Many Indigenous People value dogs as hunting aides, draft animals, sources of fiber and food, protectors, and as companions. To better understand the close human-dog relationship among the Northern Coast Salish Tla'amin, we bring together several lines of evidence, including ethnographic information, interviews, and ancient DNA of archaeological dog burials. All indicate that dogs were an important part of ancestral Tla'amin culture and society. Local knowledge, including oral traditions, reflects the long-term social importance of dogs in mundane and ritual spheres. Tla'amindog relationships were focused on special breeding and training practices that enhanced the hunting skill of dogs and reinforced the bond between dog and owner. Ancient DNA analysis of 17 skeletal dog remains (3500–430 BP) from six archaeological sites confirmed that domestic dogs have a long and continuous history in Tla'amin territory, culture, and identity. DNA analysis of the D-loop region of mitochondrial DNA revealed haplotypes that were shared across broad regions and others that were unique to more localized culture areas, reflecting gene flow between dog populations via ancient social networks. Our study highlights the value of integrating archaeological data, genetic studies, and local knowledge to achieve a fuller understanding of the close relationship between dogs and humans.
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Vol. 40 • No. 4