Trail of Story, Traveller’s Path
Reflections on Ethnoecology and Landscape


Trail of Story, Traveller’s Path

Trail of Story examines the meaning of landscape, drawn from Leslie Main Johnson’s rich experience with diverse environments and peoples, including the Gitksan and Witsuwit’en of northwestern British Columbia, the Kaska Dene of the southern Yukon, and the Gwich’in of the Mackenzie Delta.With passion and conviction, Johnson maintains that our response to our environment shapes our culture, determines our lifestyle, defines our identity, and sets the tone for our relationships and economies. With photos, she documents the landscape and contrasts the ecological relationships with land of First Nations peoples to those of non-indigenous scientists. The result is an absorbing study of local knowledge of place and a broad exploration of the meaning of landscape.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover Page 1
Contents 6
Acknowledgements 10
Chapter 1 Trails and Visions: Reflections on Ethnoecology, Landscape, and Knowing 12
Chapter 2 Landscape Ethnoecology: Nexus of People, Land, and Lifeways 19
Chapter 3 Trail of Story: Gitksan Understanding of Land and Place 39
FIGURE 3.1 Gitksan territory map 40
FIGURE 3.2 Gitksan land: Gitwingak from across the Skeena River 41
FIGURE 3.3 A traditional fishing site on the Skeena River above the village of Ansbayawx (Kispiox), along the Tenas Hill trail 42
FIGURE 3.4 Block diagram of an idealized Gitksan landscape 44
FIGURE 3.5 Seven Sisters with hill in foreground from Sedan Creek 45
FIGURE 3.6 Tax a lake: Upper Watson Lake with Mt. Sir Robert in the background 46
FIGURE 3.8 Avalanche track on Seven Sisters viewed from Coyote Creek moraine, July 1995 48
FIGURE 3.7 “High banks” are a type of feature named by both Gitksan and Athapaskan speakers 48
FIGURE 3.9 Skeena river in flood: rough rapids where the river flows over a bedrock obstruction, described by Dinim Gyet as lax kelt aks “hilly water” 49
FIGURE 3.10 Confluence of Kispiox and Skeena Rivers from Gwin ‘Oop fish camp: wilnawaadihl aks ‘where the waters get to know each other’ 49
FIGURE 3.11 Detailed river terms, of importance to those who navigate on rivers and net fish 39 50
TABLE 3.1 Gitksan Landscape Terms 56
Chapter 4 Traveller’s Path: Witsuwit’en Knowledge of the Land 61
FIGURE 4.1 Map of Witsuwit’en territory 62
FIGURE 4.2 Bulkley Valley landscape 63
FIGURE 4.3 Idealized Witsuwit’en Landscape, Bulkley Valley area 66
FIGURE 4.4 Idealized Witsuwit’en Landscape, Nadina area 67
FIGURE 4.5 View up Peter Alec Creek toward Nëdin’a, Nadina Mountain, May 1989 69
FIGURE 4.6 Marsh along Peter Alec Creek, May 1988 69
FIGURE 4.8 Sdic’odinkhlh Bin, Blue Lake, from the lake shore 70
FIGURE 4.7 Fishing at Moricetown Canyon on Widzin Kwikh, the Bulkley River 70
FIGURE 4.9 Hagwilget Canyon, diyik- at fall low water 71
TABLE 4.1 Witsuwit’en Geographic Terms 80
Chapter 5 Of Berry Patches: What Makes a Kind of Place? 82
FIGURE 5.1 Location of traditional berry sites in relation to the main twentieth century Gitksan and Witsuwit’en villages 85
FIGURE 5.2 Seasonal round of the Gitksan and Witsuwit’en 91
FIGURE 5.3 A portion of Dinim Gyet’s territory showing resource sites 96
FIGURE 5.4 Map of Shandilla area 97
FIGURE 5.5A Comparison of ca. 1899 and 2001 photos of Shandilla area from Gitwingak: view of Shandilla area, circa 1899 99
FIGURE 5.5B View of Shandilla area, 2001 99
