Freshwater háykwa?

incised dentalia kamloops area

Incised dentalia, Kamloops area (source: Roderick Sprague, “Incised Dentalium Shell Beads in the Plateau Culture Area“, 2004)

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes’s “North of the Border” column in North Columbia Monthly of July 2019, titled “A Pearl of Great Price’, relays an amazing bit of traditional Salish knowledge.

martin louie jr holding a can of pink salmon

Martin Louie Jr. holding a can of pink salmon (image source: PBS American Experience)

Pearkes cites the late Martin Louie as insisting “to researchers that he knew of a fresh-water shell just like” dentalium — hitherto thought to be an inhabitant of saltwater only.

Mr. Louie said that this freshwater háykwa was harvested from the bottom sediments of a couple of lakes somewhere south of the old location of Inchelium, Washington.

So that’d now be in or near the Colville Indian Reservation, but flooded under the dammed Columbia River reservoir that the maps call Lake Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Writer Pearkes connects this with early fur-trade worker Alexander Ross’s report of Native women at the mouth of the Okanagan River wearing their hair richly decorated with “the snowy higua“, circa 1820.

I’ve been unable so far to locate any further mentions of freshwater dentalia species, so the zoological aspect of this information remains tantalizing.

Whatever the source of those valuable decorations, it’s clear that Ross and presumably others were referring to them — back in the infancy of documented Chinuk Wawa, and amazingly far inland — by the formerly Nuučaan̓uł and Nootka Jargon word for them.

What do you think of all this?

 

Advertisements