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The Kw’éts’tel Project

by Anthony Graesch

Kw’éts’tel is a Halq’eméylem term for a knife that was used principally for butchering and processing salmon in the Fraser Valley of southwestern British Columbia. Stó:lō-Coast Salish families used kw’éts’tel for well over 2,000 years, and there are oral historical, ethnographic, and archaeological data to suggest that the design of these tools corresponded to the very specific needs of processing massive quantities of salmon for wind drying and storage. While knife-making debitage is often recovered in great abundance during subsurface investigations in and near Stó:lō dwellings, there is a paucity of ethnographic and historical data addressing how these critical tools were made. 

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This website presents archaeological and experimental archaeological research addressing the technological practices – the raw materials, tool combinations, haptic knowledge, and organization of the body – entailed in Stó:lō-Coast Salish manufacture of kw’éts’tel. Research presented on the site was designed and conducted by faculty and students in Experimental Archaeology (Anthropology 396), an advanced, methods-intensive seminar at Connecticut College. Nested in a broader collaboration with Chawathil First Nation, the Stō:ló Research and Resource Management Centre, and Musqueam Nation, the work expands on and serves as a digital companion to published research (Graesch 2007; Graesch and Salazar, forthcoming) while exploring new ideas and new ways of knowing. The project is supported by a generous donation from alumna Diane Y. Williams ’59.

Technologies

Digital video and digital photography were used to capture important information on how toolmakers change their bodily orientation to stage-specific crafting work, the tool-making implements they use, and the social interactions and discourses that mediate the work. We argue that these data are crucial to an understanding of the embodied, tactile, and otherwise sensorial experiences of tool production.

The developer designed a custom WordPress template for the website. The project will go through a peer review process, which will be made transparent in certain design elements of the website.

Contributors

Project Manager

Lyndsay Bratton, Assistant Director for Digital Scholarship

Web Developer

Gabriel Ortiz (San Francisco, CA)

Students

Annette Davis ’18, Sarah Harris ’18, Andrew Prunk ’18, John Rissmiller ’18, Hector Salazar ’20

Presentations

  • “Cobbles to Knives: An Experimental Archaeological and Digital Approach to Understanding the Manufacture of Slate Fishing Knives in Southwestern British Columbia,” Society of American Archaeology, Washington, DC, April 2018, Anthony P. Graesch, Annette Davis ’18, Sarah Harris ’18, Andrew Prunk ’18, John Rissmiller ’18, Hector Salazar ’20
  • Digital Scholarship & Pedagogy in the Liberal Arts Symposium, Connecticut College, November 2018
  • “On Making Kw’éts’tel and Interpreting the Remnants: An Archaeological and Experimental Archaeological Study of Stó:lō – Coast Salish Slate Fishing Knives,” Society of American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM, April 2019, Anthony P. Graesch, Hector Salazar ’20
  • “The Kw’éts’tel Project: A Case Study of Integrating Open Scholarship into Research Design and Peer Review into Open Scholarship,” INKE’s Open Scholarship for the 2020s (Implementing New Knowledge Environments), Victoria, BC, January 2020, Anthony P. Graesch, Lyndsay Bratton
  • “The Kw’éts’tel Project: A Case Study of Integrating Open Scholarship into Research Design and Peer Review into Open Scholarship,” Connecticut Digital Humanities Conference, Hartford, CT, February 2020, Anthony P. Graesch, Lyndsay Bratton
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