Chapter 6 Lookouts, Moose Licks, and Fish Lakes: Considering Kaska Understanding of the Land 105
FIGURE 6.1 Generalized map of Kaska territory 106
FIGURE 6.2 Liard Canyon between Watson Lake and Lower Post 109
FIGURE 6.3 Lookout: old trail with blazes 111
FIGURE 6.5 Lookout: lake with fringing swamp meadow tūtsel 112
FIGURE 6.4 Lookout: hunting camp 112
FIGURE 6.7 “Grass mountain” (grass-topped mountain) hés 114
FIGURE 6.6 “Rock mountain” tsē dzéh 114
FIGURE 6.8 High bank tl’étāgī along the Dease River by the confluence of French River 115
Chapter 7 Envisioning Ethnoecology: Movement through Place and Season 119
FIGURE 7.1 Map of Gwich’in Settlement Region in the Mackenzie and Peel River drainages 120
FIGURE 7.2 View of Peel River and low Arctic landscape looking downstream from Shiltee Rock (Shìldii) 121
FIGURE 7.3 Cluster of sites in the Road River area (northern Yukon) along several intersecting travel paths: the river, trapline trails, and portage trail along Three Cabin Creek 123
FIGURE 7.4 James Creek area in the Richardson Mountains, July 2000 124
FIGURE 7.5 The summer fish camp and winter trapping camp at Road River July 1999 124
FIGURE 7.6 The winter trapping camp at Road River, February 2000 125
FIGURE 7.7 Overflow on river ice, a challenge of winter travel 127
FIGURE 7.8 West wind with typical lenticular clouds at Road River, February 2000 127
Chapter 8 A Gwich’in Year on the Land 133
FIGURE 8.1 William Teya pulling coney from net set at eddy below Shiltee Rock, Summer 1999 134
FIGURE 8.2 Summer fishing sites (eddies) on the Mackenzie River near Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories 135
FIGURE 8.3 Fish drying at the fishing site, Diighe ‘tr’aajil 136
FIGURE 8.4 Rolling slopes of Richardson Mountains in late August, 2000, as the first of the Porcupine Caribou Herd began moving into the area 140
Chapter 9 Of Nets and Nodes: Reflections on Dene Ethnoecology and Landscape 145
FIGURE 9.1 Map of general locations of Dene groups discussed in Chapter 9 147
FIGURE 9.2 Map of Witsuwit’en lands showing clan territories and major trails 150
FIGURE 9.3 Tsía, Russell Bay, a productive area for summer lake charr fishing on Sahtú, Great Bear Lake 153
FIGURE 9.4 Boreal woodland caribou hunted by George Kenny and Simon Neyelle along the Bear River, July 2006 and brought to the Deline Plants for Life camp to share 154
FIGURE 9.5 Dall sheep along Dempster Highway in the area of Engineer Creek 160
Chapter 10 Of Named Places 162
FIGURE 10.1 Totem pole of Antk’ulilbixsxw (the late Mary Johnson) in Ansbayaxw 166
TABLE 10.1 Gwich’in Place Kind Generics and Vegetation Terms 169
TABLE 10.2 Gwich’in Place Name Analysis: Named Feature Types 170
TABLE 10.3 Gwich’in Place Name Analysis: Referents for Place Names 171
TABLE 10.4 Kaska Place Name Analysis: Types of Features Named 173
TABLE 10.5 Kaska Place Name Analysis: Referents for Place Names 174
TABLE 10.6 Witsuwit’en Place Names: Types of Features Named 176
TABLE 10.8 Witsuwit’en Place Kind Generics 177
TABLE 10.7 Witsuwit’en Place Names: Toponym Referents 177
Chapter 11 Trails versus Polygons: Contrasting Visions of the Land 183
Chapter 12 Implications: GIS and the Storied Landscape 196
Chapter 13 The Ecology of Knowing the Land 213
Endnotes 229
References 237
A 259
Index 259
B 259
C 259
D 260
E 260
F 261
G 261
K 262
I 262
J 262
H 262
L 263
M 264
N 265
O 265
P 265
R 266
S 266
T 267
V 267
W 268
Y 268