sitka, Alaska), which he calls Tchinkitanay, Marchand went on to express his admiration for the artistry of the houses, "...each habitation with a portal that occupies the whole elevation of the fore-front, surmounted by wooden statues erect, and ornamented on its jambs with carved figures of birds, fishes, and other animals" (ibid). Amazed at the richly carved fittings and furnishings, Marchand acknowledged that the representations have the same significance as written history. "And what, undoubtedly, is no less astonishing pictures painted on wood, five feet long by five feet broad, on which all the parts of the human body, drawn separately, are represented in different colours; the features of which, partly effaced, attest the antiquity 82 of the work, and remind us of those large pictures those emblematic paintings, those hieroglyphics which served the people of Mexico in lieu of written history" (ibid). Etienne Marchand recognized the importance of the longhouses as vibrant recollections of long ago events, as works of fine architecture, and as exemplary in both craftsmanship and use of materials. He also noted that Northwest Coastal architecture interrelates with many modes of creative expression as it recreates history: "Thus architecture, sculpture, painting and music are found united, and in some measures naturalized" (Fleurieu 1801: 338). The Nisga'a longhouse: Dimensions and construction Throughout written history, there are many divergent reports on the actual or average size of the Nisga'a longhouse. Longhouses built by Nisga'a architect/ artisans have been reported as forty-five to fifty feet wide by thirty-five long (Fleurieu 1801), fifty feet wide by fifty-three feet long (Emmons 1991), and forty feet wide by sixty feet long (actual measurements of houses at Ank'idaa, as reported by Bert McKay 2003). Fig. 21 "House at Nass B.C.": Pym Nevins painting c. 1850 from Lax anlo'o, a village that was upstream and across the Nass River from Laxgalts'ap. B.C. Archives photo PDP 05323. Nita Morven, cultural historian from Aiyansh, ponders the problem of longhouse size relative to the number of people expected within: It leaves you wondering too about the longhouses; particularly when we have our feasts the way we do today, in a community hall that has a five hundred or six hundred seating capacity, and sometimes we have a full hall. When you think about the longhouses...! have read that they housed up to about forty people, but I can't 83 understand that. It's something I would want to know. Living in the longhouse, I imagine they must have had to move a lot of things around just to make room for all the people. Space is something I would really like to know more about in the longhouse, how they did it... They had large families in the past, that leaves me wondering...and they conducted the feasts right in the longhouse. But it was always important, especially in yukw feasts, where it was yukw for the Sim'oogit, it was important to have guest chiefs from all down the river, especially if there was a transfer of title. They were very important witnesses. Because it was an oral tradition, the presence of the Simgigat would be vital. They would bring some of their families when they traveled, if travel conditions were good. I am interested in finding out more about that aspect myself (interview 2003). Years of working with elders on the Ayuukhl Nisga'a and later projects left Nita Morven with the understanding that some longhouses were much larger than most post-contact reports. Dr. Bert McKay also talked about longhouse size, and its relationship to transfer of land title: The only area that had boards extends from the platform. That is where they did their ceremonial dancing. These were flat boards around the cooking pit; there is enough space there so the dirt won't get into any of the preparations. But where the ceremonials took place was at the front, in front of the chieftain's platform. They performed welcome dances, weddings; settlement feasts for the funeral, every facet of our institutions were performed in the longhouse. Right now we have a community house, and when we have observances of our different ceremonials, we gather there. Whereas with the chieftain, you see, it's right in the longhouse. That's why they were so huge. I'm told that what stood at Ank'idaa was 60 feet long and 40 feet wide, depending, again on the stature. They were big because not just the residents of the village, but the whole valley—the four villages—would be invited when there were special observances to be made, for instance the raising of the totem pole. Today we use the tombstone, we call the stone moving, that is done a year after the death. It is a ceremony that has been impacted by many changes. One that is certainly going to be observed and be talked about, that is at the pole raising or stone moving, your property rights are proclaimed in the feast, this is what we own: the names of every place. Every family has at least two mountains, not only the alpine resources...It all relates back to the longhouse. Because when the longhouse performs a ceremony, your wealth comes from the land, and the land is owned by the family, handed down from generation to generation. The size of the house, its design, and its name or identity were all intertwined with the history of the site and with the history of the people whose adaawak connected them to the house and its landscape. The name given to a house was often passed along to the next house built on the same site (Emmons 1991). A structure, acknowledged to have a given lifespan, was granted a kind of reincarnation. The stories stayed alive with the longhouse because the 84 Nisga'a worldview granted it a form of immortality: the name and crests of important buildings remained active in the built environment, while the building itself was torn down and built again. The longevity granted to a longhouse did not mean that technological and material advances were not welcomed. To the contrary, Nisga'a architects adopted new ideas within an overall structural framework of double ridge poles and internal support posts spaced in a system that appears, in looking at photographs and ethnology, to have remained relatively consistent. The consistency is not surprising, since Nisga'a knowledge of how to build a longhouse frame was both derived from wisdom accumulated over many generations of learning by doing (Bert McKay 2003). Further, the construction system is considered, by the Nisga'a, to be a gift from the Creator (AN II, Nisga'a Tribal Council 1998). Roof structure Details of the roof structure that follow are based on a description by Dr. Bert McKay (interview 2003) combined with ethnography by Emmons (1991, first published in 1916) and Boas (1916), and substantiated with photographic documentation of dwellings with designs by Nisga'a architects, such as the Whale House at Klukwan (worked on by Gitwinksihlkw chieftain Oyee). Because the Whale House design and its history remain with the family from Klukwan (Allison Nyce pers. comm.), this research uses published documentation of the house as a way to substantiate characteristics of the particular structural system that was shared between the Tlingit and Nisga'a people. According to Boas (1916), Tsimshian/ Nisga'a roof framing contrasts with that of Tlingit and Haida with the main difference being the spacing of the double ridge poles that characterize most longhouses. In Nisga'a and Tsimshian longhouses, double ridge poles were probably used instead of a central ridge pole so that the ala, or roof vent, could be supported without