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 firstname.lastname@example.org …..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.
ḴEXMIN, Lomatium nudicaule, seeding (the stalks in green), mid-July in a historic patch along Dallas Road in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria , British Columbia
“We cannot carry out the kind of decolonization our Ancestors set in motion if we don’t create a generation of land-based, community-based intellectuals and cultural producers who are accountable to our nations and whose life work is concerned with the regeneration of these systems rather than meeting the overwhelming needs of the Western academic complex or attempting to ‘Indigenize the academy’ by bringing Indigenous Knowledge into the academy on the terms of the academy itself…The land must again become the pedagogy.” Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 2017[*]
“That the KEXMIN, Indian consumption plant, is a good medicine used to clean and open the way for the pure spirits to come near.” Tsawout First Nation
KEXMIN field station is a centre for research & learning spanning traditional indigenous knowledge and contemporary science for environmental planning, ecological design, public art and other forms of contemporary cultural production 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.
[*] Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. 2017. As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pages 159-60.
We are currently developing and discussing a mission statement. While currently active in a range of projects, this work all falls into the blank boxes in the mission matrix below. There is already too much work to be able to insert into these blank boxes.
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 )
For the second year in a row, we are celebrating Earth Day at KEXMIN field station, on the Gulf Islands of south-western Canada, through learning from black hawthorn, MÁT̸ŦEN ILĆ [SENĆOŦEN] / Metth’unulhp [Hul’q’umi’num’], Crataegus suksdorfii, one of a number of disappearing native fruit trees. This species currently grows from northern British Columbia and Haida Gwaii to northern California and then across the Rockies to Lake Superior. We have much to learn about how these trees persist, recolonize and can be protected and better restored including through field research combined with social strategies rooted in contemporary culture.
These island ecosystems are profoundly structured around the pulses of food from the irregular fruiting cycles of dominant hardwood trees such as arbutus, ЌEЌEILĆ [SENĆOŦEN], Qaanlhp [HUL’Q’UMI’NUM’], madrone, Arbutus menziesii — as well as Garry oak.
In recent decades at the northern end of its distribution, arbutus has tended to flower and fruit every three years but the last time there was such an exceptional level of arbutus berries was six years back.
The red seeds on the black plate are arbutus, the brown are acorns, and the smaller yellow fruit are Pacific crab-apples. The larger yellow fruit are from a volunteer crab-apple that may well have hybridized with local populations of Malus fusca or more probably another Eurasian apple cultivar.
Late September and October, after days of rains, is the best time to plant these seeds and respective seedlings.
ḴÁ,EW̱ [SENĆOŦEN], Pacific crabapples, Malus fusca, is an important fruit tree throughout the North Pacific region and is recorded from Sequoia National Park in California, mainly along the Pacific coast, to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula (Routson, Volk, Richards, Smith, Nabhan and Wyllie de Echeverria 2012). The extent of the far western extent of this species in the Aleutian Islands remains poorly charted.
Given that Malus fusca sometimes hybridizes with other wild and landrace species in the primary gene pool of cultivated apple, there are a number of east Asian species near adjacent coasts spanning Alaska, Far Eastern Russia, Japan, Korea and China including M. floribunda, M. baccata, M. mandhurica, M. asiatica, M. komarovii, and M. sieboldii. And with aerial pollination some alleles and genotypes move around the North Pacific region — especially along and close to areas with mild maritime climates. And many of these gene flows are vulnerable to climate change and urbanization.
Kanin J. Routson , Gayle M. Volk, Christopher M. Richards, Steven E. Smith, Gary Paul Nabhan, and Victoria Wyllie de Echeverria. 2012. Genetic Variation and Distribution of Pacific Crabapple. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 137(5): 325–332.
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.