Changing channels: Past, present, and future land use on the Salmon River delta, British Columbia

Date created: 
Traditional Knowledge
Floodplain Archaeology
Human-environment Interactions

This study examines how using multiple lines of evidence can help us understand the complex human-environment interactions that have occurred on the Salmon River delta in south-central British Columbia in the pre-contact, historic, and modern eras. Using a qualitative methodology, I examine archaeological, ethnographic and ethnohistoric, and environmental studies to evaluate how complementary these different sources of information are in studying this topic. I scrutinize the intersection of these approaches through four questions: 1) what do archaeology, ethnohistory, ethnographies, and traditional knowledge tell us about land use in the past?; 2) what can archaeology and environmental studies tell us about how the delta has been impacted by settlement activities (both Indigenous and settler)?; 3) what can ethnohistory, ethnographies, traditional knowledge, and environmental studies tell us about environmental impacts to the Salmon River delta?; and 4) how can a synthesis of these approaches help us understand the complex human-environment interactions?. A series of interviews conducted with Neskonlith elders documents how the delta was utilized as an important traditional use area for hunting, fishing, and gathering plants for food and other uses, and how these traditional- use activities were impacted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. My investigation indicates that the Salmon River delta was used by local First Nations groups for millennia, and continues to be an important traditional use area for the Neskonlith community. Archaeological and environmental studies demonstrate how intensive land-clearing and development activities have impacted the environment, and traditional knowledge provides context on the impact the decline of many important plant and animal species, especially local salmon, have had on the community. Most importantly, this study demonstrates how incorporating multiple lines of evidence provides a clearer picture of the complexity of human-environment interactions, specifically between how Indigenous groups and settler populations managed the land.

Document type: 
This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes. Copyright remains with the author.
George P. Nicholas
Environment: Department of Archaeology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.