There is evidence of First Nations’ occupation of the Gulf Islands for thousands of years. Native tribes from Saanich, Cowichan and Kuper Island all had deep connections with Salt Spring. Students are often unaware of this history, as there are few visible reminders of this past.
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Ask the students who they think lived on Salt Spring first. Then ask how long they think they've lived here. Collect their guesses. Then tell them the oldest record of First Nations’ habitation was found at Long Harbour in a burial site which is 2 000 years old. Evidence has been found on Pender Island that indicates occupation up to around 5 000 years ago.
Ask the students what kind of evidence might have been found to show their habitation. After collecting their ideas, show them an overhead of an Archeological Sites Map of Salt Spring. Discuss middens. Most of these sites are middens: layers of dirt, clamshells and fire cracked rock from centuries of processing clams for winter and trade purposes. If they have been to a white shell beach, there is probably a midden nearby!
Ask them, where on the map they see archeological sites. Ask why they think First Nations settled where they did (sites are found near the ocean). Discuss possible reasons (close to water transportation, rich resources, etc.) Let students try to figure this out before you tell them.
Show them the Rules Governing Archeological Sites. Discuss their importance. The layers in middens are like the pages in a book. What problems could occur for archeologists if the layers are disturbed? What should we do if we visit a midden site?
Visit a local midden site. Review the rules governing these sites.
Students carefully sketch what they see, creating a key which includes common midden elements: