Block DK044 Archaeological Impact Assessment
Review of Block DK044 Archaeological Impact
Assessment Interim Report (2012-0218)
Prepared for: Elphinstone Logging Focus December 2015
Submitted to: The Squamish First Nation and
The Archaeology Branch and Baseline Archaeological Services Ltd
By: Phoebe Ramsay, BA Morley Eldridge, MA, RPCA
Previous conflicting reports on whether scarred trees in a high-elevation cutblock in the
Squamish region are CMTs or naturally scarred are examined and discussed. In particular, a
report conducted under provincial Heritage Conservation Act Permit 2012-0218 by Baseline
Archaeological Services Ltd. is critically examined. This report concluded the scarred trees were
natural, due primarily to the block’s location, the low proportion of yellow cedar there, a
preponderance of natural scarring, and tree-ring characteristics from several samples cut from
trees in the block that are purported to have non-cultural characteristics.
We find that the same data can be interpreted with opposing conclusions in many cases.
The model for the potential for yellow cedar CMTs put forward by Baseline is found to have
problems, most notably too low an upper elevation limit being set; an association with salmon
runs that is not supported; and a claim that the location is too far inland to have been utilized.
The elevation limit is lower than these trees normally grow on the southern BC coast. An
association with salmon runs seems spurious, since the season of salmon runs is often very
different from the season of bark harvesting. The proportion of yellow cedar in the block (33%
of the stems) would not preclude precontact people going there due to the scarcity of these trees.
A stand comprised of one quarter to one third of the desired species would on the contrary seem
attractive. Ethnographic evidence shows that aboriginal people of the Northwest Coast often
travelled far inland over multiple days in order to gather yellow cedar bark. Ethnographic,
ethnobotanical, and archaeological evidence from the Squamish area in particular, and the wider
world in general, shows that montane areas were not the inaccessible and peripheral areas for
people as often portrayed. Yellow cedar bark was a highly valued resource.
Contrary to Baseline, we find there are clear differences between the tree ring
characteristics of the trees with scars that would normally be termed CMTs (if it were not for the
block location), and those with clearly natural scars. No alternative to cultural scarring is obvious
to produce the characteristics seen. Other scars were indeterminate. We suggest that the
knowledge base of the tree ring reaction of natural vs cultural scarring is deficient for yellow
cedars although key attributes allow an assessment of whether bark was present on the scar face.
Despite a small sample size, the pattern of scarring, where all occurred in a 300 year
period, and none occurred in the most recent 360 years, seems more likely to be a result of
cultural rather than natural patterns. Natural patterns would be expected to be relatively
continuous (and ongoing to the present) in such a high-elevation and very long-lived forest.
The evidence at hand is not irrefutably for a cultural origin. However, in the opinion of
the authors, as with redcedar scars, tall, regular, and evenly tapering scars where bark was
cleanly removed from one or more sides from a large portion of the stem circumference only
rarely occurs naturally (though apparently only through the agency of bears). The simplest
explanation of this occurrence in Block DK044 is cultural modification.