Tsʼishaa: Archaeology and Ethnography of a Nuu-chah-nulth Origin Site in Barkley Sound


Alan D. McMillan, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University; Denis E. St. Claire, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University; Michael C. Wilson; Martin Magne; Ian D. Sumpter; Gay Frederick; Susan Crockford; Iain McKechnie


Archaeology, Ethnography, Northwest Coast, Pacific Northwest, Vancouver Island, Barkley Sound, Nuu-chah-nulth, Origin site, Creation story, Social organization, Political organization, Large-scale excavation, Shellfish assemblage, Geoarchaeology, Faunal analysis, Lithic analysis


The Tseshaht Archaeological Project was initiated as a joint endeavour of the Tseshaht First Nation and Parks Canada. The Tseshaht, one of the 14 members of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council on western Vancouver Island, reside today on their reserves near the city of Port Alberni. Their traditional territories, however, include the Broken Group islands of Barkley Sound, now within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This volume reports the results of three seasons of fieldwork in Barkley Sound at Ts'ishaa, the ancient village that was the centre of the Tseshaht world for millennia and from which they derive their name. This was the location in which the Tseshaht people first came into being according to their creation story. This volume presents extensive ethnographic information on Tseshaht culture and traces the changes in social and political organization through amalgamations with neighbouring groups in the early historic period. It also provides detailed descriptions and analysis of the materials recovered through large-scale archaeological excavation at this important site, documenting an occupation that spanned the last 5000 years. Appendices present specific contributions to the research by Michael Wilson (Regional Geology, Geoarchaeology and Artifact Lithologies), Marty Magne (Lithic Analysis), Ian Sumpter (Analysis of Shellfish Assemblages), Gay Frederick and Susan Crockford (Analysis of Vertebrate Fauna) and Iain McKechnie (Small Fish Remains from the Column Samples). The results make a significant contribution to our knowledge of Nuu-chah-nulth prehistory and, more generally, Northwest Coast archaeology.


  • Frontmatter
  • Complete Book
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • Chapter Two: Tseshaht Oral History and Ethnography
  • Chapter Three: The Non-Native Presence
  • Chapter Four: Excavation at Tsʼishaa (DfSi-16) – Main Village Area
  • Chapter Five: Excavation at Tsʼishaa (DfSi-16) – Back Terrace
  • Chapter Six: Excavation at Himayis (DfSi-17)
  • Chapter Seven: Summary and Discussion
  • References Cited
  • Appendix A: Regional Geology, Geoarchaeology, and Artifact Lithologies from Benson Island, Barkley Sound, British Columbia
    Michael C. Wilson
  • Appendix B: Analysis of Lithics from the Tsʼishaa Back Terrace
    Martin Magne
  • Appendix C: An Analysis of Three Shellfish Assemblages from Tsʼishaa, Site DfSi-16 (204T), Benson Island, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada
    Ian D. Sumpter
  • Appendix D: Analysis of the Vertebrate Fauna from Tsʼishaa Village, DfSi-16, Benson Island, B.C.
    Gay Frederick, Susan Crockford
  • Appendix E: Column Sampling and the Archaeology of Small Fish at Tsʼishaa
    Iain McKechnie


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May 5, 2017