A research & learning centre for conversations spanning traditional indigenous knowledge, modern science, and contemporary culture for new policy, environmental planning, ecological design, and public art with a focus on the Salish Sea and its Gulf and San Juan Islands between the mainland of the North American West Coast and Vancouver Island email@example.com …..TERRITORIAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT….. ḴEXMIN field station is focused on the species, ecosystems, communities, and cultures of the islands of the Salish Sea where the human demographics involve the presence, stewardship and cultures of scores of mainly Salish First Nations. ḴEXMIN field station is headquartered on Salt Spring Island in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia and we look out to and engage with the similar ecosystems of the San Juan Islands of Washington State. The islands of the Salish Sea have nurtured exceptional level of human populations and cultural diversity going back at least 14,000 years (Hutchings and Williams 2020). In recent centuries, a score of Salish languages have been spoken in settlements on these islands along with the more recent trade language, Chinook jargon. Just in the southern Gulf Islands, straddling the Canada-USA border, the SENĆOŦEN and HUL'Q'UMI'NUM' languages are renewing. The scores of indigenous communities with territories on the islands in the central part of the Salish Sea involve two confederations, the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group and the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council, with the following First Nation governments historically and currently active in stewarding, harvesting, and inhabiting their lands and seas on the southern Gulf Islands: Cowichan Tribes; Halalt; Lyackson; Malahat; Pauquachin; Penelakut; Semiahmoo; Snuneymuxw; Stz'uminus; Tsartlip; Tsawwassen; Tsawout; Tseycum; and Ts'uubaa-asatx. Virtually all of the southern Gulf Islands remain unceded to the governments of British Columbia and Canada. In 1852, the W̱SÁNEĆ (involving leadership of the Malahat, Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout; Tseycum) were forced, under the threat of violence, to accede to a treaty with the British Empire. A similar treaty was imposed on the Snuneymuxw in 1854. But these 'Douglas Treaties' did not specifically vacate indigenous ownership, inhabitation and stewardship over the southern Gulf Islands. In 2009, the Tsawwassen First Nation did forge an agreement with the governments of British Columbia and Canada which involves ongoing presence, stewardship and consultation of the southern Gulf Islands. The First Nations communities with territories on the southern Gulf Islands total over 14,000 enrolled members along with another another several hundred Métis, non-status Indians, and individuals enrolled with other First Nations living on these islands. This total of indigenous people is comparable to the current total population of the southern Gulf Islands, which while officially around 20,000 people involves a large portion who have primary residents away from these islands. Aside from the Penelakut who have been able to maintain their residences on Penelakut Island, the indigenous communities on the southern Gulf Islands were destroyed, largely through governmental coercion and state violence, by the early 20th Century. Today, markers for housing, housing densities, infrastructure, services, and natural resources on the southern Gulf Islands are relatively favourable whereas Indian Reserves, with territories on these islands and often in visual contact, remain relatively crowded and underserved with dwindling opportunities for traditional subsistence. There are a raft of other First Nations and indigenous communities residing and active in the northern Gulf Islands and in the southern areas of the Salish Sea in the Puget Sound — along with several other Salish languages and treaties. At the latitude of Paris, the Gulf and San Juan Islands are biologically rich, as a biogeographical crossroad of the south, east and north. Today, legal frameworks are being built for authentic joint management of the crucial network of protected areas involving First Nations, government agencies and community-based organizations. Richard M. Hutchings and Scott Williams. 2020. Salish Sea Islands Archaeology and Precontact History. Journal of Northwest Anthropology 54(1): 22 – 61.
