Dierks, Katherine

Project title: More than just wool: Exploring the life and death of a Nuu-chah-nulth wool dog

Department: Anthropology

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Iain McKechnie and Dr. Lisa Mitchell

"The domestication of dogs is a global phenomenon that holds specific cultural importance to Indigenous peoples on the Northwest Coast who selectively bred wool dogs. The fur of this pre-contact dog was highly valued for use in making blankets. Wool dog burials have been encountered in several coastal British Columbia archaeological sites. This research project focuses on one Nuu-chah-nulth wool dog burial excavated in Tseshaht First Nation territory on western Vancouver Island, B.C. as part of the Kakmakimilh Archaeological Project, a collaborative project between Tseshaht First Nation, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Victoria, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Based on preliminary analysis during the 2018 UVic archaeological field school, the skeletal remains show visible bone degradation and remodelling on the right femur which exhibit potential signs of osteoarthritis in the dog’s knee. My research involves gaining expertise from knowledgeable veterinary professionals and creating 3D models of the remains to explore paleopathological understandings of the remains. The dog’s mortuary commemoration will be further examined through analysis of associated artifacts and fauna. Through this work, I seek to shed light on this dog’s health and treatment by people in life and death to provide insight on how Tseshaht cared for and managed wool dogs. This archaeological research is valuable in that it centers Indigenous histories in British Columbia by exploring and adding context to the social and cultural significance of dog domestication within communities on Vancouver Island and elsewhere on the Northwest Coast."