Canada’s Wooden Stakes Mystery Solved: Researchers Say It Was Ancient Fishing Method

by Lauren Boisvert

According to the Daily Mail, thousands of wooden stakes in the shallows of a Canadian estuary have baffled researchers and archeologists for decades. Finally, they solved the mystery: it’s a Native American fishing method.

Low tide exposes more than 150,000 wooden stakes in the Comox estuary off Vancouver Island everyday. Researchers have been trying to figure out what they are for years, but they finally think it was a sophisticated fishing method. The K’omoks people used the method nearly 1,300 years ago and as recent as 100 years ago.

The K’omoks people trapped mostly herring and salmon; they took note of spawn patterns and population to determine the perfect areas for their traps. There were two traps uncovered; one in a winged-heart shape, the other in a winged-chevron shape. High tide led the fish into the traps, and low tide kept them there. When the K’omoks gathered all the fish they needed, they released the remaining fish.

In what is now British Columbia, settlers and colonists wiped out nearly 90 percent of the native population due to disease. Because of this, the knowledge of the fish traps was lost, which is why they’ve been a mystery until now; there was simply no one to ask.

Nicole Norris, knowledge holder for the Hul’q”umi’num Nation, spoke of similar practices among her people. Different nations had different technology, but it was all adapted to their land. The Hul’q’umi’num Nation used stacked rocks to make walls, controlling silt levels to create “beach gardens” where they would catch their fish and farm for other edible marine life.

More Than Just Fishing: Makah Tribe Could Be Getting Back Hunting Rights in Washington

In late September, an administrative judge in Washington recommended that the Makah Tribe of Neah Bay be granted the right to hunt grey whales again as part of their traditional practices. The recommendation was that the Makah be allowed to hunt up to 3 grey whales a year.

The tribe has been dealing with push-back from animal rights organizations for 20 years; groups who claim the tribe’s ancient and traditional whale hunt is blatant animal cruelty. But the Makah have been hunting whales as part of a spiritual ceremony for more than 2,700 years.

“We’re not doing this for commercial reasons,” said Makah Tribe vice-chairman Patrick DePoe in a statement in Sept., “we’re doing it for spiritual and cultural reasons.” The Makah use every part of the whale they hunt; meat for food, oil, bones for crafts, sinew and gut for storage containers.

“Tribes across the Northwest have always considered ourselves stewards of the land, stewards of the animals,” said DePoe. “We’re not trying to do anything that is going to add to the depletion of these resources.”

Currently, the Makah Tribe is still looking over the proposal and say that, even though it seems to be in their favor, there are still problems with the recommendation that could cause issues and frustrations for the tribe.