Documenting Traditional Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) Management in the Pacific Northwest

BC's not-so-wild native hazelnut has a rich and compelling history with humans. 

Traditionally, wild and managed plants on the Coast were central to Indigenous peoples' diet, technology, and worldviews. However, shifting lifeways imposed by colonialism have changed the way plants are perceived and remembered. By focusing on Corylus cornuta (hazelnut), I integrate various ethnobiological sub-disciplines to better understand the cultural and ecological significance of hazelnut on the northern Northwest Coast. 

 

There is a fleeting ethnographic record of hazelnut in so-called British Columbia, however shell fragments can be found archaeologically throughout the province. Linguistic evidence also supports the hypothesis that long distance transplanting of hazelnut, from the Salish region to the Ts'msyen, Gitxsan and Wet'suwet’en regions resulted in ecologically disjunct populations (e.g., in Hazelton BC, hence the name). Hazelnut was traditionally managed by fire and has numerous uses for people including for food (nut), for fuel (oily shells), it was an important medicine, the root produced an intense blue dye, and young switches were used for weaving and construction. By combining ethnographic information, modern and ancient genetics, archaeological surveys, and ethnoecological studies, we've gained many insights into the multi-dimensional ways in which people interacted with and related to this important plant and their lived landscape.

 

Dry Leaf
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This research was published with Elder Marion Dixon, Wal'checkwu (Spuzzum First Nation, pictured left) and Nancy Turner. To view this article click here. For more of my current and upcoming publications click here.

Genomic research that considers ancient hazelnut translocations in northwest North America is currently underway with collaborators. Stay tuned for results!