intrusion of a central ridge beam. It is notable that houses of milder climates further south, those of the Kwakwaka'wakw, have ridge beams spaced six feet apart; Boas' research indicates that Nisga'a and Tsimshian ridge beams are placed about halfway between the house centerline and the exterior walls, and Tlingit ridge beams are still further apart (Boas). Seemingly, as the climate becomes colder, ridge pole spacing widens, the area for an ala is larger—the heating system is therefore sized to suit climatic conditions of the longhouse site. More ventilation area is needed to extract the smoke of the larger fire needed to warm dwellings of colder climes. The four vertical support posts exposed within the structure, as within the whale house at Klukwan, often provided a surface upon which the architect/ artist/ carver would express his crest affiliations in carving and painting. The house poles were the most permanent part of the structure (Bert McKay Interview 2003), since they could not be removed without causing the building to collapse. The double roof beams near the ridge were supplemented by two parallel roof beams inside the outer walls, which in turn rested on corner poles that were usually just inside the wall, leaving the roof essentially independent of the walls (Boas 1916, Vastokas 1967, Emmons 1991, Horace Stevens charrettes 2004). A similar construction system is evident in Tlingit houses (Vastokas 1967, Emmons 1991) and is found in the 85 Whale House of Klukwan. The model made within this research (fig. 22a and b) shows the framework and resulting appearance of this type of roof structure, with the spacing of the main beams observed by Boas in 1894 (see Boas 1916: 47). Figs 22 a and b. The model discussed at the charrettes shows the smooth building front, free of projections, favored by Nisga'a architect/ artisans (Allison Nyce Interview 2003) and the roof structure that was documented in late nineteenth century North Coast longhouses by Boas (1916), Emmons (1991), and in photographs of Oyee-built woodwork at the Whale house of Klukwan (Allison Nyce pers. comm.) Fig. 22b has the roof removed to show the structure below; which has been constructed according to structural pattern described and drawn by Boas, based on a house he viewed in G'it-qxa'la in 1894 (Boas 1916: 46-48). The independence of pole-and-beam framework from the exterior walls of structures is evident in buildings where the walls have been removed, or where the whole building is being deconstructed (fig. 22 c, d, e, and f). From deconstructed buildings a range of roof structures become evident. In the 1929 photograph of a house in Gitlaxt'aamiks (fig. 22d), the frame consists of two side-wall parallelograms each described by a base log, two upright corner poles, and a massive roof beam. In the center of the front wall near the ridge, an entry portal is formed from pairs of posts supporting a cross-beam. Presumably a gable would have been framed along the top plane of the front wall from the side beams across to the roof peak, much as is shown in the next photograph of a house in Kitselas on the Skeena River (fig. 22c). 86 Fig. 22c. 1881 photograph by Edward Dossiter of a deconstructed house in Kitselas showing a front wall portal and side wall frame similar to the Gitlaxt'aamiks house shown in fig. 22d, e, and f. This house, however, has a gable frame linking the site poles to the doorway portal, and intermediate posts between the side wall and roof peak, presumably to add additional support the very wide structure of the roof. American Museum of Natural History 44294. A third roof support system used in Nisga'a construction and described by Horace Stevens during the April 3 2004 charrettes, is that of beams parallel with the roof ridge, supported on a pole-and-beam frame. Horace described how the roof beams extend four to five feet beyond the front and back gable walls. A ridge pole carries across the structure from front to back. Ridge construction may have similar to that of an existing pole-framed building at Fishery Bay (fig. 22g). (It is notable that the Fishery Bay building shown here has a roof slope of about 12:12, or about a ninety-degree right angle). Horace Stevens and Lawrence Adams both testified that steep roof slopes were often used in the Nass River area because shedding the snow is vital in a location with heavy snow loads (charrettes 2004). By contrast, structures from the Central and North Pacific coast of British Columbia documented by archeologists have relatively shallow roof slopes (Boas 1916, Smyly and Smyly 1994, Ames and Maschner 1999) somewhere between five in twelve and seven in twelve). Horace explained that the roof planks were held in place with tied poles, to resist the severe wind uplift common in the Nass River Valley. Rocks were not used to secure roof planks in the Nass Valley, unlike on Haida Gwaii. This is understandable, since rocks would probably roll off the steeper roof pitches favored by Nisga'a builders. The upstand corner planks often found in paintings or photographs of Nisga'a houses also would have formed an additional anchor for the shingle-holding rods and ties (see fig. 21 for upstand corner posts). Horace Stevens' information is based upon memories passed along for many generations (In the interview 2003, he mentioned the seventeen hundreds as a time included in his grandmother's lessons). His knowledge about the roof structure of pre-contact longhouses 87 therefore appears to pre-date what has been written about houses from the region. Similar construction knowledge does seem to be recalled, with modifications to accommodate nailed connections, in Fishery Bay structures (which use nails and milled lumber atop a pole framework: fig. 22g). Figs. 22d, e, and f. From left: photograph of Gitlaxt'aamiks house taken by Marius Barbeau in 1929. Canadian Museum of Civilization photograph 72226. In the next photograph, a gable form has been sketched on top of the house frame, and the photograph at right shows the system of purlins described by Horace Stevens in the 2004 Gitwinksihlkw Charrettes of this research. Superimposed framework added by N . Mackin. Fig. 22g. Pole construction with a central roof ridge and steep roof pitch is shown here as used in cookhouse construction at Fishery Bay. Photograph by Robert Mackin-Lang 88 The structural systems of Nisga'a longhouses were therefore not of a single type, but rather had several forms that responded to climate and snow loads (Horace Stevens pers. comm.), expanded trade influences, the era during which the longhouse was documented, and many other factors. A l l photographs and paintings do indicate that Nisga'a longhouses had gabled roofs, finished with cedar planks overlapping shingle-style in two or three courses. The rectangular house footprint, use of massive beams and large planks, and tied connections are also consistent in all visual and remembered records. Fig. 22h. Steeper-pitched roof forms interpreting charrette comments by Horace Stevens. Clockwise from top left, the sketches show a portal and side pole-and-beam structure as in the Gitlaxt'aamiks house frame (see fig. 22d); a center pole frame that would have the doorway positioned to the right or left of center; a center pole frame that has the doorway cut through the center of a very massive post; a smokehouse photograph taken in 2004 showing how Nisga'a builders continue to use steep roofs and cantilevered purlins, in this case to make covered outdoor space; and another portal and side pole support system. The first two examples are similar to structural systems used on the