Sacred Power and Seasonal Settlement on the Central Northwest Coast

  • Alibrey Cannon
Part of the Fundamental Issues in Archaeology book series (FIAR)


The form of hunter-gatherer settlement in the vicinity of Namu on the central coast of British Columbia (Fig. 10.1) is consistent with the structure and constraint of environmental and social factors that Binford (1980) and Wiessner (1982) identified as important on the basis of their ethnographic observations. The long-term history of the settlement system. in contrast, appears to have developed according to a unique pattern of cultural perceptions and particular events. A system of winter villages, summer base camps. and specific purpose campsites structured around the seasonal gathering of resources is in evidence throughout the 10,000 years of archaeological history in the area. As the number and density of winter village settlements expanded at around 500 B.C.. the number of site types, increased to include possible summer village aggregations and a greater number and variety of resource extraction sites. The greater complexity of this pattern suggests an accommodation to the social opportunities and constraints caused by greater population density. Although these developments conform to expectations based un social and environmental considerations, their specific timing within the context of long-term stability cannot be explained with reference to those same considerations. Instead, expansion in the number of village settlements and long-term maintenance of Namu as a winter village appear related more to unique contingencies and cultural perceptions characteristic of ethnographically recorded Northwest Coast cultures. These perceptions relate to the means by which individuals acquired sacred power and the rights to food resources and to the ritual means by which power and rights were maintained and transferred over time.


Residential Mobility Central Coast Settlement System Ritual Practice Northwest Coast 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alibrey Cannon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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