Small villages have been central to progressive models of hunter-gatherer-fisher complexity on the Northwest Coast as a stage in the narrative of increasingly nonegalitarian social relations. We argue that Tsimshian settlement history is more complicated. We examine settlement and chronological data for 66 village sites in the Tsimshian area, 22 of which we define as small. Small villages were present in the area as early as 6500 years ago, but they are also contemporary with larger settlements until after 1300 years ago. We suggest that small villages represent a traditional Tsimshian social entity known as the wilnat’aał, or lineage, knowledge of which is preserved in Tsimshian oral records. We argue that the persistence of this settlement and community form illustrates the foundational role of this social unit throughout Tsimshian history, a result that has implications for archaeological research in the context of Indigenous history.
The Role of Small Villages in Northern Tsimshian Territory From Oral and Archaeological RecordsJournal of Social Archaeology
SponsorFunding and logistical support was provided by SSHRC, NSF, Wenner-Gren (dissertation field work grant), Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band, Metlakatla Indian Band and Kleanza Consulting Limited.
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Citation InformationMartindale, A., Marsden, S., Patton, K., Ruggles, A., Letham, B., Supernant, K., ... & Ames, K. M. (2017). The role of small villages in Northern Tsimshian territory from oral and archaeological records. Journal of Social Archaeology, 17(3), 285-325.