ArticlePDF Available

The nutritional value of Pacific herring: An ancient cultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North America


Abstract and Figures

The perspective of nutritional ecology produces a more comprehensive understanding of the dietary, economic, and socio-cultural importance of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) to Northwest Coast societies and Alaska Natives than do models derived from optimal foraging theory. The food value of herring meat, eggs, and oil are found to rank highly not just in calories or protein, but especially in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Herring provides large amounts of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in addition to iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. In coastal Alaska and along the Northwest Coast, herring was/is one of a vast array of traditional foods in a diverse diet. Herring apparently played different dietary roles in different cultural settings; in some areas it was a seasonal feast food, while in others its products were processed into forms that could be consumed throughout the annual cycle. Herring provided essential nutrients that affected human health, growth, and development, and likely facilitated demographic expansion. Paired with the indigenous and scientific knowledge of how herring function within North Pacific ecosystems, we can better appreciate the role of herring as a cultural keystone species.
Content may be subject to copyright.
The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancient cultural keystone species on the
Northwest Coast of North America
Madonna L. Moss
Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1218, USA
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 3 June 2015
Received in revised form 24 August 2015
Accepted 28 August 2015
Available online xxxx
Clupea pallasii
Omega-3 fatty acids
The perspective of nutritional ecology produces a more comprehensive understanding of the dietary, economic,
and socio-cultural importance of Pacicherring(Clupea pallasii) to Northwest Coast societies and Alaska Natives
than do modelsderived from optimal foraging theory. The food value of herring meat, eggs, and oil are found to
rank highly not just in calories or protein, but especially in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Herring provides large
amounts of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in addition to iron, zinc, copper, and
selenium. In coastal Alaska and along the Northwest Coast, herring was/is one of a vast array of traditional
foods in a diverse diet. Herring apparently played different dietary roles in different cultural settings; in some
areas it was a seasonal feast food, while in others its products were processed into forms that could be consumed
throughout the annual cycle. Herringprovided essentialnutrients that affected human health, growth, and devel-
opment, and likely facilitated demographic expansion. Paired with the indigenous and scientic knowledge of
how herring function within North Pacic ecosystems, we can better appreciate the role of herring as a cultural
keystone species.
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
The Pacic herring (Clupea pallasii) is a small, oil-rich sh that has
been an important food across the entire Northwest Coast of North
America, stretching from southern Alaska to northern California. Yet
salmon is the sh most often associated with the Northwest Coast,
ever since Clark Wissler christened it The Salmon Area (Wissler, 1917).
More recently, using watershed, ocean, and nearshore characteristics,
Augerot (2005) divided the entire area bounded by the North Pacic
Ocean into hierarchical levels of Salmon Ecoregions. Although the con-
servation purpose of these designations is worthy, it focuses attention
on one genus (Oncorhynchus) in a way that obscures ecosystemic rela-
tionships among species. For example, herring is a key prey of some
(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha,Oncorhynchus kisutch), but not all salmon
species. Many other sh, in addition to seabirds and marine mammals,
depend on herring as prey; as a forage sh, herring convert phytoplank-
ton and zooplankton into food energy consumable by dozens of other
animals. Herring in the North Pacic (and other forage sh elsewhere
in the world) form large schools during their seasonal cycles that
serve as concentrated food resources that feed a wide variety of marine
predators, including people.
Garibaldi and Turner (2004) dened a cultural keystone species as
one that shapes the identity of a people. On the Northwest Coast there
are several cultural keystones including salmon and redcedar, but her-
ring is also a cultural keystone species among some Alaska Native soci-
eties, as demonstrated by Thornton and Hebert (2014).Inthewordsof
Nelson Islander Louise Kanrilak, herring are very important to us.
When we are out of herring, we are out of food(Barker, 1993:73).
Alaska Natives have clear knowledge of the ecological importance of
herring,for example, Harold Martin (Tlingit) related, [t]hey're [theher-
ring] just so important to the total food chain every animal in the
sea. They feed everythingthings that we're depending on(Thornton
and Hebert, 2014:1). In some Tlingit towns and villages, herring are
still used in 95% of the households during the spring season (Sitka
Tribe of Alaska, 2010). Herring is an important feast food and is widely
traded and shipped to Tlingit who live in the lower 48.Because of its
ecological role, herring is also a bellwether species; if herring are
doing well, then the marine ecosystem is healthy.
Following the reductionist logic of optimal foraging theory, herring
might be considered a low-ranked resource because of its relatively
small body size compared to salmon, halibut, Paciccod,andothersize-
able sh caught along the Northwest Coast and Alaska. The handling
time for herring might also be considered too costly because of the tech-
nologies required to obtain, process, and (in some cases) store the sh.
The prey choice or optimal diet model would predict that people would
rst exploit high-ranked resources and that only when these became
scarce, or too costly to pursue, would they turn to lower-ranked re-
sources. Particularly in zooarchaeological applications of the model,
body size is considered a proxy for prey rank, and by this measure,
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2015) xxxxxx
E-mail address:
JASREP-00170; No of Pages 7
2352-409X/© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports
journal homepage:
Please cite this article as: Moss, M.L., The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancientcultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North
America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2015),
herring would rank low. If herring were low-ranked, one would expect
herring to be used only late in pre-contact history of the Northwest
Coast, after larger-sized mammals and other sh had been over-
exploited. Such is not the case; instead, herring shing started in the
early Holocene (Moss et al., 2011, 2015). Further, Butler and Campbell
(2004) (see also Campbell and Butler, 2010) could nd no evidence
that any Northwest Coast sh experienced resource depression or was
over-exploited by indigenous peoples in the ancient past. Unfortunate-
ly, comparable synthetic data from across coastal Alaska are not yet
Adopting a nutritional ecological approach helps us better under-
stand the economic and cultural importance of herring. Nutritional
ecology considers the relationship between essential nutrient intake
and overall human health in individuals and how this affects larger
demographic trends (Hockett and Haws, 2003:211). Whereas the
historical ecology of Pacic herring is concurrently addressed in
another paper (Moss et al., 2015), here I focus on the nutritional value
of herring.
2. Seasonal use of herring meat, eggs, and oil
Herring still play important roles in the diets of Alaska Natives and
First Nations of British Columbia. Although contemporary residents of
the region still practice many traditional technologies of herring acqui-
sition, processing, preparation, and storage, some techniques described
ethnographically have fallen out of use and been replaced by freezing,
canning, etc. My occasional use of the past tense in the description
that follows, however, should not be interpreted as evidence that
these techniques are not practiced today. My intent is to illustrate the
wide range of ways herring were used in different places at different
times of the year with tools and facilities that would have been available
during pre-contact history. I start by describing Tlingit and Haida prac-
tices, and then add in some additional techniques from elsewhere in
Among the Tlingit and Haida, herring meat was eaten fresh, dried,
smoked, or preserved in oil. Fresh herring could be caught almost anytime
during the year; their seasonal movements made them more or less avail-
able at certain times in certain places. When they spawn in the spring
(from March to May in different parts of southeast Alaska), large schools
of herring form, attracting an array of predators that could simultaneously
be the target of human hunting and shing. Into summer and fall, balls of
herringform in response to the feeding of predators (such as salmon,
pinnipeds, or whales), and people in canoes often took advantage of
these using nets or herring rakes. The locations where herring spawn
(or spawned) in the spring are reasonably well-documented, but where
herring move during the winter is not as well-known. Local and Tradi-
tional Knowledge-bearers have documented some of these places in
southeast Alaska (Thornton et al., 2010a), indicating that substantial
numbers of fresh herring can also be obtained in the winter. Whole her-
ring were also caught to be used as bait for other sh.
