Until the mid-nineteenth century, First Nations peoples in British Columbia valued dogs as hunting aides, draught animals, sources of fibre and food, protectors, and companions. Unfortunately, the details of these past human-dog relationships are not well known. To understand the importance of these dogs in general, and particularly the dogs once kept by Tla’amin people, this study integrates ancient DNA analyses with local knowledge. Interviews with Tla’amin community members and the presence of archaeological dog burials clearly show that dogs were an important part of ancestral Tla’amin society. Additionally, local knowledge and ethnographic evidence indicates that breeding and training practices served to both reinforce the bond between dogs and humans, and to improve the hunting ability of dogs. Ancient DNA analysis of 17 skeletal dog remains (3500-430 ya) from six archaeological sites in Tla’amin traditional territory has revealed a minor mtDNA haplogroup that was only found in Tla’amin dogs, however, the majority of mtDNA haplotypes are shared with many other archaeological dogs in BC. These results are consistent with local knowledge and ethnographic evidence regarding native North American dogs, and are reflective of trade networks and kin relations in BC, which may have facilitated the distribution of these dog haplotypes. This study highlights the importance of integrating archaeological data with local knowledge and cultural context to achieve a more complete understanding of the relationship between humans and their biological worlds.
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Thesis advisor: Yang, Dongya
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