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Wooden stakes create archeological excitement

By Lindsay Chung – Comox Valley Record, Published: December 02, 2010

“There are thousands of wooden stakes sticking out of the mud in Comox Harbour.

The stakes are the remains of a large aboriginal intertidal wood stake fish trap site, which is creating a lot of excitement in the archeological world and in the community.

Archeologist Nancy Greene has spent seven years studying these fish traps with her husband David McGee. Tuesday night, they shared their latest research with members of the Stick in the Mud Club, who sponsored the radiocarbon dating of 46 stakes.

Conservatively, Greene and McGee estimate at least 150,000 stakes were pounded into the sediment in the Courtenay River Estuary.

Greene and McGee collected 11 wood stakes from trap features for radiocarbon analysis in 2004, and the sampling of the additional 46 stakes funded by the Stick in the Mud Club have allowed them to broaden the scope of the research.

“With all of these new dates particularly, it just nails it really,” said Greene. “We have now 57 dates altogether, which is unprecedented. This new batch of dates, the 46 that have been now sponsored, they extended the range of dates another 200 years. Now we have a date that is just 10 to 20 years before the first European settlers came into the Valley, 1840s more or less, and then the earliest date is around 1360.”

Greene has been amazed by the community support for her work.

“The study has truly been a community-based project, and that puts it in a league of its own in the world of archeology,” she said. “Such widespread community support for this type of research is very rare and is a testament to our community’s understanding that the estuary is not only a valuable centerpiece for our community’s life but also a highly significant archeological and heritage resource that appears to be the largest and most technologically sophisticated prehistoric fishing site in North America.”

Fifty-seven wooden stakes have now been carbon dated.

“These 46 stakes that the Stick in the Mud Club have so generously sponsored allowed a whole range of questions to be answered about the dates of the traps and how the traps functioned and not only that but the scale of the fishery,” said Greene.

“It’s the biggest, most significant intensified fishing site so far recorded in Canada. Each date helps to tell the story of this very important archeological site and how First Nations people lived along the edge of the estuary and effectively and sustainably managed an intensive fishery for well over a thousand years.

” As a former academic, Project Watershed board vice-chair Paul Horgen — who was the evening’s master of ceremonies — was “just blown away” when he heard Greene speak about her research in 2008.

“It is a monumental study,” he said. “I think it’s probably one of the most important ones done in archeology in the last 50 years, and we should all be very proud of this effort.”

 

“Heart of the Watershed” – a Symposium on Restoring the Courtenay River Estuary (Oct 2008).

The event on was a great success. 

Thanks to all for your participation. If you would like to join the action group, or contribute any further comments, please contact Project Watershed.

Below are some sample videos (first 5-10 minutes) and slide presentations given at the “Heart of the Watershed” Symposium on the Courtenay River Estuary on October 3, 2008!

(DVD’s were made of most presentations at our event and these are being made available for borrowing from the Project Watershed Office.)

Please note the Acrobat Reader (pdf) files of presenters’ slide shows next to the video clips.

Friday Morning Opening Address

Mary Everson, Comox First Nation Addressing Symposium Attendees
 

Friday Morning Presentations

Wedlidi Speck, First Nations Perspective on Estuary Environment
Dr. Rob Butler – Function and Importance of Estuaries
Dr. Will Marsh – Planning for Sustainable Systems

 Dr.Will Marsh’s Morning Presentation

Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon – The Upside of Down
Dan Buffett: Ranking of Estuaries in BC: Where does the Courtenay Estuary Fit In?
Tim Clermont: State of the Courtenay River Estuary

Friday Afternoon Case Study Presentations

Michele Deakin: Englishman River Estuary
Shannon Anderson: Campbell River Estuary Management
Peter Law: Cowichan River Estuary Management
Rob Lawrence & Pam Shaw: Nanaimo Estuary Management

Friday Evening Presentations

Dr. Will Marsh – Moving Toward a Sustainable Courtenay River Estuary
 Dr. Will Marsh’s Evening Presentation
Dr. Rob Butler: Restoring the Strait of Georgia Ecosystem

Saturday Case Study Presentations

Mike Richards: Green Boating

____________________________________

Event Synopsis

If rivers are the veins and arteries of a watershed, and wetlands are the kidneys that cleanse the water, then the central element of the watershed must be the heart: in the Comox Valley, that heart is the Courtenay River Estuary.

The Courtenay River Estuary is one of the most important estuaries on the east coast of Vancouver Island, with national and global significance. There are many ongoing & recent issues which will impact the sensitive habitat along the estuary’s shores including the banks of the Courtenay River. At the same time opportunities are presenting themselves to preserve and restore portions of the estuary. 

On October 3-4, 2008, this unique event focused on the “Heart of the Watershed”.

The symposium was designed to be of interest to policy makers including elected officials & municipal staff, science & planning professionals, representatives from environmental organizations and concerned citizens.

The “Heart of the Watershed” event’s objectives were to:

  • – increase awareness and appreciation of the estuary, educate, & inspire participants to take action
  • – establish the connection between a healthy resilient ecosystem and a healthy resilient community
  • – create an action group of professionals, policy makers, community environmental representatives, and concerned citizens, to carry forward with management planning, stewardship, and monitoring of the Courtenay River Estuary
  • – be an exciting and inspiring weekend!

Tributary Supporters

Comox Valley Land Trust

Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition

Georgia Strait Alliance

Millard-Piercy Watershed Stewards

Puntledge River Restoration Committee

Tsolum River Restoration Society

Blue Planet Songfest Committee

Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society

Comox Archives & Museum Society

Comox Valley Camera Club

Comox Valley Young Naturalists Club

Courtenay Heritage Commission

Best Western Westerly Hotel

Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa

Tree Island Kayaking

BlackFin Pub

Crawford Studio Sandblasted Designs on Glass

Park Cafe on the Riverwalk

Tomato Tomato Restaurant & Lounge

The Courtenay River Estuary – by Blue Bamboo Productions

 

Michael Fountain from Blue Bamboo Productions has created a beautiful piece that highlights the historical, economical and spiritual influence and presence of the Courtenay River Estuary in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island.

Many thanks to Paul Horgen, Mary and Andy Everson, Scott Wallace, Caila Holbrook and Pieter Vorster for this collaborative creation.