Herring eggs are collected in the spring. Female herring lay eggs on
rocks, seaweeds, eelgrass, and other substrates in the intertidal and
subtidal zones, where they are subsequently fertilized by the milt of
the male herring. Alaska Native and First Nation collectors often lay
out hemlock or cedar boughs on which eggs are laid and can easily be
collected. They also operated oating traps. Herring eggs are a culinary
delicacy, especially when eaten raw and fresh. The spring egg harvest
continues to be an important cultural practice, and herring eggs are
cherished as a feast food associated with considerable prestige. Herring
eggs (raw or cooked) are often frozen today, and brought out at cultural
events throughout the year. Herring eggs traditionally were dried, or
could be preserved in oil or fermented. Emmons (1991:147) character-
ized herring eggs as a luxury rather than a regular article of diet.We
will return to this issue after considering the nutritional value of herring
in the following section.
During autumn, the fat content of herring is at its highest level of the
annual cycle. Herring rakes and nets were used to gather thousands of
herring. Herring oil was traditionally processed like oil of another
small sh, eulachon (Thaleichthys pacicus). Old canoes were used as
large cooking vessels, into which large quantities of small sh were
placed and cooked to render out the oil. The oil was skimmed off the
top and placed in seal bladders or boxes for long-term storage.
Emmons (1991) described the circumstance, [a]s the sh was kept
too long (by white standards, not by those of the natives), the oil
was very rancid and offensive to us, but was doubly appreciated by
them.This fermented oil might fall among the tastily rotten,foods
described by Yamin-Pasternak et al. (2014).Suchfermentationappar-
ently facilitated long-term preservation; without it, the oil would spoil
(Emmons, 1991:148; Mintz, 2014:640).
Other Alaska Native groups, including the Yupik and Inupiat, store
fermented sh (including herring) in seal pokes (sealskin bags) that
are then put into water-lled pits or holes dug into permafrost to stabi-
lize the temperature (Frink and Giordano, this volume; Starks, 2011).
Dried herring can also be stored in seal pokes. I note that fermented her-
ring is a staple of Scandinavian cuisines and fermented garum (sh
sauce) was a staple in the Mediterranean 2000 years ago. Fermentation
can actually enhance the nutritional value of a food because the
resulting lactic acid bacteria improve digestibility (Gilliland, 1990).
3. Results: the nutritional value of herring
The nutritional value of herring is rst considered vis à vis other tra-
ditionalNorthwest Coast animal foods.The nutrients present in an array
of traditional Tlingit foods are taken from data compiled in Newton and
Moss (1984; Table 1).Fig. 1 illustrates the number of calories per 100 g
portion of a food. Eulachon is the richest at 308 cal per 100 g, followed
by dried herring roe at 294 cal, and herring meat at 270 cal. These
small sh have higher concentrations of calories than do salmon, bea-
ver, seal, deer, and other foods. For protein (Fig. 2), dried herring roe
ranks at the top, with 60.4 g per 100 g, followed by herring esh at
45.7 g. Herring roe on kelp falls at the bottom, partly because the kelp
takes up some of the 100 g. With regard to fat (Fig. 3), eulachon has
24.8 g of fat per 100 g, over twice that of herring meat, which ranks
second. Bear, salmon, and herring roe are all leaner than herring and
eulachon meat. As is widely known, some fats arehealthier than others,
and herring is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids (Table 2, with data from
the OSU Seafood Network Information Center, 2014). Of the
ranked animal foods, herring yield 1.0 g of EPA per 100 g of edible tissue,
the most of any taxa listed. Compared to spiny dogsh (Squalus
acanthias; 1.2 g/100 g), herring has the second highest amount of DHA
(0.7 g/100 g). Spiny dogsh is an interesting resource because it
Table 1
Macronutrients in traditional Tlingit animal foods per 100 g portion.
Data from Newton and Moss (1984: Table 1).
Calories Protein (g) Fat (g)
Bear 148 19.9 8.3
Beaver 150 26.8 4.8
Cockles 79 13.5 0.7
Deer 126 22.9 3.4
Duck 109 21.5 2.1
Eulachon 308 20.5 24.8
Gumboots 83 17.1 1.6
Herring meat 270 45.7 10.6
Herring roe dried 294 60.4 6.6
Herring on kelp 59 11.3 0.8
Octopus 57 11.9 0.6
Salmon, Chinook, smoked, canned 150 23.2 5.9
Salmon, sockeye, kippered 190 29.5 7.7
Sea cucumber 68 13.0 0.4
Seal 143 26.0 3.2
2M.L. Moss / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2015) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Moss, M.L., The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancientcultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North
America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2015),
commonly occurs in Northwest Coast archeological assemblages, but
only in low abundance.
Elsewhere in the world, dogsh liver oil was
highly valued (Nicholson, 2005). Taking EPA and DHA together, herring
rank second among the 11 animal foods listed. Unfortunately, eulachon
is not listed among this group.Spiny dogsh and herring also yield0.1 g/
100 g of LNA (alpha-linolenic acid), which humans can convert to EPA
and DHA, but not very efciently. As can be seen in Table 2, smelt is
the richest in LNA, with 0.5 g/100. USDA (2014) data on EPA and DHA
content for a wider range of resources are presented in Fig. 4.Fishroe
is ranked at the top, followed by herring. Both EPA and DHA provide im-
portant protection from cardiovascular and Alzheimer's diseases. These
fatty acids inhibit platelet aggregation and reduce lipids (especially tri-
glycerides) in the blood (Bates et al., 1985:78). They also are essential to
healthy brain and vision development of infants and reproductive
health of women (Bourre, 2006).
Fig. 5 illustrates the amount of omega-3 fatty acids per 100 g and per
meal (227 g) for sh from around the world, with data from Sidhu
(2003). The top-ranking sardines at the top of the chart (7.5 g/meal)
are packed in sardine oil, so they incorporate added fat. Atlantic mack-
erel (5.7 g/meal) was the only other of the world's sh ranked higher
than Pacic herring (3.9 g/meal) with regard to omega-3 fatty acids.
