Locating Ye'yumnuts Within Cowichan Territories
The oral and archaeological records of Ye’yumnuts points to its many integral connections to the larger Cowichan cultural and natural landscape.
Below is an interactive map (which has a legend that can be viewed by clicking on the icon in the upper left corner) which provides examples of some of these connections. Wander the map to see traditional food resources, neighbouring communities, and the source locations for some of the materials that artifacts found at Ye'yumnuts were made from.
Navigating the Map
Ye'yumnuts and Food Resources
Ye'yumnuts is not an isolated site on its own, it is integrally connected to broader Cowichan territories and beyond. We can see this from the remains of food and food preparation found in the archaeological excavations. By connecting these remains to their nearby sources we can see the connections between Ye’yumnuts and the surrounding environment. For example, archaeological excavations came across remains of herring, lingcod, salmon, halibut and shellfish. Evidence of camas pit cooking was also found on the site.
To show where these resources are found, the map shows a "proximity analysis". These are lines representing what is a 3 hour and 8 hour travel from Ye'yumnuts by foot and canoe. Though we may not know exactly which places were used for harvesting these resources, people living at Ye'yumnuts could easily have travelled these distances as part of their daily lives.
Garry oak meadows, clam beds and some salmon and lingcod fishing areas, as well as all of the surrounding Cowichan settlements, are within the 3 hour area, indicating a close connection to Ye'yumnuts.
Most of the fishing areas for salmon and halibut, and all herring fishing areas, are slightly further afield. Notably, all of the herring fishing areas and the majority of herring spawning sites are in the 8 hour area, even though herring is the most prevalent species in the archaeological record of Ye'yumnuts. For the people of Ye'yumnuts to be eating so much herring there must have been a lot of movement and political connections between communities.
Listen to Cowichan Elder Luschiim talk about the connection between Ye'yumnuts and the surrounding landscape.
The data about nearby fishing sites come from data about contemporary commercial and recreational harvesting. This contemporary data is used as a proxy for where productive fishing areas for specific species are. The areas of productive clam beaches are shown in proxy by intertidal areas in the area. The proximity lines are approximate only and assume overland travel of 4 km/hr and over water travel of 6 km/hr.
Belongings made from rare and precious stone
Ye'yumnuts is also connected to places hundreds of kilometers away. These connections are preserved in the archaeological record as artifacts whose origins can be traced. Jade form the mid-Fraser Valley and obsidian from Newberry Volcano in what is now the state of Oregon show some of the larger trade and travel networks that the people of Ye'yumnuts were connected to. Luschiim, a Cowichan Elder, discusses how these relationships included multi-year stays and inter-marriage, suggesting strong social ties over long distances.
Listen to Cowichan Elder Luschiim talk about the connections between Ye'yumnuts and areas further afield through obsidian and jade.
Listen to Dr. Quentin Mackie talk about jade celts
Listen to Dr. Quentin Mackie talk abut obsidian micro-blades
Ye'yumnuts and Garry Oak habitat
Garry oak habitats are extremely important ecosystems on southeast Vancouver Island that are now largely endangered. Ye'yumnuts is located at one of the remnants of these remarkable plant communities. There is good information about the historic extent of Garry Oak habitat from an 1850s land survey. The green areas on the map show how widely these ecosystems, which have been so important for Cowichan food systems, were spread across the landscape.
Visualizing the Past
Before the city of Duncan was built, the Cowichan valley looked like a very different place. There were many wide open prairies and meadows, beautiful old forests of oak, pine and maple, and rich, healthy marshlands. Looking at old maps, we can learn something about how landscapes looked in the past, and this can help us make better decisions about how to manage lands today.
1859 Map Mosaic
In preparation for settlement by colonists, the Cowichan Valley was surveyed into land parcels in the 1850s. The map below is made up of four maps from this surveying project. Together, these maps form a "mosaic" that helps us to imagine what the Cowichan landscape might have been like before colonisers moved in.
When a cartographer (map maker) is drawing a map, they are in a position of power to choose what to put on the map, and what to leave off. In this case, the surveyors were interested in "good land" and "good soil" for farming, and "good timber" for harvesting. They noticed these kinds of details, but they passed by many other details. Can you think of what kinds of details they might have left off the map?
A few questions from the map:
- Can you find Somenos Lake and Somenos Creek on the map below?
- From here, can you estimate where you might find Ye'yumnuts?
- Can you find Mount Prevost (Swuqus)?
- Can you find where Quamichan Village is located on the map?
- How many buildings are shown to be in the village?
- Can you find other Cowichan villages on the map?
- How many? What are their names as they are written on this map?
- How many buildings are shown in all of the villages combined?
- Where would you estimate the modern city of Duncan would be on this map?
More about this period in Cowichan history:
Brazier, G. (2001). How the Queen's Law Came to Cowichan . The Beaver, 81(6), 31-36.
Map mosaic compiled from:
Vancouver Island Colony. Sketch Maps of Districts. Lithographed at the Topographical Dept of the War Office, London, 1859: Somenos District / Comiaken District / Quamichan District / Cowichan District. [Vancouver Island, 1859]. Scale 20 chains to 1 inch. Describes vegetation and land quality.
Prepared by Shane Doddridge, 2019
Ye'yumnuts & Property Boundaries
Through colonization, boundaries have been imposed on Ye'yumnuts through privatization of land and subdivision. The changing boundaries are one way in which the colonial history of the Cowichan Valley is visible at Ye'yumnuts.
This animated map tracks the subdivision and privatization of the area surrounding Ye'yumnuts. The first colonial division and privatization of the unceded Cowichan land occurred in 1860. The ensuing subdivision of these parcels is represented by a contemporary map of private property boundaries. The final graphic shows the current boundary line of Ye'yumnuts in the context of the surrounding properties. In a way the archaeological excavations further subdivided Ye'yumnuts into components like feature A and B (not shown to protect the exact location of these features). The map animation can raise questions. What are the implications of drawing boundaries around places? How do boundaries shape our relationships with places and people?
Privatization and impositions of boundaries might mean a separation of the connections between nature and culture that the above map show. Dividing up and selling land can separate people from the land base that supported their livelihoods, and it limits where Cowichan Tribes can exert control over their traditional territory. Consider the different perspectives of relationship with the land that Cowichan Elder Luschiim discusses as opposed to how Garry oak meadows are characterized in this 1850s land survey as "good farmland". Conversely, the imposition of "archaeological boundaries" in the initial archaeological work has created an area in which the Cowichan First Nation can exert control. Boundaries are not simple: they shape our relationship to the land in many different ways.