Paul Prince

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dr. A. Cannon




This thesis examines the influence of the indirect European contact upon Native social ranking and settlement systems at the Kitwanga Hill Fort and throughout the Upper Skeena Valley region of northern British Columbia during the Protohistoric Period (AD 1700-1830). Ethnographically, this is the territory of the Gitskan First Nation and falls within the Northwest Coast culture area. Diachronic spatial analyses of material excavated at Kitwanga and the distribution of archaeological sites in the region are integrated with historical documents and Native oral traditions relating to inter-group interaction and settlement. Native groups prior to direct European contact distributed to warfare, population movement and amalgamation, an increase in sedentism, particularly near trade routes, cultural borrowing and a growth and elaboration of socioeconomic differences between community members. I argue that these processes led to the late and widespread appearance on the Upper Skeena of the Northwest Coast culture pattern - particularly its settlement system and elaborate social differentiation. This thesis contributes to our understanding of the culture history of the Skeena, and the greater Northwest Coast culture area, which is often depicted as static durin late prehistoric and early historic times. It also contributes to the broader literature on culture contact by demonstrating that serious cultural changes can occur prior to direct European contact and that they are contingent upon the dynamics of indigenous cultures.

McMaster University Library

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