west coast of Vancouver Island, according to research done by Ames and Maschner (1999:150), which may indicate cross-fertilization of ideas with expanded trade. Working at full scale with the elders on a longhouse reconstruction would expand upon and clarify the charrette-gained knowledge. The house as part of the universe The "skeleton" (structural framework) of buildings, like those of the people within, had a set arrangement of linked components, tied together with cedar "tendons". The cladding, like a skin, hid the skeleton from outsiders; once inside the building, the house-box-universe (NTC 1998, McLellan and Duffek 2000) became part of the experience as though the occupants were inside the spirit-being of the Wilp/ house. The style was very distinct from others in the area in that it was very clean construction right across the front of the house, the traditional houses, rather than having the post and beams out front like you see in a lot of the Haida houses. The 89 housefront would be painted with the family's crest design, and each family had their own. This was for the permanent winter villages. (Allison Nyce interview 2003). The overall exterior framework was supported by thick planks that were carved to accept side beams and front and rear gable plates. Excavated areas in the center of the living space were about thirty feet square and five feet deeper than entry level, according to Drucker (1965). Like most Nisga'a architectural solutions, the platform at the back of the longhouse, opposite the entrance, had multiple functions. During feast times, this was the platform of honour, where the highest chiefs would be invited to sit. However, at other times the platform would become a stage, as in the Laxgibuu of Gitlaxt'aamiks adaawak told by K'eexkw, Matthew Gurney recorded by Beynon. The stories would recall important histories, supernatural events, and sometimes the universe itself. [Ksim Xsaan] crept closer to the house and found a knot hole through which he was able to see inside. He was surprised to observe so many people. There was a huge raised platform at the rear upon which the singers, who seemed to be all women, were being led by a Master of Ceremonies (AN II: 147). The longhouse as House of Learning In the interview transcribed below, Dr. Bert McKay teaches about the longhouse and its importance to Nisga'a culture. Some of the pictures I have seen relating to the longhouse show the food being processed inside. That wasn't the case with the Nisga'a. They prepared their food separately, in buildings close or behind the main longhouse or along the side, depending how close you were to the creeks. For transportation and preparing foods, obtaining water, you had to have water available at all times. That was one of the things that they observed very strictly. The longhouse is for dwelling, for ceremonials, and for training. The head chief is usually the maternal uncle, the oldest uncle of the brothers. He resides in the front. There are two platforms (here Dr. McKay indicates one hand above the other), and underneath are storage spaces. Prior to the storage spaces they had sort of an escape hatch, in case they were ambushed or attacked, and they could always go through the escape hatch under the partitions, you know, under the platforms. Not only do they have that as a route for escape; they also have places there for storage. It's like root houses, where you keep vegetables underground so they are preserved for whenever you want to use them. They had places accessible underneath the longhouse, at the very back end. And it depends, again, on the stature of the uncle or the chieftain; if he is well off then he has more room than anyone else. But primarily it was used to store food, especially for the months of December, January, and February. March, you see, brings in new 90 food: the oolichan, the sea lion, the seal, even the seagull—certain types of seagull are edible. So going back to the longhouse: the two platforms. The top one is usually where they bed down, and the second one is like your closet, your trunks and everything are in there, and especially the regalia, the chieftain's regalia are stored there. They are worn only on special occasions; they are never displayed for decoration. They had a secret value, a spiritual value. So it was always kept enclosed. But anyway, that is underneath the two platforms. And the platform goes right from the chieftain's end right to the entrance. They bed down and have cedar bark mats for curtains. Those showed the partitions, so there was some privacy. So now you are beginning to see why it was called the House of Learning. In it, every aspect of our culture was revealed. And even the young men, as they graduate from wood finding to cutting, if they were suitable to be carvers they were trained. Then again, those who were not adaptable to that kind of training, they were taken out to learn how to hunt, or they were taken out to learn how to make a canoe, or they were taken out to learn how to be fishermen. In the fishing days, they used the dip net. It was already in use here before the Westerners came. It is quite a story; I used to do research when I was still working for the school district. It's really amazing, the knowledge that evolved, and how they were able to find the best natural plants. Now that was a learning process, again taught by the senior uncles. There were hunters, there were fishers, there were carvers, there were canoe makers, and of course there were the ceremonial participants, the actors. Those were all part of the longhouse. The interior of the longhouse was furnished with boxes and cedar screens Fig. 22i. The upper platform described in Dr. McKay's interview was divided into spaces using cedar screens and the carved storage boxes of Northwest Coast tradition. Model by N . Mackin Under the chief s platform there is an escape route, or else a route to the root house, storage place. The storage is for food primarily, therefor the different seasons. Dried fish and berries kept well because they are underground, you see. 91 Fig. 22j Drawing of excavated areas under the chiefs platform (used for food storage), a food storage building beyond the walls of the longhouse, and excavated side tunnels where women and children would hide during times of danger. N M : And what about the people who built the house? ... That is part of the woodwork. Last month, my niece is married to one of the men from the village, who was logging by Lava Lake. As they were cutting there they found a huge log [Dr. McKay gestures about one meter around] all stripped, and with wedges embedded in them. They were in the process of making boards. They phoned the forestry, and I think the museum has got hold of it. I was really excited, although I didn't see it, to know how that process was done, how it was observed. Anyway, coming back to the woodworkers, they had to know how to fall the tree. There wasn't just any way. We didn't have the implements that make it easy today. We did have stone axes. The main implement they used was quartz. They had to know how to control that. The trees they used for wood were spruce and hemlock. Hemlock was a very hard wood, so it was used for all different purposes, like the anchors for the oolichan nets, because they could withstand the ice floes and the currents. They were durable, they bend, they had their stake. That was the hemlock. It became part of the longhouse, where they did the ornaments. Depending on how large the house was, there were either two house poles that upheld the weight, or there were four. But on each