Episode 2.3

Back in beautiful BC, the team boards a ferry for the Sunshine Coast and Snake Bay. The only defensive site in shíshálh territory, Snake Bay tells a story of war and peace along the Salish Sea. Jen and Jacob dig through shell middens to uncover evidence of a village under siege. Then the team gets messy for a different kind of dig – harvesting fresh clams with elder Jamie Dixon beneath the mudflats on Snake Beach.

The Battle of Maple Bay

The last great battle before peace came. Narrated in sháshishálem by Anthony Johnson, Shishalh Nation B.C

VR: Snake Bay Defensive Site

Protected by steep cliffs and difficult to traverse mudflats, Snake Bay is the only defensive site in shíshálh territory. Join Dr. Rudy Reimer for a closer look at the Snake Bay defensive site.

“Down on the beach looking up at the cliff was really intimidating. You would need a lot of people to attack and successfully take over this place.”

– Dr. Rudy Reimer

Clams of Snake Bay 

Shell middens are important sites for archaeological analysis. Shell produces stratified archaeological sites, allowing archaeologists to piece together even more details about the ancient past. The calcium carbonate present in shell preserves organic remains and artifacts, clues about the past that would have otherwise disappeared to the passage of time.

Defensive Sites Along the Northwest Coast

Indigenous defensive sites were common from the late 1700s to the mid 19th century along the Northwest Coast. There are approximately 19 defensive sites from Cowichan to Metchosin. Snake Bay is the only defensive site within shíshálh territory.

“It was a sobering moment to see when occupations stop in the area, the epidemic of smallpox wiped out many villages.”

– Jenifer Brousseau

VR: War, Wealth and Inequality 

The clams uncovered at Snake Bay reveal a story about war, wealth and inequality. The abundance of small shells found among the general population shows a town under siege and only able to harvest locally. Most of the people living here had very little to eat, relying on tiny clams for survival. The chiefs and elite, however, had much better access to food. Middens associated with the chiefs and elite reveal more food diversity and much larger clams.

Join Jacob as he digs through an ancient chief’s garbage high atop the cliffs of Snake Bay, and Jen while she excavates closer to the periphery of the village with Darryl Jackson and Kenzie Jessome.

“There is so much shell in here, I mean the shell is just so compact!”

– Jacob Pratt

Clams Science: Oxygen Isotope Analysis

Through laboratory testing, clams can tell us even more about the past. Like most living things, clams need oxygen. Winter rains cause seasonal variation in oxygen uptake, and archaeologists can measure this variation through oxygen isotope analysis. Analyzing oxygen isotopes reveals when the clams were harvested, allowing archaeologists to determine whether a given site was occupied seasonally or year-round.