All of the top 11 sh provide the minimum daily requirement of
omega-3 fatty acids per meal. Sidhu (2003:341) explains that consum-
ing these omega-3 fatty acids reduces the riskof coronaryheart disease,
decreases mild hypertension, prevents certain cardiac arrhythmias and
sudden death, and lowers the incidence of diabetes. Sidhu (2003:341)
adds that omega-3 fatty acids may alleviate some of the symptoms of
rheumatoid arthritis.
From data compiled by Shahidi and Miraliakbari (2006) and Shahidi
and Senanayake (2006), we can compare the distribution of fatty acids
in herring, salmon, and seal oils (Fig. 6). Although these data derive
from Atlantic species, they are likely applicable to Pacic species.
While the spatial distribution of fatty acids in herring and salmon oil is
similar, seal oil has three fatty acids (16:1n7; 18:1n9andn11;
20:1n9) in substantial quantities not present in the sh oils. Seal oil
also has about 10 times the amount of DPA (docosapentaenoic acid,
22:5n3) than the sh oils and DPA allows for faster and more thor-
ough metabolism of healthful fatty acids (Shahidi and Miraliakbari,
2006:228). The common use of seal oil as a condiment in Northwest
Coast diets apparently allows consumers to more effectively metabolize
healthy fatty acids from sh.
For other micronutrients (Fig. 7), we see that herring provides a
large amount of iron (1.12 mg/100 g), and respectable amounts of
zinc (0.53 mg/100 g) and copper (0.078 mg/100 g). Of the taxa shown
here, lingcod provides the most zinc (1.0 mg/100 g) and copper
(0.141 mg/100 g). Both herring and lingcod provide more than Chinook
salmon. For selenium (Fig. 8), herring eggs provide a large quantity
(1.07 mg/kg), over twice that of the second-ranked rocksh
(0.49 mg/kg; Yamashita et al., 2013:390391). Herring esh is ranked
third, yielding 0.4 mg/kg. Selenium is a constituent of antioxidant en-
zymes and proteins, and helps form DNA and acts as an antioxidant to
prevent cell damage from free radicals (Yamashita et al., 2013).
Fig. 3. Fat (g) in traditional Tlingit animal foods per 100 g portion.
Data from Newton and Moss (1984: Table 1).
Table 2
Omega-3 fatty acid content in g per 100 g of edible tissue.
Data from Oregon State University Seafood Network Information Center (2014).
LNA EPA DHA EPA + DHA Total omega-3
Spiny dogsh 0.1 0.7 1.2 1.9 2.0
Herring 0.1 1.0 0.7 1.7 1.8
King salmon 0.1 0.8 0.6 1.4 1.5
Sockeye salmon 0.1 0.5 0.7 1.2 1.3
Capelin 0.1 0.6 0.5 1.1 1.2
Pink salmon 0.4 0.6 1.0 1.0
Smelt 0.5 0.3 0.2 0.5 1.0
Pollock 0.0 0.1 0.4 0.5 0.5
Halibut 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.5
Crab 0.0 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.4
Clam 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2
In general, livers of sh and marine mamma ls are richer in fatty acids t han the bodies
of these animals (Brown and Heron, 2005:68).
Fig. 1. Calories in traditional Tlingit animal foods per 100 g portion.
Data from Newton and Moss (1984: Table 1).
Fig. 2. Protein (g) in traditional Tlingit animal foods per 100 g portion.
Data from Newton and Moss (1984: Table 1).
3M.L. Moss / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2015) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Moss, M.L., The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancientcultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North
America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2015),
4. The role of herring in Alaska Native diets
Was herring a staple food among Northwest Coast societies and
Alaska Natives? What role did herring play in a diet where animal
foods are abundant and abundantly rich in protein, fat, and minerals?
Some common ideas are that a staple food should fulll most energy
and nutrient needs, be a dietary mainstay, commonly consumed, con-
sumed year round, or provide the bulk of calories consumed (Douglas,
1997). In the food security and development policy literature, staple
foods are conceived of as having to be cheap and supply plenty of starch
(e.g., United Nations, 2000:1).
In the previous section, we have seen that herring products are rich
enough food sources that they could supply the calories, protein,
healthy fats, iron, copper, zinc and selenium to be a dietary mainstay.
Herring roe is particularly nutritious, including over half the daily re-
quirement of thiamin (First Nations Health Council, 2015). But how
much herring roe was consumed? Was it eaten mostly in the spring
when fresh? Did people store large quantities and eat herring eggs
Fig. 4. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) content (g) in 100 g of selected seafoods.
Data from USDA (2014).
Fig. 5. Omega-3 fatty acids per 100 g and per meal (227 g) for selected world sh (Sidhu, 2003).
4M.L. Moss / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2015) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Moss, M.L., The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancientcultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North
America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2015),
throughout the year? Did they eat fresh, dried, or smoked herring and
herring oil every day? How we might answer these specic questions
archeologically is yet to be determined.
Looking at zooarchaeological data derived from more than 435,000
sh bones, McKechnie et al. (2014) found herring to be ubiquitous in a s-
semblages across the Northwest Coast. Among the 171 assemblages
that used adequate recovery methods, herring was the most abundant
sh in 95 assemblages, and the second-most abundant sh in another
41 assemblages. This is a striking result in a culture area where salmon
have been considered the most important sh (Moss and Cannon,
2011). But these data are too coarse to tell us about the seasonal use
of herring and the frequency of its consumption during the annual
cycle among different societies.
Today, among the Tlingit of southeast Alaska, herring eggs are a feast
food served at cultural events in the spring and throughout the year.
Herring eggs are collected en masse in Sitka. Across southeast Alaska's
smaller towns, some families are still able to collect small quantities of
herring eggs for limited family use. In Sitka, some individual families
and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska collect enough to freeze, and frozen herring
eggs are brought out for special occasions and shipped to family and
friends out-of-state. Collecting herringeggs in the spring is an important
cultural practice for Tlingit people, where Haa atxaayi Haa Kusteeyix
Sitee,ourfood is our Tlingit way of lifehelps explain the elemental im-
portance of wild food harvesting and preparation to Tlingit identity
(Moss, 2010; Newton and Moss, 2005). But in the absence of freezing,
were herring eggs collected as surplus and widely traded? Even if
archeologists had access to well-sampled collections from mortuary
contexts, isotopic study of human remains would not allow the discrim-
ination of all the specic sources of marine foods. Similarly, we do not
know if dried herring or herring oil were consumed routinely during
the year.
We do know that traditional diets on the Northwest Coast were
incredibly diverse. For example, Kopperl and Lape (2015) identied
almost 300 plant and animal foods as components of traditional Coast
Salish diets. Turner (1975) documented over 100 traditionally used
plants by coastal First Nations of B.C. With regard to terrestrial plants,
diets in Alaska were not as diverse as those of indigenous peoples fur-
ther south. For example, Alaska is too far north to have the starchy
acorns, camas, wapato, biscuitroot, and hazelnut available in Oregon,
Washington, and southern British Columbia.
