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Rethinking Precolonial Plant Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America

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The indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America are widely believed to have been true “hunter-fisher-gatherers,” lacking plant cultivation of any kind. This depiction of the region's indigenous inhabitants emerged within early colonial accounts and was perpetuated within the literatures of geography, anthropology, and archaeology. Still, there is ample evidence of plant cultivation available from archival, archaeological, and ethnographic sources. In particular, the peoples of coastal British Columbia created large gardens of edible estuarine plants, using sophisticated indigenous technologies. The oversight of these practices in written representations of the region reveals consistent patterns of bias, emanating from the agendas of colonial agents and early academics alike. In turn, this bias has undermined aboriginal traditions of cultivation and indigenous land claims.

Keywords: Northwest Coast; estuaries; ethnographic representation; indigenous peoples; plant cultivation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Nevada, Reno

Publication date: May 1, 2002


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