one there was carving, depicting a story. Once it was decided that the chief was going to build a longhouse, he didn't do it himself, he ordered. And his paternal relatives, in our language we call that wilksilaks...Each one of them is my father's nephew or niece: those are the paternal relatives. Now in the relationship there are expert carvers, we call them carpenters today, builders: they would be selected. If they didn't have one in their own circle, then they would go to the extended family, but still the same tribe. I'm a raven; my father was a wolf. So if I was to build a longhouse then I would make my order, and I would go to my paternal cousins. But I don't make the arrangements. Then they would hire extended family, so the chain of authority is never broken; it is still fresh with the relationship of father, being the producer of my cousins, all of them, the whole household. They were like carpenters, they were expert at it, and that was their livelihood. It would take them two or three years. I guess they were the forbearers of 92 engineering. For instance, once the boards were selected they were seasoned for at least two or three years, they added to it until they had the exact amount. N M : Did they flatten the boards? Yes. They were laid on the ground. Because of the straight grain they maintained their straightness, and where it was required they would weight them down. N M : And were they tied on? Some of them were, and some of them were pegged. Like the tree that was found: some of the wedges were so huge, and they were all very nice; that was all hardwood. It hadn't changed one bit. So anyway, coming back to the longhouse. Again, in each village there are designated lands for every family. You can't go out and start building on someone else's property—it is just not done. They would have a place ready for that, usually near a well, and near a stream, but close enough to the river so that transporting your garbage from the river was not all that difficult. And again, the need for observing our spiritual side of harvesting, and that was to care for—not so the wastage of the salmon, but the parts that are not used. You are not just throwing them into the garbage pile, you either burn them, or you take them down to the river and you bury them. For the longest time they would go out by canoe and find a sand bar when the water was low, and they would bury it in the tip of the sand bar—especially the eggs. And here, you see, that is your conservation, you maintain the cycle. The villages of the Nass were always honoring the land, for that reason. Once the site was selected—you are accessible to water, and to firewood, and transportation—that was the main thing. And then in the earlier days it was for defense, in case there was a barrage, or invaders, you had a form of defense. So when you go down to Fishery Bay, it's called Da'oots'ip, that means fortress. The camp was overseen by a block fortress. So anyway, once the site, and once the material, the lumber, was selected, then they would go out for the posts. And here again, they had to be one piece, there was no joining. And they knew exactly how deep they must sink them into the ground, so that they are immovable. And they had to be a certain diameter, that I don't know: it's about there (Dr. McKay demonstrates about a thirty inch diameter), and depending on the string of logs that forms the skeleton of your house. Now that is the engineering part of it. I asked around. I was lucky, I came back home here in 1953 as a teacher, and there were still a number of old-timers here who came from the pre-Christian days to the present. And they said, "Well, they didn't just lift those big beams. They used the principle of the fulcrum. They had boxes that they transferred to as they became higher—platforms. It took me a long time to figure that one out. In Victoria, I came across a friend who was carving boats there, and they made a longhouse. For them it was hiring a crane. His last name was Hunt (David Hunt), he was a master carver, employed by the province, and I asked him, "Did you ever know how your forefathers used to lift these big trees?" "No, I'm wondering too", he said. It wasn't until I came over here and an old timer showed me by putting wood 93 on a box, then levering at one end. So they were able to seesaw it right to the desired height. And then they would peg them in there. I think the pegs, again, was a hardwood, usually the white maple or the wild crabapple. That was very hard. So anyway, that is how they were able to do that. I guess this is where they had the rope tying down. They would drill holes in the sheet, and then tie it down. And to make it waterproof they used a certain kind of moss. You have the ground moss, and you have the alpine. It was the alpine: it was more pliable and durable. So anyway, they would fill all the cracks. And on top of that, from here they would go down, there is a place across Fishery Bay that has a section of good clay. They harvested it, and mixed it. They would plaster the cracks that were filled with the moss. So it was reasonably windproof and waterproof, especially the walls. We have very very heavy north winds blowing here, especially the month of February. Until this El Nino animal appeared: this winter we didn't see any north winds, very little if there was any at all. February is known as the month when the north wind never ceases. Buxwlaks means all the leaves on the north side of the tree are blown down to the ground. That's what Buxwlaks means, and that's how they refer to February. Now we haven't seen that for a long time, so the weather is getting warmer in winter, and the winter months are getting shorter. Like right now, in the olden days, there would be a lot of snow on the ground. But there is none. But anyway, the part that is important is how they used the side poles. Primarily their function was to uphold the beams. With them also is the family history, carved in the pole. That's, very quickly, what the Nisga'a longhouse is about. It was never used to process, or for preservation of foods, like smoking oolichans. It was only used for cooking. The communal fire was used for cooking and teaching. Now with the entrance, there is only one entrance. That became part of the tradition later on. Apparently there was a certain incident where a princess was molested by a neighbouring village. They were disgraced because of that, her family. The chieftain was a very haughty, hot-tempered kind of person, very very industrious and very well off. He told his clan "We will have our day of revenge. The ones who talked and made fun of my sister: They will pay for it". He built a longhouse, and invited the coastal people and the inland people—all those people involved in disgracing his sister. He invented a single entrance. Before that, the entrance—two or three people could come through. For his case, he had a complete blackout. There was a grizzly skin, and only one person could enter at one time. You see that in today's illustration of the longhouse. That was, for this particular event, for revenge, but later on it was adopted for defense, because outsiders could only come in one at a time. They were thinking that they better do that to the entrance. The chieftain that did this, there are still families who reflect and feel badly about it. He invented this single entrance covered with grizzly bear, and as the guests arrived with his nephews outside there was a heralding drum for every chief in the house, and whenever this drum was beaten, it's an announcement, certain beats. His nephews were instructed to beat this drum. This meant the feast hall was now open. The story goes that the chief himself announced the arrival of the guests. He knew who they were: they desecrated the honour of his sister. So anyway, no one knows except the entrant: the minute he steps 94 inside the chief s hall he was clubbed to death, one big club, and thrown into the pit. Just at the very tail end, a friend of his came in, and he said, "tell him not to come in, he is not invited". He didn't want him to be clubbed, you see. He's not invited. But he disregarded the warning, and he came in anyway, and was clubbed to death. So that's how the single entrance evolved. Fig. 22k. Levering the massive longhouse poles into place, following description by Dr. Bert McKay. Drawing by the N . Mackin. 