In general, the diets of coastal Alaska Natives were very rich in pro-
teins and fats because of the economic reliance on sh and marine
mammals throughout the year. The dietary sources of carbohydrates,
however, were limited to berries, roots, seaweeds, and (where avail-
able) the inner bark of conifer trees. These sources of carbohydrates
could, however, be dried or covered in oil for long-term storage. Dried
seaweeds were especially good sources of carbohydrates (Newton and
Fig. 6. Distribution of specic fatty acids (weight %) in seal, herring, and salmon oils.
Data from Shahidi and Miraliakbari (2006) and Shahidi and Senanayake (2006).
Fig. 7. Micronutrients (mg) of ve North Pacicsh.
Data from Titi Tudorancea Bulletin (2015).
Fig. 8. Selenium content (mg) of North Pacicsh.
Data from Yamashita et al. (2013 ).
5M.L. Moss / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2015) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Moss, M.L., The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancientcultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North
America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2015),
Moss, 1984:43). Like berries, stems and shoots of green vegetables pro-
vided vitamin C and folic acid, as well as other vitamins and minerals,
but unlike berries, stems and shoots did not provide much in the way
of carbohydrates (Kuhnlein and Turner, 1991:1011). Small amounts
of carbohydrates are found in animal foods, including shellsh, and
could have been supplemented by fermented foods (Hui, 1985)andoc-
casional gastrophagy (Buck et al., this volume).
There would appear to have been a low risk of protein poisoning
(rabbit starvation) from the excess consumption of lean meat
(e.g., Noli and Avery, 1988), because so many of the marine foods
consumed by Alaska Natives, including seals, had substantial quantities
of fat. Protein toxicity can occur if a person's liver or kidneys cannot
eliminate potentially toxic wastes generated from protein metabolism
(Bilsborough and Mann, 2006), but as we have seen, the DPA in seal
oil actually facilitates more thorough metabolism of healthful fatty
acids in sh. Bates et al. (1985) suggest there is a genetic component
to fat metabolism among Northwest Coast groups, and it seems likely
that contemporary standards for upper limits to daily protein intake
cannot be projected onto the past. As Speth (2010:85) explains, the
human body is capable of adapting to changes in consumption by
upregulating the enzymes involved in protein metabolism and urea
synthesis. M. J. Mosher (this volume) is investigating epigenetic mech-
anisms to better understand such variation in human metabolism. It
does seem likely that at least during some seasons of the year, Alaska
Natives would rely on fats rather than carbohydrates to help supply
their energy needs.
Clearly the dietary roles played by herring and its by-products
require further investigation. For some Alaska Natives such as Nelson
Islanders, herring may have served as a dietary mainstay. As quoted
previously, Louise Kanrilak stated, [w]hen we are out of herring, we
are out of food(Barker, 1993:73). Perhaps in some areas in some pe-
riods of pre-contact history, herring eggs were a seasonal delicacy or
luxury food. Because herring spawning in the spring is such a conspicu-
ous and dramatic seasonal event, attracting a wide range of herring
predators, it seems likely that people would take advantage of such
abundance, particularly after a long dark winter. They would not only
collect herring eggs and sh for herring, but they would take some of
the other sh, birds, and mammals that prey upon herring (Monks'
(1987) prey as baithypothesis). Historical descriptions of schools of
herring lling Chatham Strait for miles,and the reduction oil shery
that operated between July and January testify to the historical abun-
dance of herring in the summer, throughout the fall, and into winter
(U.S. Census, 1890:51). Such abundance and ubiquity is indicated
archeologically (McKechnie et al., 2014; Moss et al., 2011) and in the
oral historical interviews conducted by Thornton et al. (2010a, 2010b)
and Thornton and Hebert (2014).
5. Conclusion
Herring is just one of an array of foods in traditional Northwest Coast
and Alaska Native diets that likely facilitated demographic expansion
over hundreds of years. Although traditional Alaska Native diets may
have lacked sources of fresh starchy carbohydrates year-round, people's
energy needs were well-served by diets high in proteins and healthy
fats. The mechanisms by which Alaska Natives metabolized these pro-
teins and fats in ancient times likely differed from how these foods are
metabolized by contemporary populations. Certainly, more research
into the techniques and technologies of food preparation, processing,
storage, and culinary traditions, like that of Yamin-Pasternak et al.
(2014) and Frink and Giordano (this volume) would go a long way to
understanding the survival and resilience of these populations.
I am grateful to BryanHockett for organizing the nutritional ecology
symposium held at the 80th annual meeting of the Society for American
Archaeology, April 1519, 2015, in San Francisco. The research presented
by all the other participants was especially stimulating. I acknowledge
my on-going intellectual debt to Virginia Butler who continues to
push our eld forward. The research reported here is an offshoot of
the study of the ancient DNA of Alaska herring that Dongya Yang,
Antonia Rodrigues, and Camilla Speller and I are conducting. For that
research, we acknowledge the support of NSF Grant 1203868.
Augerot, X., 2005. Atlas of Pacic Salmon. University of California Press, Berkeley, and
Wild Salmon Center and Ecotrust, Portland, OR.
Barker, J.H., 1993. Always Getting Ready Upterrlainarluta: Yup'ik Eskimo Subsistence in
Southwest Alaska. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Bates, C., van Dam, C., Horrobin, D.F., Morse, N., Huang, Y.-S., Manku, M.S., 1985. Plasma
essentialfatty acids in pure and mixed race American Indians on and off a diet excep-
tionally rich in salmon. Prostaglandins Leukot. Med. 17, 7784.
Bilsborough, S., Mann,N., 2006. A review of issues of dietary proteinintake in humans. Int.
J. Sport Nutr. Exercise Metab. 16 (2), 129152.
Bourre, J.M., 2006. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the
nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 2: macronutrients.
J. Nutr. Health Aging 10 (5), 386399.
Brown, L.D., Heron, C., 2005. Presence or absence: a preliminary study into the detection
of sh oils inceramics. In: Mulville, J., Outram, A.K.(Eds.), The Zooarchaeology ofFats,
Oils, Milk and Dairying. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp. 6776.
Butler, V.L., Campbell, S.K., 2004. Resource intensication and resource depression in the
Pacic Northwest of North America: a zooarchaeological review. J. World Prehistory
18, 327405.
Campbell, S.K., Butler, V.L., 2010. Archaeological evidence for resilience of PacicNorth-
west salmon populations and the socioecological system over the last ~7500 years.
Ecol. Soc. 15 (1), 17 (Online document,
iss1/art17/, accessed March 31, 2010).
Douglas, M., 1997. Deciphering a meal. In: Counihan, C., Esterik, P.V. (Eds.), Food and
Culture: A Reader. Routledge, New York and London, pp. 135158.
Emmons, G.T., 1991. In: de Laguna, F. (Ed.), The Tlingit Indians. University of Washington
Press, Seattle ( Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver; American Museum of Natural
History, New York).
