Bryn Andrew Letham
Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationSimon Fraser U.
Grant numberGr. 9951
Approve DateOctober 24, 2019
Project TitleLetham, Bryn (Simon Fraser U.) "Bridging Past and Present at Gitga’at Cultural Keystone Places on the Pacific Northwest Coast"
BRYN LETHAM, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, was awarded a grant in October 2019 to aid research on ‘Bridging Past and Present at Gitga’at Cultural Keystone Places on the Pacific Northwest Coast.’ This project explores how ancient occupants of the Northwest Coast developed strong attachments to places through the management and modification of coastal landscapes. Through community-partnered research with the Gitga’at First Nation of the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada, we collected archaeological data from three ancient villages that are important seasonal resource gathering locations for the modern Gitga’at, and which have oral histories extending to the deep past. These data include core samples to date village occupation and quantify and reconstruct how people modified living areas with massive terraces of shell. We also collected shellfish and animal bone remains to explore resource harvesting and management, and to compare to harvesting practices today. We found as much as 7000 years of persistent occupation at some villages; that during that time people adapted to falling sea levels by building outwards with substantial amounts of shell; and that there is evidence for sustainably harvesting the same resources at these sites in the past as today. We propose that physical investment into landscape modification combined with intimate human-animal relationships helped generate connections to place that have endured from the deep past that shape the cultural identity of the Gitga’at today.