Territory, tenure, and territoriality among the ancestral Coast Salish of SW British Columbia and NW Washington State

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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Archaeological studies of territory, tenure, and territoriality seek to understand how past claims and access to land and resources were expressed across landscapes and through time. The foci of such studies include the spatial and temporal patterning of settlements, dwellings, conspicuous burials, monumental constructions, rock art, defensive features, and resources. In line with this research, this dissertation integrates ethnohistoric and archaeological data in three case studies that investigate the roles of house forms, the distribution of local and nonlocal obsidian, and the positioning of defensive networks in communicating territorial and tenurial interests among the ancestral Coast Salish of southwestern British Columbia and northwestern Washington state.To understand how territorial and tenurial claims were expressed among the ancestral Coast Salish, the three studies consider the significance of the ethnohistoric Coast Salish social structure defined by bilateral kinship, group exogamy, and wide-ranging social networks in the communication of group interests. The first study supports the extant hypothesis of a regional move into large multifamily houses circa 2300 cal. BP. I hypothesize that this move was, in part, a consequence of regional population increases and its attendant territoriality and was facilitated by the structured flexibility of Coast Salish society and a pre-existing modular architecture that both reflected and reinforced the social structure. The distributions of local and nonlocal obsidian across the Salish Sea region are used in the second study to investigate the potential directionality and reach of ancestral social networks. I argue that these networks, developed from the practice of group exogamy, enabled the expression of tenurial claims as part of ongoing practices associated with gaining, maintaining, and legitimizing access to distant resources. Finally, the interrelationship of social networks and defensive networks among the ancestral Northern Coast Salish-Tla’amin are examined. I propose that these linked networks maximized defensibility at settlement and allied settlement scales in a form of defensive territoriality that served to communicate territorial and tenurial interests during periods of conflict.
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Thesis advisor: Lepofsky, Dana
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