First Nations Health Council. Fish. (Online document,
Traditional_Food_Facts_Sheets.pdf, accessed April 10, 2015) 2015.
Garibaldi, A., Turner, N.J., 2004. Cultural keystone species: implications for ecological con-
servation and restoration. Ecol. Soc. 9 (3), 1 (Online, http://www.ecologyandsociety.
Gilliland, S.E., 1990. Health and nutritional benets from lactic acid bac teria. FEMS
Microbiol. Rev. 7 (12), 175188. 90.
Hockett, B., Haws, J., 2003. Nutritional ecology and diachronic trends in Paleolithic diet
and health. Evol. Anthropol. 12, 211216.
Hui, Y.H., 1985. Principles and Issues in Nutrition. Wadsworth Health Sciences Division,
Monterey, CA.
Kopperl, Robert, Lape, Peter, 2015. Traditional coast Salish foods. (Online document,,
accessed April 10, 2015).
Kuhnlein, H.V., Turner, N.J., 1991. Traditiona l Plant Foods of the Canadian Indigenous
Peoples: Nutrition, Botany and Use. Food and Nutrition in History and Anthropology
8. Gordon and Breach, Philadelphia.
McKechnie, I., Lepofsky, D., Moss, M.L., Butler, V.L., Orchard, T.J., Coupland, G., Foster, F.,
Caldwell, M., Lertzman, K., 2014. Archaeological data provide alternative hypotheses
on Pacic herring (Clupea pallasii) distribution, abundance, and variability. PNAS,316,072,111 (OnlineFebruary 18, 2014).
Mintz, S.W., 2014. Comment on The rotten renaissance in the Bering Strait: loving, loathing,
and washing the smell of foods with a (re)acquired taste. Curr. Anthropol. 55 (5),
Monks, G.G., 1987. Prey as bait: the Deep Bay example. Can. J. Archaeol. 11, 119142.
Moss, M.L., 2010. Re -thinking subsistence in Southeast Alaska: the potential of
zooarchaeology. Alaska J. Anthropol. 8 (1), 121135.
Moss, Madonna L., Virginia L. Butler, and J. Tait Elder 2011. Herring bones in Southeast
Alaska archaeol ogical sites: the record of Tlingit use of Yaaw (Pacicherring,
Clupea pallasii). In The Archaeology of North Pacic Fisheries, edited by M. L. Moss
and A. Cannon. pp. 283291. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks.
Moss, M.L., Cannon, A., 2011. The Archaeology of North Pacic Fisheries. University of
Alaska Press, Fairbanks.
Moss, M.L., Rodrigues, A., Speller, C.F., Yang, D.Y., 2015. The historical ecology of Pacic
herring: tracing Alaska Native use of a forage sh. J. Archaeol. Sci. Rep. Spec. Issue
(Ichthyoarchaeology in the Americas, submitted May 17, 2015).
Newton, R.G., Moss, M.L., 1984. The Subsistence Lifewayof the Tlingit People: Excerpts of
Oral Interviews. USDA Forest Service, Alaska Region (R10-MR-30, Juneau).
Newton, R.G., Moss, M.L., 2005. Haa Atxaayi Haa Kusteeyix Sitee, Our Food is Our Tlingit
Way of Life: Excerpts of Oral Interviews. US DA Forest Service, Alaska Region
(R10-MR-30, Juneau).
Nicholson, R.A., 2005. Oil from troubled waters: historical andarchaeological investigations
into the use of sh and sea mammal oil in the Northern Isles of Scotland. In: Mulville,
J., Outram, A.K. (Eds.), The Zooarchaeology of Fats, Oils, Milk and Dairying. Oxbow
Books, Oxford, pp. 142147.
6M.L. Moss / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2015) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Moss, M.L., The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancientcultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North
America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2015),
Noli, D., Avery, G., 1988. Protein poisoning and coastal subsistence. J. Archaeol. Sci. 15 (4),
Oregon State University Seafood Network Information Center 2014. Online document,
(accessed August 25, 2014).
Shahidi, F., Miraliakbari, H., 2006. Marine oils: compositional characteristics and health
effects. In: Shahidi, F. (Ed.), Nutraceutical and Specialty Lipids and Their Co-products.
Shahidi, F., Senanayake, S.P.J.N., 2006. Nutraceutical and specialty lipids. In: Shahidi, F.
(Ed.), Nutraceutical and Specialty Lipids and Their Co-products. Taylor & Francis,
Boca Raton, FL, pp. 222.
Sidhu, K.S.,2003. Health benets and potential risks related to consumption of shor sh
oil. Regul. Toxicol. Pharmacol. 38, 336344.
Sitka Tribe of Alaska, 2010. Annual Report on Management of Customary and Traditional
Herring Harvest. Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Sitka.
Speth, J.D., 2010. The Paleoanthropology and Archaeology of Big-game Hunting:
Protein, Fat, or Politics? Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology. Springer,
New York.
Starks, Z.S., 2011. Dryingand fermenting in the Arctic: dictating women's roles in Alaska's
Inupiat culture. In: Saberi, H. (Ed.), Cured, Fermented, and Smoked Foods: Proceed-
ings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2010. Prospect Books, Totnes,
England, pp. 302311.
Thornton, T.F., Hebert, J., 2014. Neoliberal and neo-communal herring sheries in South-
east Alaska: reframing sustainabilityin marine ecosystems. Mar. Policy. http://dx.doi.
Thornton, T., Butler, V., Funk, F., Moss, M., Hebert, J., Tait Elder, J., 2010a. Herring
Synthesis: Documenting and Modeling Herring Spawning Areas within Socio-
ecological Systems Over Timein the SoutheasternGulf of Alaska. NorthPacic Research
Board Project #728 (Electronic document,
Thornton, T.F., Moss, M.L., Butler, V., Hebert, J., Funk, F., 2010b. Local an d traditional
knowledge and the historical ecology of Pacic herring in Alaska. J. Ecol. Anthropol.
14 (1), 8188.
Titi Tudorancea Bulletin 2015. Online searches, performed from: http://www.tititudorancea.
com/z/nutrition.htm, accessed March 30, 2015.
Turner, N.J., 1975. Food Plants of British Columbia Indians. Part I. Coastal Peoples. B.C.
Provincial Museum Handbooks No. 34. Victoria, B.C.
United Nations, 2000. Food insecurity: when people live with hunger and fear starvation.
Food and Agriculture Organizati on of the United Na tions, Viale delle Terme di
Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy (Online document,
x8200e/x8200e03.htm, accessed May 29, 2015).
U.S. Census Ofce, 1890. Report on Population and Resources of Alaska at the Eleventh
Census. U.S. Government Printing Ofce, Washington, p. 1890.