blooming ḴEXMIN, late spring in Lək̓ʷəŋən Territory, Vancouver Island
ḴEXMIN [SENĆOŦEN], Lomatium nudicaule, just south of the 1852 Indian Reserve line set (under severe threat of imperial violence) for the W̱SÁNEĆ, north of Island View Beach, Central Saanich, Vancouver Island
“One ceremonially prized plant, ‘wild celery’ (Lomatium nudicaule), was, and is still today, widely used and sought for medicinal and ceremonial purposes, and its seeds used as gifts. Some contemporary Northwest Coast peoples are careful to leave wild celery seeds behind, or to scatter seeds (when gathering medicines) to ensure it’s continuation, and this seems a likely candidate as a species that was managed and whose range has been extended through past human intervention. This attribution of a ‘spirit’ within all of nature’s creations, and of the powers of plants to affect human lives and human well-being, is another reflection of, and reason for, peoples’ stewardship of the plants they depend upon…” (Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner. 2005. Conclusions. in Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America. Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner (eds). Vancouver: UBC Press / Seattle: University of Seattle Press. pages 331 – 342. quote from pages 334 – 335 )
Two snails were studied on August 8, 2021 in the Hwmet’utsun conservation area on the wild West Coast of Salt Spring Island in the territory of Cowichan Tribes. After a six week heat wave, linked to climate change, it can be assumed that the native snails of the Gulf Islands could have a difficult time surviving. These two snails could be out and about because there was light rain 36 hours before and there were droplets of rain under the otherwise dry arbutus leaf litter. These snails are probably the most common native snail on the Gulf Islands, the Pacific sideband snail, Monadenia fidelis, but there is a possibility that the second video is of a much rarer, Puget Oregonian snail, Cryptomastix devia (which has a pronounced, curled-up lip on the aperture of the shell). Along with hotter temperatures and more erratic rainfall patterns, native snails are vulnerable to terrestrial acidification from pollution sources nearby and across the North Pacific.
Gordon Brent BROCHU-INGRAM, KEXMIN field station, April 9, 2021, The Land We Would Like To Be: Renewing biodiversity conservation planning strategies as part of joint management with First Nations around the northern Salish Sea. City and Regional Futures Colloquium, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning.
Seaside juniper, PET̸EṈILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Juniperus maritima, is endemic to the Gulf and San Juan Islands and the adjacent Olympic Range. This is one of the rarest of the North American juniper species. The Salish relied on this conifer to to ward off disease.
This relatively young juniper, probably less than fifty years old, is on Tsawout, W̱SÁNEĆ, territory near the beach south of the southern line of the 1852 treaty. This mosaic of dunes, marsh and meadow is vulnerable to the rapid sea level rise taking place on the south-east coast of the Saanich Peninsula.
This field of ḴEXMIN [SENĆOŦEN], Lomatium nudicaule, is in an urban park in Lək̓ʷəŋən territory and has been spared one of the most serious contemporary threats to northern populations of this species: excessive deer browsing due to predator suppression.
On the 4th of July, 2020, the land is drying out for the summer, the thick stalks of this carrot species have gone fully erect and the swollen green seeds are beginning to turn red and tan and desiccate. These seeds are roughly six weeks from being fully maturing and beginning to blow away and be harvested for Salish ceremonies.
Pink honeysuckle, Qit’a’uylhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’], KIDE, AN ELP [SENĆOŦEN with a diagonal line on the ‘A’ and a horizontal cross on the ‘L’], Lonicera hispidula, is an ecologically important vine that blooms around the Summer Solstice.
One of the two most ecologically important vines, pink honeysuckle provides a huge amount of food for pollinators, especially hummingbirds and some insects, at a critical time of year as most plants have flowered for the year, temperatures rise, and the landscape dries out for the coming three months.
Adding a deep pink to the landscape as the hue moves from spring greens to summer browns, KIDE [SENĆOŦEN] has powerful cultural roles for the Salish from swings for ghost people to binding people together in love charms.
Pacific Sidebandland snail, Monadenia fidelis, still occurs in substantial numbers in the mixed woodland of the Gulf Islands but its southern occurrences, down to California, are increasingly vulnerable. On June 11, there were ten of these land snails on the base of this large and old oak tree and these individuals may have been forming a mating cluster.
Larger pollinators often depend on larger flowers. In this case, a relatively large wild bee is harvesting pollen, and perhaps nectar, from this wild rose — just after the peak total spring pollination of most prolific native pollinators on the Gulf and San Juan Islands.
ḴEXMIN [SENĆOŦEN], Lomatium nudicaule, is a powerful flowering plant linking humans to the ecosystems in which we live in the drier areas near the West Coast of North America from Northern California to the Salish Sea.