INTENSIFYING WITH FIRE: FLORAL RESOURCE USE AND LANDSCAPE MANAGEMENT BY THE PRECONTACT COAST SALISH OF SOUTHWESTERN BRITISH COLUMBIA
At European contact, indigenous societies of the Northwest Coast employed complex rules governing land tenure and resource ownership, especially as such rules related to food production. While the intensive exploitation of salmon and other marine resources was a critical element of Northwest Coast economies for millennia, I argue that plants were also intensified and actively managed, but in a different way than marine resources. This dissertation investigates resource production by considering investment in terrestrial landscapes and floral resources by the precontact Coast Salish of the Gulf of Georgia during the last 5,000 years. I argue that understanding changes in human-environmental interactions and how terrestrial landscapes were constructed and managed is crucial to the discussion of how and when social complexity was established in the region. The coastal island environments of the southwestern British Columbia contain spatially and temporally constrained resources that can easily be overexploited during times of increased human population. Through terrestrial land management practices precontact Coast Salish peoples were able to adequately control and maintain plant resource patches without overexploitation. In the Pacific Northwest, anthropogenic fire was one tool used to enhance resource production and bolster the productivity of terrestrial landscapes. In applying fire, the structure of vegetation communities and terrestrial landscapes were altered and became more "humanized". Increased investment in landscape maintenance through anthropogenic burning is apparent at the Shingle Point archaeological site (DgRv-002) on Valdes Island over the last 4,500 years. Charcoal counts and morphologies derived from 1 cm samples of sediment cores from two separate locations on Valdes Island establish important differences between human and natural fire signals during the last five millennia. The methodology I have developed here focuses on both morphology and total charcoal counts and provides a means to address problems with discriminating human-set from naturally ignited fire events in the Pacific Northwest.