USDA 2014 Dietary guidelines. Appendix G2: Original food guide pyramid patterns and
description of U SDA analyses. ( Online document, b
dietaryguidelines/dga2005/report/html/table_g2_adda2.htmN, accessed August 25,
Wissler, C., 191 7. The American Indian: An Introduction to the Anthropology of the
New World. Douglas C. McMurtrie, New York.
Yamashita, Y., Ya mashita, M., Iid a, H., 2013. Selenium content in seafood in Japan.
Nutrition 5, 388395.
Yamin-Pasternak, S., Kliskey, A., Alessa, L., Pasternak, I., Schweitzer, P., 2014. The rotten
renaissance in the Bering Strait: loving, loathing, and washing the smell of foods
with a (re)acquired taste. Curr. Anthropol. 55 (5), 619646.
7M.L. Moss / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports xxx (2015) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Moss, M.L., The nutritional value of Pacic herring: An ancientcultural keystone species on the Northwest Coast of North
America, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2015),
... Under a caloric-optimizing model, the acquisition of macronutrients, including proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates (all providing energy and the building blocks for tissue development and repair) should be maximized; thus, ensuring macronutrient sources may have driven prey selection. However, nutritional ecology views foraging decisions to be motivated by a need to maximize nutritional diversity (Haws and Hockett, 2004;Haws, 2003, 2005) and has been applied in the past to explain the presence of small mammals, birds, fish, and botanical remains from archaeological deposits (see Haws and Hockett, 2004;McDonough et al., 2022;Moss, 2016). ...
... Despite their diminutive body size (max total length = 46 cm), Pacific herring remains are ubiquitous in preindustrial Indigenous midden deposits throughout the Pacific Northwest (McKechnie et al., 2014). The importance of herring has been ascribed to their calorically dense flesh and row which is high in proteins, irons, zinc, copper, and omega 3-fatty acids (Moss, 2016). The recent recovery and identification of macrobotanical remains from Paleoindian contexts at Conley Cave, Central Oregon, suggests that small seeds, leafy greens, fruits, cacti, and geophytes have been incorporated into Indigenous diets since the late Pleistocene (McDonough et al., 2022). ...
Full-text available
Bulk sediment samples can contribute high-resolution subsistence and paleoenvironmental data from archaeological sites excavated before the adoption of modern zooarchaeological and paleoethnobotanical recovery methods in the 1990s. We present faunal and botanical analyses of sediment samples collected from Ganigak (49-NOB-001; 1185–1465 cal CE), Norton Sound, from a “fish layer” identified by J. Louis Giddings in his excavation trench in 1948. Findings reveal that saffron cod and salmonberries were a crucial resource. Although these food items have low caloric yields, we argue that both provide essential nutrients to supplement marine-mammal dominant diets. Drawing on ethnographic accounts, we argue that saffron cod were crucial fallback resources, likely harvested by women and were relied on in times of resource scarcity. These data shed novel insight into Thule coastal subsistence strategies, which may otherwise be overlooked when the focus is on analysis of tool technologies or on unscreened faunal samples. Future research requires additional processing of sediment samples to fully understand the role of small-bodied fauna and plant foods to Thule subsistence strategies.
... Herring is still used in 95% of the Tlingit towns and villages (Schroeder & Kookesh, 1990) as an irreplaceable food resource. Herring plays an important role in the diet of the native people of Alaska and First Nations of British Columbia, with its meat being savored among the Tlingit and Haida communities (Moss, 2016). Herring eggs form a culinary delicacy among many Alaska Natives and First Nations, with the eggs being deemed as a luxury rather than a common food item (Emmons, 1991). ...
Full-text available
The present paper is a review of the available literature on the significance of forage fish, the plethora of services they provide, and the threats faced by them. Forage fish are pelagic planktivorous species that operate as conduits of energy between the lower trophic level (plankton) and the upper trophic level (predators). A variety of ecosystem services are provided by them, from serving as prey for higher trophic levels to producing fish meal and oil. Forage fish have a consumption value for humans and cultural importance to many societies. Forage fish have faced constant natural and anthropogenic threats in the past, resulting in numerous fish collapses which subsequently impacted their predators. The economic benefit provided by forage fish has been estimated to be approximately $ 18.7 billion per annum. An introspection of the data on ecosystem services revealed lack of data on regulating and cultural services, eventually leading to a monetary underestimation and their commercial prioritization over the wider benefits they provide.
... The populations of herring preserved in the archaeological record could also reflect seasonal variability in the desirability of this resource. Pacific herring and its roe are calorie-rich and nutritious 71 , and these items may have been an especially welcome food source in the winter and early spring when other fresh foods were not easily accessible or in short supply. For example, here is an account of the seasonal importance of herring to the Puyallup and Nisqually people in central Puget Sound: "Herring eggs were, also, eaten fresh with smoked salmon or, if the supply of smoked salmon were exhausted by the time herring eggs were available, they were eaten with sprouts" 28 . ...
Full-text available
Phenological diversity in food resources prolongs foraging opportunities for consumers and buffers them against environmental disturbances. Such diversity is particularly important in forage fish such as Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), which are foundational to coastal food webs and fisheries. While the importance of phenological diversity is well-known from contemporary studies, the extent to which different populations contribute to fisheries over long time scales is mostly unknown. In this study, we investigated the relative contributions of genetically and phenologically distinct herring populations to Indigenous Peoples’ food systems over multiple centuries, using ancient DNA extracted from archaeological herring bones. These bones were excavated from two Coast Salish archaeological sites (Burton Acres Shell Midden and Bay Street Shell Midden) in the Puget Sound region, USA. Using genetic stock identification from seven nuclear DNA markers, we showed that catches at the two sites in central Puget Sound were dominated by January–February and March–April spawners, which are the contemporary spawning groups in the vicinity of the sites. However, May spawners were detected in the older Burton Acres assemblage (dated to 910–685 cal BP), and a mixed stock analysis indicated that catches at this site consisted of multiple populations. These results suggest that Coast Salish ancestors used a portfolio of herring populations and benefited from the ecological resource wave created by different spawning groups of herring. This study of ancient DNA allowed us to glimpse into Indigenous traditional food and management systems, and it enabled us to investigate long-term patterns of biodiversity in an ecologically important forage fish species.
... Foundation species play pivotal ecological roles in supporting community structure and ecosystem functioning from the bottom up, are essential to ecosystem integrity and resilience [1], and often have important cultural and economic value [2]. Foundation species are generally abundant enough to directly and indirectly connect to many more species than other species in an ecological network [1], particularly those using coastal environments that typically provide vital food sources for both land and ocean predators [3]. ...
