Osteobiography of an Ancient Nuu-chah-nulth Wool Dog: Investigating the Life and Death of a Domestic Dog from Tseshaht Territory in Barkley Sound




Dierks, Katie

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The domestication of dogs is a global phenomenon that holds specific cultural importance to Indigenous peoples along the Northwest Coast. The woolly dog, a precontact breed of Indigenous dog that was valued for its fur to use in making blankets, lived within Indigenous communities on the coast of British Columbia and Washington for thousands of years. Although these dogs no longer exist as a living breed, information about wool dogs is retained in ethnohistorical records and archaeological deposits. This research focuses on one wool dog burial excavated from the Tseshaht village of Kakmakimilh in Barkley Sound, western Vancouver Island. This research is part of the Kakmakimilh Archaeological Project, a collaborative project among Tseshaht First Nation, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Victoria, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Preliminary analysis of the skeletal remains show visible femoral asymmetry and morphological features diagnostic of osteoarthritis in the dog’s knee. This research involves an in-depth zooarchaeological analysis of the remains to gain perspective on this dog’s health and treatment in life and death at Kakmakimilh. This research provides cultural information about Indigenous dogs in conjunction with zooarchaeological results to gain deeper insight on how precontact wool dogs were kept and cared for within Tseshaht communities and other Nuu-chah-nulth communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island.



Archaeology, Tseshaht First Nation, Canis familiaris, Wool dog, Nuu-chah-nulth, Barkley Sound, Historical ecology