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.
There is a landscape in the centre of North Pender Island evocative of the grasslands with lodgepole pines, with bison and mastodon, soon after the retreat of the glaciers roughly 14,000 b.p.
While this endemic, island species of juniper, PETEṈILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Juniperus maritima, is relatively rare throughout its range, there are over ten trees scattered in this landscape with this pine-grassland exceptionally rare on the Gulf Islands and evocative of central British Columbia or further north.
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.
An important traditional food tree, black hawthorn, MÁT̸ŦEN ILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Crataegus douglasii, (in Canada, Crataegus douglasii var. douglasii) is also ecologically important especially for the nectar and fruit. One of the few seaside areas where this species grows on the Northwest coast of North America is the Gulf and San Juan Islands where this fruit tree established in drier times with colder winters. Consequently, this species was more important to indigenous communities east of the Coast Range.
MÁT̸ŦENILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Crataegus douglasii, (in Canada, Crataegus douglasii var. douglasii), is one of two black hawthorn species on the Gulf and San Juan Islands. This, the smaller species, generally produces more accessible fruit and grows in mesic (damper) areas in drier regions.
This beautiful small tree is highly adaptable to urban and other degraded landscapes but so far has been rarely used in Coast Salish food sovereignty, permaculture and ecological restoration initiatives.
On the Gulf and San Juan Islands in August there are few blooming plants aside from a few asters and some other forbs. So for native wasps, mid-summer blossoms of snowberry, PEPKIYOS ILĆ[SENĆOŦEN], P’up’q’iyasulhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’], Symphoricarpos albus, are a major form of sustenance. In fact, on powerlines near this thicket of snowberry, a large wasp nest has been constructed just in a few weeks.
In efforts to restore native ecosystems on the Gulf Islands, snowberry has often been overlooked for supposedly being ‘invasive’. Snowberry is an edge and early seral species that will move into native grass and forb lands. But snowberry is part of a group of low precipitation, interior species, more associated with today’s Prairie provinces on the east side of the Rockies. Soon after the last glaciers receded from these lands, possibly as early as over 14,000 years ago, these landscapes, perhaps not all islands as they are now, were dominated by grassland and lodgepole pine woodlands — mostly likely with large thickets of snowberry regularly shaped by large mammals such as mammoth, mastodon, and bison.
This grove of chokecherry, [cf tuluµulhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ with this word sometimes also used for bitter cherry], Prunus virginiana, on Hwmet’utsun on Salt Spring Island, was visited on August 6, 2020 with fruit (drupes) a week before the peak of ripeness. This area has a long history of Cowichan stewardship and harvesting that has only be partially obstructed in the last half century.
This exceptional chokecherry woodland, similar to communities in the southern Puget Sound on more mesic and wetland edges of Garry oak woodland, has a subdominant vine, western white clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia. This native West Coast clematis is rare in the mid and north parts of the Salish Sea. At its northern margins , this species rarely occurs on the coast and is associated with areas of hotter, drier summers in the British Columbia Southern Interior.
Chokecherry is an important element of local efforts at food and medicinal sovereignty and has exceptional value in ecological restoration of more mesic, south-facing sites as well as well as sunny sites on the edge of wetlands.
Chokecherry, SC̸ET̸EṈILĆ [W̱SÁNEĆ and also used for bitter cherry], Prunus virginiana, is the only wild fruit tree in Canada that is native to every province and territory. On the Gulf and San Juan Islands, this small tree, that sometimes grows to over 10 metres, is a keystone species for numerous pollinators, birds, and humans.
A crucial food and medicine for hundreds of indigenous communities in the northern half of North America, this species is so under-valued in settler horticulture that plants are rarely available in commercial nurseries. Fortunately, the pits are often highly fertile and at an experimental farm plot operated by ḴEXMIN field station, trees planted from drupes just four years ago are already over 2 metres in height and flowered for the first time this spring.
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.
There are several species of West coast mugworts or sages with the ecology of coastal sage, Artemisia suksdorfii, associated with dry maritime cliffs often with salt air and relatively uncommon, is somewhat unclear.
When protected from excessive deer browsing, stth’ulhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’], mock orange, Philadelphia Lewisii, can grow up to more than 5 metres. While the full set of pollinators for this shrub-verging-on-tree at the northern margins of its coastal populations extending to the Gulf Islands has yet to be inventoried, early summer is a time when there are few blooming plants.
On blooming mock orange blossoms, we have observed small flies and mites near dusk.
While the names in SENĆOŦEN and HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’ remain unclear, the straight branches were sometimes used for arrow shafts and this hard, straight wood had other uses in Salish technologies.
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.