Full-text available
Salmon and herring support both land and ocean predators and are critical to ecosystem resilience. Their linkages across land and sea realms make them highly susceptible to human activities, which can have flow-on effects up the food web. We quantify and compare the potential cumulative effects of human-driven pressures on interdependent species in salmon- and herring-linked ecosystems of western Canada using a risk assessment methodology. Adding indirect risks resulted in 68% greater total risks for land species than for direct risk alone, versus 15% for marine species. Inclusion of climate change pressures resulted in the greatest change in risk for low trophic marine species and habitats (greater than 25% increase). Forestry-related pressures accounted for the highest risk to all species and projected management of these pressures resulted in a total reduction of risk across all ecosystem components that was more than 14% greater than management of fisheries pressures. Ignoring land food web linkages and pressures underestimated cumulative risk by more than 40% for salmon and herring. This simple framework can be used to evaluate potential risk of existing human uses and future change to inform immediate management of linked land-sea ecosystems and help species avoid the ‘death by a thousand cuts'. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Nurturing resilient marine ecosystems’.
... The concept of Cultural Keystone Species was originally an adaptation (Platten and Henfrey 2009) of the Keystone Species concept of ecology (Paine 1969). It has been applied to a diverse range of culturally important flora and fauna, from rice in the Phillipines (Zapico et al. 2020) to bears in Canada (Clark et al. 2021 (Tareau et al. 2020), and herring on the Pacific coast of North America (Moss 2016). Modifications of the original concept have included combining it with the concept of biocultural diversity, arguing that Biocultural Keystone Species better captures the diverse range of ecological and cultural significance such species often hold (Shackleton et al. 2018). ...
Full-text available
Among the 18 species included in the Ceiba genus, in the Malvaceae (Bombacoideae) family, Ceiba pentandra L. Gaertn. is not only the tallest and most widespread, but also occupies the most prominent place in Neotropical cosmovisions. In this ethnobotanical review, we compare perceptions and uses of Ceiba and related species across indigenous and Afro-descendant cultures ranging from the Caribbean to the Argentinian Chaco. Ceiba's widely-shared role as axis mundi, (particularly in Amazonia) psychopomp and shelter of major forest spirits makes it a perfect example of a Spiritual Keystone Species, a new concept inspired from Cultural Keystone Species and defined here for the first time.
... Forage fish, such as herring, are critical components of the North Pacific marine ecosystem, supporting valuable higher-trophic-level, commercially important fishes as well as other top consumers (Ainley et al. 1996;Duffy et al. 2010;Moran et al. 2018). Herring also support subsistence and commercial fisheries in the region and serve as a cultural keystone species for Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast (Thornton et al. 2010;Moss 2016). Ensuring that forage fish are available for fisheries and the food web may become an increasingly important goal in ecosystem-based fisheries management as consumption rates of ectotherms increase in a warming ocean. ...
Full-text available
Prey communities in the North Pacific Ocean have been disrupted by marine heatwaves, and reductions in forage fishes have had notable impacts on upper‐trophic‐level consumers. Little is known about the potential effects of a changing prey base for some commercially valuable fishes, such as Sablefish Anoplopoma fimbria. The objectives of this study were to evaluate temporal and age‐based shifts in diets of juvenile Sablefish, with a focus on understanding their reliance on high‐quality forage fishes. We collected Sablefish from a bay in Southeast Alaska over 2 years (2017–2019) during their first autumn (September–October; age 0), in late winter (March; age 1), and during their second summer (July; age 1). Pacific Herring Clupea pallasii constituted the majority of the Sablefish diet by weight (82.1%) and by frequency of occurrence (40.7%), with variation among months, years, and age‐classes. Stable isotopes corroborated our interpretation of diet composition from stomach contents and indicated that age‐0 Sablefish sampled in October 2017 relied on more depleted carbon sources than other groups, potentially explained by consumption of adult salmon carcasses. Significant relationships between stable isotope ratios and Sablefish length indicated that size‐based diet composition differences were most prevalent during March and July. Sablefish exploited prey taxa of variable quality (0.02–5.3 kJ/g), but mean energy density of consumed prey differed little among years or months (3.62–4.48 kJ/g). Overall, 21% of stomachs sampled were empty, with the percentage of empty stomachs peaking in late winter (46%). Stomach content weights expressed as a percentage of body weight were highest in autumn 2018, when Pacific Herring comprised over 80% of the diets by weight. Consumption of high‐energy prey, such as Pacific Herring, may contribute to rapid growth of Sablefish during the critical prewinter period. If strong Sablefish year‐classes become more frequent with a warming ocean, they will require substantial prey resources to support their growth to adulthood.
Full-text available
Since its establishment as a Euro-Canadian settlement in the mid-nineteenth century, the marine ecology surrounding Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, has been negatively impacted by urban development, habitat destruction, poor fisheries practices, and pollution. Focussing on forage fish – herring, smelt, and eulachon – we present the results of an extensive meta-analysis including an archaeological, ethnohistoric, and scientific/regulatory literature review of Indigenous and commercial fisheries’ harvesting records to track the early historic collapse of these fisheries from about 1885–1920 CE. We identify significant reductions in the major forage fish fisheries around Vancouver within decades of the initial Euro-Canadian settlement. These severe negative effects occurred long before scientific description of local ecosystems had begun, and the magnitude of these effects went generally unrecognized and/or are poorly understood. We argue that this is a case of the shifting baseline syndrome (SBS): each generation of researchers mistakenly assumes that modern ecological conditions they encounter approximate their natural pre-contact state.
Abalone is an important cultured shellfish in world, and an understanding of the changes in its basic nutritional composition (i.e., proximate composition, amino acid profile, fatty acid profile, and minerals) and texture properties with the seasons is essential in estimating its energy value and in planning the most appropriate industrial. In this study, the seasonal variation in the nutritional components and texture properties of Haliotis discus hannai (DD) and Haliotis discus hannai ♀ × H. fulgens ♂ (DF) was determined. The moisture content of both abalone varieties (DD and DF) was found to be significantly lower in winter than in other seasons, while the opposite was true for the lipid content. In summer, DF had lower levels of protein, lipid, and taurine than DD. The levels of glycine (Gly), alanine (Ala), glutamic (Glu), and arginine (Arg) in abalone were higher in winter and spring than in summer and autumn. In terms of fatty acid levels, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the total amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) were the highest in winter compared to other seasons. In addition, in terms of textural properties, the chewiness, cohesiveness, fracturability, springiness, and resilience of abalone muscles were better in winter than in summer. The seasonal variation in the nutritional quality of abalone may be closely related to the different water temperature environments of abalone, the level of resistance to high temperatures, and the timing of gonadal development. This study remedies the shortcomings of the abalone nutritional quality evaluation system and provides better guidance for consumers and farmers.
Full-text available
Human behavioral ecology has proven a valuable theoretical framework for evaluating the archaeological record of human population expansion the world over. To evaluate hypotheses for the late Pleistocene human colonization of the Americas, we need to address a typical assumption built into those models: static landscape knowledge. By taking landscape knowledge as the predicting variable, rather than a constant, we can explore the behavioral mechanisms involved in the interaction of humans with new and unfamiliar environments. Acknowledging the process of adaptation produces contrasting and readily testable hypotheses for human population expansion. As a case study, we use an ideal free distribution model to test competing hypotheses for the colonization of Southeast Alaska. Our results indicate that Southeast Alaska was likely colonized by humans prior to their appearance in the extant archaeological record in the early Holocene. The locations of our oldest archaeological sites in the early Holocene are best explained as the result of a well-established population matching their settlement locations to rising sea level.
