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A Journey to a New Land

Mammoth and Scimitar Cat
Multimedia Library

Dr. Barbara Winter

SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Maritime Adaptation

A terrestrial adaptation is a lifeway based on land resources. The first peoples of North America are often portrayed as big-game hunters, living on the Great Plains and using large animals to supply their food and shelter.

But if people came down the coast, they must have had a very different adaptation. They must have been adapted to a maritime way of life. They must have relied on food from the sea - the fish, shellfish and intertidal resources - to provide their clothing, food and shelter. This is a very different lifeway, requiring different knowledge, different skills and different tools.

Kilgii Gwaay and Richardson Island provide indirect evidence that these people may have had a maritime lifeway. First of all, these two sites are on Haida Gwaii – they are very far from the mainland. In order for people to get there, they must have had boats, yet these sites date to over 9,000 years ago.

Also, in these sites, we find faunal remains of the resources from the sea. These fish and sea mammal remains indicate that people had the necessary tools to go out and catch those animals to use them for food. So they were relying on maritime resources and had the skills and the technology to have traveled down the coast even as long ago as 9,000 years.