95 N M : Going way back: Would there be more moss on the north side, typically, to keep the wind out? They made sure that every crack was filled. That's why the daak' [excavated house] used to come in. It's like a basement, but in the stories I've gathered they were in use further up the river, the villages of Gitlaxt'aamiks and New Aiyansh, because it was so cold there. It was dug, that's where the living quarters were, so they would be shielded from the cold and the wind by the earth. That's what the daak' means. (Bert's brother Alvin McKay's name was Daaxheet) (Deanna Nyce pers. comm.). N M : The graded houses were used the same way as the longhouse? (Dr. McKay nods). How would the cedar trees be brought in? They weren't shortened or anything. They had the required length. It was processed right on the ground. They were towed. They had work canoes that could handle it. We call that diwaax, which means to come by paddle. N M : So the trees up by Lava Lake, would they be brought in that way? You would carry your material from your own resources. The distance was important. There were places where certain qualities were more available than others. If you couldn't, then you could send word down to Kincolith and say I need, maybe, ten pieces of cedar and I will pay you for it. They would bring it in by raft, they would tow it up. N M : So the ango'oskw would include river territory, and all the way up through the different ecosystems to the highest peaks ? Oh yes, the ango'oskw was from mountaintop to mountaintop, that was proclaimed by our grandfathers when they were approached by the government, what is your land? That's one of the reasons they tell the story the way it is: from the top of the mountain to the valley floor, to the river to the salt water, to the mountains, all our resources were available. N M : Would the houses be built along the river? If you owned the property, but then access to a river and transportation was important. N M : Would the houses be far apart? Not too...I don't know how they surveyed their lots, but what I've seen the whole waterfront was maintained for the transportation observance. They usually didn't live in villages, when the longhouse was actually used. It was family. So I could have two or three houses. It was all my huge extended family... N M : What about the paintings and carvings on rocks and trees? Not all families had that, were owners of the petroglyph. But again, whenever it happened they wanted to record, it because it was really important. N M : So if you know how to read the story, you could reconstruct the history? It reflects back to the migration, at least for most of them, but generally speaking it talks about ownership, all of the resources behind this petroglyph belongs to so and so. Or if there was a battle encounter: we had many tribal wars with the Tahltan, and eventually we drove them out all together. Going toward Terrace, there used to be a glacier there, right on the road. Highways cut through the glacier. This was the last battlefield between the Nisga'a and the Tahltan. The Nisga'a defeated them and chased them right back to Telegraph Creek. That's a true story. It happened just before the missionaries came. 96 N M : / had another question about the houses themselves. Were the boards from the houses sometimes taken off and used elsewhere? Oh yes. Every family had territorial rights of their resource area. Like there were people here who had places in the salt-water area, right down to Observatory Inlet, and Portland Canal, and almost right down to Prince Rupert: certain areas where shellfish were harvested—crabs—and seal and sea lion. So the materials were portable, temporary, and if they should reduce the size of the main house they would give out to every designated member by rank and file, as inheritance. But it was very seldom done, the house was always left intact. But they did have portable material, for summer camps. N M : So if you moved to Fishery Bay, you would take some materials there? That's right. N M : Were the ango'oskw discontinuous, with one section over here and another farther away? Oh yes, there were people here who owned resource areas right behind Kincolith. That Portland Canal is over on the American Side; the center northward belongs to Alaska, the other is in BC. All of that were territorial rights of the Nisga'a. N M : And as far as the amount to harvest: the chieftain would look after that? There was always conservation kept in mind. They were told from the very beginning from the messenger, Txeemsim, use but don't abuse. So they would harvest, and they would make certain that they had more than enough. There would be times when a ceremonial feast would be thrown: if there was a sudden death, you can't go out and borrow, it has to be in your storehouse. So that's for ceremonial use, they were prepared for it. N M : Was the storehouse called the wilp sihoon? No that's house, where they prepared the salmon for smoking and drying, and the oolichan. And the storage would be in a cool place. N M : So the main buildings would be the longhouse and the wilp sihoon: were there other building types? Those were the two that I know of. N M : And at Fishery Bay, were those all smokehouses? They were regular houses, but they were twentieth century, nineteenth century buildings. But they were built like company or cannery: like plantation houses. More than one family lived in one. But it was only for a limited period, during the seasonal run. I remember my father-in-law, and his family, we lived with them. But again it used the longhouse concept. Everyone had a designated role to play, even the children. They were organized. N M : Within the houses, I have seen pictures of carved interior partitions that separated the chiefs area from other parts. Were there carved partitions? Not for us. The carving was the house poles inside, the pillars. And he is at the head of the building, he has the most space. But he is separated by cedar bark mats, as did every family. So the partitions were made possible by the use of cedar bark mats (Interview with Dr. Bert McKay 2003). As described in Dr. McKay's longhouse lesson, crest spirits were represented within houses, as carved and painted ayukws (a "'picture' of an adaawak": School District 92 1996: 30.) 