Namu: A Modest Proposal – part 2

image001 Heiltsuck Chief Harvey Humchitt and collapsed reduction plant, Namu, Globe and Mail, 28th, 2014

A Modest Proposal: Plants and mycelium eat the thin white crust.

When something is impossible, a solution may seem equally so. Namu is falling toward the sea. As the structures decay and decant their contents into water and soil, it will corrupt the river’s salmon run and poison the ground and harbour for many years.  Since no owner, native group or Government agency can afford the remediation necessary to return the site to a neutral state, Namu calls for an innovative solution. The site’s unique interface of cannery debris, salmon cycle and 11,000 years of indigenous activity makes it ripe for a combined Artist/Ecologist/First Nations troop to investigate, assess, express and transform the site with phytoremedial plants, oil-eating mycelium and non-toxic fire. It would be their task to exhibit inventories, representations and text showing the damage done by the collapsing cannery and the repair possible to the Namu River estuary site in a project making visually evident the timeline and interface of coastal human industry with the ancient salmon cycle so obviously exposed in this spot. At Namu you can stand on time. Perhaps it can be represented.

Consuming the thin white crust: Materials & Process

image004 1) Humans working at the top of time down to the interface of indigenous and incommer cultures and identifying native and introduced plants, wood, metal, insulation material and chemicals.

2) Native and remedial plants eating (absorbing and transforming) chemicals and metals. The recording of plants colonizing the site, the identifying of useful phytoremedial plants and replanting to correct the disturbed environment.

3) Mycelium eating oil. Mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus, is a gateway species for a variety of growth. If Oyster mushroom mycelium is introduced into a diesel soaked sawdust pile, it can within 6 weeks produce Oyster mushrooms that, in decay, attract flies, which lay eggs, attracting birds dropping seeds that sprout and grow until the pile is a green berm. A trench of alder chips impregnated with mycelium may consume noxious run-off to stop it entering water. A variety of waste material and mycelium can produce a substitute for Styrofoam packing material

4) Questions: a) Why? The aim is to use the cannery decline to frame the depth of First Nations culture.


image002 ART LAB: Materials

1) Phytoremedial plants: Sunflower used in Chernoble to remove arsenic, Caesium 137 and Strontium 90, Indian Mustard to absorb lead, Willow to absorb cadmium and copper and make biofuel. Invasive Ragweed filters out lead. Broad beans filter chemical elements.

2) Wood chipped and soaked with oils is consumed by Oyster mushroom mycelium. Burnt, wood makes charcoal pigment and drawing tools.

3) Fire makes soot pigment and ash, melts glass and aluminum.

4) Metal makes containers, tools for metal-point drawings, rust pigment and paint

5) Glass can be melted and re-formed.

6) Water samples can be taken as control for remediation process and as painting medium. [see Water/Colour,] .

7) Stone: for building and as tools to cut and draw.

8) Fish is food and fertilizer. Salmon eggs are a paint binder.

9) Asbestos insulation usually becomes landfill but can be recycled by transforming it into harmless silicate glass. A process of thermal decomposition at 1000–1250 °C produces a mixture of non-hazardous silicate phases, and at temperatures above 1250 °C it produces silicate glass. Microwave thermal treatment can be used in an industrial manufacturing process to transform asbestos and asbestos-containing waste into porcelain stoneware tiles, porous single-fired wall tiles, and ceramic bricks.

10) Further materials: Invention, waterpower, time and money.

FORM of production:

1) Visuals: drawing, photographs and video.

2) Text: prose, poetry, speech and publication.

3) Correction of Namu environment.

4) Where: in situ, online, in gallery, museum or publication.


References Early Human Occupation in British Columbia, Roy L. Carlson and Luke Della Bona, UBC Press, 1996.  Paul Stamets – Mycelium Running, Ten Speed Press, 2005. – Ian McAllister photos

2 thoughts on “Namu: A Modest Proposal – part 2

  1. Lynn

    I stumbled across your 2 articles about Namu; and a wealth of memories flooded back to me.
    I was an archaeology student who spent a summer in Namu with Dr. Roy Carlson & Dr. Phil Hobler.
    We did indeed dig behind the bunkhouse/cook house. I remember well being down in those pits and the beautiful stratigraphy that unfolded below us. I wrote a paper on the burials that we uncovered.
    We also worked with a team that came out that summer from the Royal British Columbia Museum. The wall of our dig showing all of the layers of human habitation going back for thousands of years was removed and on display in the museum in Victoria for many years after.
    I also spent time that summer on the S.F.U. Dept. of Archaeology’s beautiful boat, The Sisiutl, doing inter-tidal lithic studies. We had 2 young natives from Bella Bella who worked with us that summer, one was named Tommy Humchitt.


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