In the U.S., Indigenous communities often suffer poor health at greater rates than non-Native populations. This is due, in part, to economic stresses, restricted access to food sources, and the colonization of Native American territories that physically severed the ties between Indigenous peoples and their land, weakening or destroying their culturally informed subsistence practices. To remedy these health disparities, many Indigenous communities are reviving traditional foodways, establishing food sovereignty, and reclaiming their rights to local food sources. This dissertation explores collaborative and applied methods of archaeological research and argues that an archaeological understanding of past foodways can help Indigenous groups accomplish these community-set agendas. When conducted in collaboration with the community, in adherence to their values, and motivated by their interests, archaeology can be a useful tool in cultural revitalization efforts. To illustrate this point, this dissertation describes archaeological research conducted with two communities on the Northwest Coast—the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe and the Chinook Indian Nation—and how such research contributes to their fight for sovereignty as it relates to food systems and community health. Investigations focused on Nukaunlth, a Lower Chehalis and Chinookan village occupied during the Late Pacific, protocontact, and postcontact periods. As the descendant communities are most interested in revitalizing marine-based foodways, this project sought to ascertain (1) the importance of marine resources among Chinookan and Lower Chehalis peoples living at this ancestral village, and (2) the makeup of the larger subsistence system within which marine resource use was situated. More specifically, this study addresses whether shellfish was a key resource that was managed, and/or harvested intensively to meet important dietary needs of the community, or a low-priority resource that was harvested and consumed only opportunistically. While many other resources, such as plants, were likely consumed at this village but are underrepresented in the archaeological record currently available, zooarchaeological analysis demonstrates that marine resources—shellfish (cockles, mussels, and various species of clam, in particular), marine mammals (especially whale), and fish (salmon, flounder, and sturgeon, most notably)—were key food resources for those who lived at Nukaunlth and were arguably indispensable to their lifeways. Such marine resources may have been good sources of essential caloric and noncaloric nutrients such as fat, protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. By all measures, shellfish dominate the faunal assemblage and makes up the largest portion of edible food reflected by the archaeological record. Shellfish, while providing fewer calories and less fat than other food sources, could have been a critical source of vitamins and minerals that were difficult to obtain from other food sources. This dissertation concludes by outlining the community-enriching programs and public goods the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe has created using the outcomes of this research. Through these initiatives, the descendant community is using Western scientific data to corroborate a long-held Indigenous understanding that local natural resources, especially marine, were indispensable to life before European settlement and that the right to access these resources is an inherent right of Indigenous peoples. In this way, archaeology that is done in tandem with descendant communities and motivated by their interests and needs can be more than the data it generates; it can be a creative process by which Indigenous communities can explore their history on their own terms and craft possible futures that champion culture, health, and wellness.
Full-text available
Abstract Reporting on the nutritional, botanical and ethnological data of more than one thousand species of edible plants, this reference guide addresses an academic audience with a variety of backgrounds and needs. In addition to providing nutrition information, it describes regions where plants are available and presents patterns of use of particular species of Canadian Indigenous Peoples. Several cross-referencing tables containing common English plant names, botanical names and composite information about each species are accompanied by chapters giving an overview of the known ethnic uses of the most important and universally used species. In addition, a thorough index is supplied. Biologists, ethnologists, Indigenous Peoples, nutritionists, wildlife enthusiasts and health care professionals should all find this volume irreplaceable.
Full-text available
Archaeological data on the long history of interaction between indigenous people and salmon have rarely been applied to conservation management. When j oined with ethnohistoric records, archaeology provides an alternative conceptual view of the potential for sustainable harvests and can suggest possible social mechanisms for managing human behavior. Review of the ~7,500-year-long fish bone record from two subregions of the Pacific Northwest shows remarkable stability in salmon use. As major changes in the ecological and social system occurred over this lengthy period, persistence in the fishery is not due simply to a lack of perturbation, but rather indicates resilience in the ecological-human system. Of several factors possibly contributing to resilience, low human population size and harvesting pressure, habitat enhancement, and suppression of competing predators do not appear to be of major importance. Flexible resource use, including human use of a range of local resources, many of which are linked in a food web with salmon, likely contributed to resilience. Most important were the beliefs and social institutions (including ownership, regulation, rituals, and monitoring) that placed restraints on salmon use as a common pool resource. In contrast, only a small fraction of our modern society relies economically on or has direct interaction with the fish, which limits our concern and willingness to fundamentally change behaviors that contribute to habitat degradation and loss, the main challenges facing salmon populations today. Salmon recovery efforts may benefit substantially from investing more resources into establishing links between community groups and actual fish populations, which would create a sense of proprietorship, one of the keys to resilience in the indigenous salmon fishery.
Lipids are organic substances that are insoluble or sparingly soluble in water. They are important components in determining the sensory attributes of foods. Lipids contribute to mouthfeel and textural properties in the foods. They have several important biological functions, which include: (1) serving as structural components of membranes; (2) acting as storage and transport forms of metabolic fuel; (3) serving as the protective coating on the surface of many organisms; (4) acting as carriers of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and helping in their absorption; and (5) being involved as cell-surface components concerned with cell recognition, species specificity, and tissue immunity. Ironically, overconsumption of lipids is associated with a number of diseases, namely artherosclerosis, hypertension, and breast and colon cancer, and in the development of obesity.
The transformation of Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) fisheries from communal to commons to neoliberal regulation has had significant impacts on the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems on the Northwest Coast of North America. Due to their abundance, seasonality, and sensitivity in disturbance, herring were carefully cultivated and protected by coastal Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian communities. The early industrial fishing era undermined this communalist approach in favor of an unregulated commons for bait and reduction fisheries, attracting non-local fleets and leading to conflicts with local Natives and tragedy of the commons style overexploitation of herring stocks by the mid-twentieth century. Since the 1970s, a re-regulated neoliberal sac roe fishery for Japanese markets has provided new opportunities for limited commercial permit holders, but with further depredations on local spawning populations. This paper uses frame theory and historical and political ecology to show how this transformation was justified by three critical but dubious (re)framings of Southeast herring populations under modern scientific management: (1) a reductionist framing of single species productivity models, expressed as herring “biomass,” within space and time (baseline scale framing); (2) the selective framing and privileging of human industrial predation under maximum sustainable yield (MSY) within a dynamic ecosystem of multiple predator populations (actor relations framing); and (3) the strategic framing of spawning failure events and policy responses to those events by professional fisheries managers (event–response framing). Finally, the paper argues for a new social–ecological systems approach, based on aboriginal models of herring cultivation, to sustain a commercial, subsistence, and restoration economy for the fishery.