97 These architectural elements were far from inessential. To the contrary, they were part of the title deed that proved land ownership: "It all relates back to the longhouse. Because when the longhouse performs a ceremony, your wealth comes from the land, and the land is owned by the family, handed down from generation to generation" (Dr. Bert McKay 2003). Further, the ayukws form a body of remembered knowledge relating to resource management, medicine, and other age-old wisdom (Nabokov and Easton 1989). Finally, interior and exterior carvings ensured the presence of crest spirits (fig. 23), thereby facilitating the extended family's strength in the spirit world: The crests would reflect some encounter that was very important to the family. In a way it was like your genealogy, as you evolve. Some of the people came after the great flood, they came overland, and as they embarked to come here they ran into great obstacles, some of them were profitable, others were very sad. Usually the spiritual side of all that would intervene, and that always is shown on the totem pole: the Naxnok (supernatural being or power) came and saved us here. But not all poles would have that, because there were people who didn't drift away when the flood happened. But there were a great number who did, and who landed in Alaska. They came from Alaska by canoe, if the story was right. [The stories] belong to the maternal uncle. He is the overseer of all the family's property. All the poles also are your property rights, the extension of your lands and resources. And that is important. (Bert McKay interview 2003). Named houses Although Naxnok plant and animal spirits and celestial spirits all entered the houses of Lisims (the Nass River), houses were also perceived as named, living spirits. The name, like the building itself, had practical uses, as Dr. Bert McKay described (Interview 2003): N M : In the spiritual sense, you mentioned that the house had a head, and a skeleton, you told the story it is almost as if the house had its own identity, in a way. Dr. McKay: Um hm. They were given names. Every house had a name, and it reflected on the family's prominent role, whatever that may be. N M : So the name might describe the design of the house? Dr. McKay: For some it would. I attended a housewarming here, put on by one of our prominent people. He was the conductor—we all have concert bands and musical organizations—and it was called wilaawak- band pti'in—that means, where the sound of music echoes. That's the house name. We are beginning to realize, now that our families are getting so large, and they have to have a lot of names, that it is proper to invent names. But it has to reflect your history, and your station in life today. That's the way it was done. Dr. McKay: / wanted to know how the music was used to pass stories along. That was done in the longhouse, especially during the meal. That's where the Nisga'a lore was transmitted by the elders and chieftains, (the following sentences are not 98 verbatim, but were added from notes made by the author after the taped interview ended) The children internalized their lessons each day, while they ate. Over dinner, the elders fed the children lessons with their food. Every day, the lessons were shared. House names also expressed family history, as in the story told by Lazarus Moody, Wiihoon, of Gitxat'in village: In memory of one of the chiefs who had been killed during the war with the Laxgibuu a feast was held and a new house with grades was built, Daak'am daaw. This time it meant graded-house-of ice. Then Ts 'ooda displayed their new crests from the north in a halayt. These were their new symbols, their halayt. They hung teeth of ice, (Weenagwineek) carved out of wood and_painted white, all around the outside of the house. Their house front was named Mukwsim gawax, snow house front painting. The giant Wiiksee (or large north wind) was carved out of wood, just as it was beheld on the glacier. The two birds of Thunder, Tyay'tkw, were also represented and they produced a great noise like the voice of thunder. The people brightened the night sky with a flash of lightning (Ts'amtx) (AN II: 97-8). Fig. 23. This carving of a wolf spirit, drawn in about 1925 by Emily Carr, seems to bring the living spirit of the crest into the dwelling. Hand-written below the drawing is the title "Pole belonged [sic] to a Nishga chief 'daak' Gitladamix [Gitlaxt'aamiks] wolf clan" (perhaps an ancestor of Alvin McKay?) British Columbia Archives digital photo PDP08731. u t' • oo ?', • In the graded-house-of-ice history, several connections are made between the house and the cosmos. The North Wind, thunder, and Lightning spirits are all evoked through visual and audible representations. Nisga'a elders remind us, however, that each house was more than a place for spirits. Practical considerations could not be forgotten: "The part [of the longhouse structure] that is important is how they used the side poles. Primarily their function was to uphold the beams. With them also is the family history, carved in the pole" (McKay 2003). 99 "HVAC": Heating, ventilating, and Air conditioning Architectural knowledge enfolds with ecological wisdom, in the relationship between structural and mechanical systems. The Nisga'a craftsman, elder-trained to build houses in a variety of climatic conditions from near-glacier cold to current-warmed temperate, designed the massive cedar structures to accommodate an adjustable heating system composed of two parts: a fire pit, and an ala. The ala is shown in the author's model below: (fig.24). Fig. 24. The moveable vent known as ala. The ala, combined with the central fireplace, forms the mechanical system of the longhouse: the heating, ventilating, and air cooling (HVAC) technology of Northwest Coastal peoples. Care and durability of H V A C design and construction is documented in excavated house sites. For example, Prince Rupert Harbour excavations indicate that the large fire pit retaining walls were strongly built of cedar planks joined at the corners like a box, thereby resisting inward-pushing forces of people walking and sitting near the fireplace. Since wood is strong in compression, the fireplace walls could not buckle. Keeping the retaining walls from collapsing outward were the heavy floor planks placed around the fireplace pit. The admirable strength of retaining wall/ firepit construction is evidenced by several excavations of house remains, where in several cases house pits remain as the only intact, in situ elements (MacDonald and Cybulski 2001). The care taken to build fireplaces so that they would last for many generations is evidence that longhouse builders granted much importance to the central hearth, perfecting the design and construction to ensure longevity. Dr. Bert McKay explains fireplace construction, its social significance, and the on-going work of keeping the fireplace stocked with wood: The Nisga'a longhouse is different from the other North Coast architecture in the sense that it is truly communal. They only had one communal fire to do all their cooking, a huge center (round); it was in a depression that was lined with stones. And this not only gives warmth, but was also where they cooked their food. This is where the women, like the grandmothers and the mothers and the aunties, all worked, that was primarily their responsibility, plus making clothes and things like that. This is where it was passed along to the young ladies. As they became older, their chores increased, until by the time they have passed the age of womanhood they are educated to go out and run a house of their own. So that is one of the reasons why it 100 is called the House of Learning. With the young men the same thing was true. The main chore they had to carry out was procuring firewood. It wasn't just any kind of wood. And that is how the village sites were selected, there had to be a plentiful supply of wood, both for domestic use and for firewood. It was the senior uncles who taught the young people how to fall a tree, make bark, make board lumber. That was all learned; it was usually the senior uncles who did this. But the main chore for many of them was to maintain the supply of firewood, because the fire was continuous, twenty-four hours a day. There was always someone there to attend to it. And this eventually became the chore of the older boys. As they grew older, they tended to the fire (interview 2003). Paired with the fireplace was a second H V A C component, the ala: The Nisga'a used ala, or smoke control device, to keep smoke from getting into the longhouses. The ala faced north and east, and could be controlled from inside the longhouse using ropes (Bert McKay 2003). The ala, like other components, was part of roofing technology as well as mechanical systems. Like other construction systems examined in this chapter, the ala integrated with other components that it cannot be talked about in isolation from site, materials, and the longhouses as a whole. The ala was essentially a movable shutter positioned over the center of the roof, which was left open to admit light and fresh air and to allow smoke to escape. It could be adjusted to admit more sunlight, but particularly to manage air quality in the longhouse by adjusting air flows. Through the device, most (but not all) of the rain and snow was kept from entering the roof opening (McNeary 1994). The ala itself was a plane of cedar composed of vertical planks, secured with horizontal cross-poles tied together. The fulcrum for the ala consisted of a ridge pole resting on crossed poles secured at their bases to corners of the roof opening. Atop the fulcrum the ala could be levered from one side to the other (Bert McKay 2003). Using ropes, longhouse occupants could adjust the ala from within their dwelling, according to the direction and strength of the wind. Generally the ala would be set to prevent wind-driven rain or snow from entering the longhouse. This would mean that the open part of the roof was protected from direct winds. The heating system also influenced excavation practices. Sometime in the mid-1800's, according to paintings and photographs of the area, many new houses were built on posts, with their main living space raised about nine feet above the ground. Although many houses before the eighteenth century were built up on posts on the water side of the house (MacDonald 1984b), all houses had a ground level hearth until wood stoves became preferable and available (Emmons 1991). By purchasing wood stoves, Nass Valley builders could raise the entire house on piers, since a ground-level fireplace pit was no longer needed. Constructing houses on piers kept living spaces well above the water table, and added additional storage space below the house. In their preference for wood stoves, Northwest Coast builders joined a construction trend that was widespread across North America throughout the nineteenth century (Brewer 2000). 101 Scientific American enthused of the wood stove: "Perhaps no one thing has the increased comfort of American homes as the great improvements which have been effected in stove manufacturer within the lifetimes of men who are not yet old...There are none so poor, but the have the advantages of stove[s]" (anon 1880: 340). A manufacturer's brochure in 1885 declared it to be 'one of our crowning [national] triumphs,' an invention 'fully as conspicuous' as steamboat or cotton gin, revolver or telegraph, sewing machine or typewriter (Brewer 2000: 156). Priscilla J. Brewer maintains that historians have neglected the cookstove "precisely because it was a domestic technology used mostly by women" (American Historical Review 2004). However, the history of domestic architecture proves that women's concerns have a major influence in many planning decisions, including mechanical systems and labour-saving devices (Annemarie Adams, pers. comm.). The evolution of the Nisga'a longhouse structure to accommodate new cooking and heating technologies is further evidence that women-centered activities are indeed significant in architectural history. Alice Azak recalls, however, that the stoves did not always provide comfort, especially during difficult times (she was widowed very young and had many children). She remembers her "little post house" from when her children were small: It's a wonder we used to survive. I guess we were so used to the cold. They had these campstoves. Every morning we get about two pails of water in the kitchen. Every morning we had to break the ice. My kids grew up washing their face in cold water before they go to school, because we don't have time to heat up the water before they went to school (interview 2003). Although some innovations, like the cookstove, were only partially successful (the raised structure with a cookstove was likely more drafty than a structure built into the ground with a fireplace!), Nisga'a and other Northwest Coastal architectural thinkers were adept at bringing new ideas into their work (McLennan, pers. comm.). Technologies were replaced or altered as innovations emerged. For example, eighteenth and nineteenth century Russian influences led to the ala being controlled from within the longhouse using a chain (Horace Stevens, interview 2003). Over time, some houses substituted a fixed vent for the ala (Emmons 1991); this may have been because the heating system changed from open fire to manufactured stove. Another kind of ventilation chimney, again a Russian influence, was built with walls and a roof atop the main roof; the "walls" of the miniature roof were screened or open to permit air circulation (see fig. 14). Longhouse innovations and cultural resilience An overview of Nisga'a longhouse history exemplifies exchanges of knowledge and materials that was far-reaching. Far from resulting in globalizing sameness, the exchange of architectural ideas led to great diversity of ideas, yet retains a constant spiritual and structural framework that represents "strong threads firmly binding the people to past traditions and values" (Doreen Jenson in McLennan and Duffek 2000: 241). The richness of architectural expression at the point of exchange, where Nisga'a and Tlingit or Nisga'a and Tsimshian neighbours combined their skills, suggests that the transition spaces between architectural 102 styles are more diverse and resilient than the sum of their components. Where architectural influences intersect and blend, the results often become more expressive of social conditions, since the changing conditions demand new expression. For example, the "graded houses of ice", an astonishing integration of the spiritual, natural, and human environments, was constructed after the wilp (household) had lost its former crest in battle. Technological innovations also resulted when exchanges and migrations suggested new materials and environmental responses. In this way architectural "edges" can be compared to the ecotones between ecosystems, those areas of greatest resilience and diversity where two or more distinct ecosystems converge (Turner, Berkes, and Davidson 2001). Pacific Rim Similarities Comparing the architectural work of two cultures that did not influence one another directly provides additional evidence for the argument brought forward by Hebda and Mathewes (1984) that ecological succession and architectural production are strongly correlated. It is also possible that the degree to which ecological and architectural patterns correlate depends, in part, on the ecological knowledge of a people, and on the spiritual importance of plant, animal, and abiotic resources within a given culture. A brief comparison of Nisga'a and Japanese architectural histories explores how similar ecological and cultural developments may have led to similar patterns in the evolution of architectural innovation. The materials used in Nisga'a longhouse architecture are an important component of the Nisga'a building technology. Coniferous trees, particularly cedar, were the key to large Nisga'a buildings. Similarly, across the Pacific in Japan, architectural traditions based on coniferous wood structures began to flourish (Seike 1977). Many similarities can be found by comparing the architecture of the two Pacific Rim cultures. With similar latitude, climate, and orientation to the Pacific Ocean, the spirituality inherent in Nisga'a materials use also resembles that of early Japanese construction. "The Japanese climate was as admirably suited to the conifers as those tall, easily worked straight-grained trees were to Japanese architecture...everyone in Japan knows the word kodama, literally 'spirit of the tree'" (ibid: 12). Simgan, tree of life in Nisga'a, was also revered. Both Nisga'a and Japanese traditional religions worked within a concept of spirit guides from nature. The ancient Japanese religion, Shinto, has ancestral spirits that belong to families. The spirits, or kami, which take the form of elements from nature: wind, mountains, rain, rivers ( Shinto). Festivals show kami to the outside world, and architecture is an important part of festivals and other celebrations. Similarly, "the [Nisga'a] people were famous for ceremonies, they were famous for their spirituality, because they believed they were part of the land" (Dr. Bert McKay, in As Long as the Rivers Flow 1992). Spirituality, as defined within School District 92 (Nisga'a) teaching materials, is that which is "concerned with the spirit" (288), and includes the knowledge that each of us has a spirit guide, or special spirit that helps us (School District 92 1996: 145). 103 In physical as well as spiritual ways, the history of large wood buildings in Japan resembles the history of Nisga'a longhouses. The similarities are perhaps surprising, since many historians believe that the two peoples probably did not exchange ideas directly because of the great distance between them. (Because of ocean currents, Japanese artifacts have washed up on Northwest Pacific Coastal shores. Although there is no direct evidence that people survived the voyage until after the eighteenth century, there are stories of Japanese sailors surviving shipwrecks on the coast of British Columbia centuries ago). Architectural histories on both sides of the Pacific proceeded within nearly parallel time frames. Early dwellings in Japan, from about 5500 to 5000 B.P, were "pit dwellings" (Seiko 1977: 7), designed, engineered, and constructed from large pieces of wood. About 1800 B.P. iron tools permitted the fashioning of mortise and tenon joints, replacing the earlier Japanese practice of lashing planks or poles together with vines and ropes. Then, in about 1500 B.P, there was a great exchange of ideas between Japan and other nations. "Japanese carpenters quickly assimilated the new technology" (ibid: 9). Paralleling Japanese architectural history, Nisga'a dwellings had fireplace pits in the center, were able to evolve during times when cedar became abundant about 5500 B.P. Nisga'a buildings initially had both pinned and tied joints—soon to evolve into highly developed joinery, particularly when iron tools facilitated the detailed carving of wood. Cross-cultural exchange of ideas and materials enriched Nisga'a architectural culture over millennia, with dramatic increases during the North Coast Interaction Sphere peaking in about 2000 BP (Sutherland 2001), somewhat earlier than the cross-cultural fertilization period of Japanese architecture. The production techniques used by architectural craftsmen on both sides of the Pacific also show many commonalities. The main woodworking tool of both Japanese and Nisga'a cultures was—and often, among traditional carvers, remains—the adze. Forms were also similar: both cultures designed building forms to suit the straightness of wood (rectangular in plan), to shed water (sloping gabled roofs), and to resist earthquakes and heavy rainstorms (heavy wood members connected to permit movement). These factors combined may explain why the joinery of Japanese and Nisga'a buildings has so many similarities. 5.3 Other buildings for shelter or defense Spring houses and large smokehouses Conserving valued materials for building was achieved, in the Nass Valley, through a way of reusing building cladding on different housing and in different seasons. Longhouse joinery permitted the large, sometimes four-foot wide planks to be slid into place, in a way that they could be slid out again and transported to spring villages. Then at the villages the planks were tied onto the building frames. Because of the way the house is constructed, you have those side panels that are pretty much inserted into the groove; they fit right into the groove. And so when they are moving to another camp where they are going to be staying for quite a while, they take those side panels out and use those for the construction of their temporary camp. In winter buildings, the spaces between panels would be filled with moss. (Allison Nyce Interview 2003). 104 , / SPLIT riANK. Cf LONdHou^e WALL Fig. 25. Pegged and slotted connections used in building large structures. Drawings by the author. Photographs of smokehouses and spring houses (such as unidentified photograph from the National Museum, Ottawa found in Gathering what the Great Nature Provided 1980: 20) show that the tying was sometimes accomplished not board by board, but rather by placing a pole across a row of planks and then tying the supporting pole across the planks so they would stay in place (fig. 26). The roof planks were tied on in a similar way, with the planks laid in place, then poles laid across the top of the planks and firmly tied to horizontal projecting poles from the main roof structure, and to the vertical corner poles. (According to Nisga'a elders present at the charrettes, rocks were rarely used to hold down roofs in the Nass Valley since the strong winds sweeping down from mountaintops and through the valley necessitate the more wind-resistant tied connections such as those shown here). 105 Fig. 26. Wall and roof planks on this smokehouse drawing are indicated as tied in place using poles placed across the planks and secured with a double-wrapped tied connection made of cedar-bark rope (AN), Sitka spruce root rope (Charles Alexander pers. comm.), or animal intestines (Horace Stevens pers. comm..). Elders at the charrettes agreed that this was how tying was done. In the drawing at left, seaweed is shown drying on a rack that is braced back to the main smokehouse structure. A similar concept was used for the large smokehouses that became temporary summer residences for people traveling to and from fishing and hunting sites. The structural system, like a human skeleton, was nearly always the same arrangement: a double ridge pole supported on front and rear twinned posts, two side pole and beam frames composed of corner and intermediate posts spanned with large side beams, then the whole made rigid by base plank "grade beams" and planks used as bracing (fig 26). Fortresses (da'oots'ip), bridges, and other structures for defense and trade Once the site was selected—you are accessible to water, and to firewood, and transportation—that was the main thing. And then in the earlier days it was for defense, in case there was a barrage, or invaders, you had a form of defense. So when you go down to Fishery Bay, it's called Da'oots'ip, that means fortres