Letters to the editor.

This week’s mailbox: casotreum and the vaccine mandate

Premier Sandy Silver:

Last week, CBC Airplay interviewed Dr. Seema Marwaha, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and editor-in-chief of the health information website, regarding Covid19. Two things she said stood out. First, if the world wants to get ahead of COVID-19 variants then countries that have not received any vaccines should be given priority (and help) over countries, like Canada, that are now offering its citizens booster shots. Second, she said vaccines alone will not be the answer. She said we cannot abandon those health measures we know work such as wearing masks in public, keeping our social bubbles small, social distancing, limiting gatherings and travel. She acknowledged this will require a fundamental shift in our thinking and our behaviour. We should not expect to return to “normal”.

The government did us no favours dropping all protection measures Aug. 4 of this year, declaring Yukon open for business and travel despite mounting evidence of the Delta variant gaining momentum down south. Masking, distancing, size limitations on public events; gone in a heartbeat. Is anybody really surprised we are once again experiencing a surge in infections and finds ourselves back in an emergency lockdown?

We were told earlier this year by the previous CMOH that Yukon would be in a safe place once we were 75 per cent vaccinated, achieving herd immunity. We are now closer to 90 per cent, garnering a pat on the back from Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, but no accolades from our own CMOH. The herd immunity goal posts seem to be a moving target. COVID-19 outbreaks continue and helping with the spread are vaccinated Yukoners and visitors, including those with two shots occupying hospital beds. We need to worry less about the 10 per cent unvaccinated and focus on those of us that believe we’ve taken a magic pill and no longer need to respect the Safe 6. All Yukoners should continue to embrace those health measures that have shown time and again to lessen COVID-19 outbreaks and turn around the ones we do have.

Government is demanding its employees declare their vaccination status or face punitive measures. When asked whether the most recent COVID-19 deaths were of the vaccinated or unvaccinated, the acting CMOH said he could not disclose that information to protect the individuals right to confidentiality. Yet, in less than a week, all government employees must make their vaccination status public. Why the double standard? And the vaccine mandate begs the question: will those public servants that received their Moderna vaccine nine months ago require a booster in order to avoid forced leave with no pay? And will this decree be announced annually because we know vaccine protection wanes? Just like the flu shot, only you don’t have to have a flu shot to go to work, you can even bring the flu with you.

Late last week, Yukoners were surprised, especially teachers and their association, that unvaccinated teachers have the option of rapid testing. How can the government support this option for some of its employees but not all? Rapid testing of government employees, provincial and municipal, is an option to mandatory vaccines being used in provinces like Alberta. It is a viable option for many state and Federal employees in the United States. There is no reason it will not be effective here. If there are concerns this will be just another burden on our health care system, pharmacists can administer rapid testing, as is happening in Alberta and it is not publicly funded.

Government is responsible to all Yukoners, including the unvaccinated. You are creating divisiveness and unnecessary stress with the vaccine mandate for public servants. We are a small jurisdiction with a small population that has an amazing vaccination rate. And that rate will only increase as Yukoners continue to voluntarily get vaccinated. You don’t need to threaten people with their livelihoods at this time. Patience, greater information sharing, supporting the Safe 6, time and a little caring would go a lot further. Premier Silver, as you have implored the rest of us, be kind.

Harvey Jessup

A scientific investigation

Hello everyone, my name is Graham Cole. I live in Ontario, where I spend a great deal of time outdoors.

I recently had the pleasure of reading the paper entitled “Ancient throwing dart reveals first archaeological evidence of casotreum” from Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 37 (2021). (“Beaver casotreum residue found on 6,000-year-old atlatl throwing dart,” June 15.)

I have included the authors of this incredible paper, and others as recipients of this email in the hope that some or all of you might be interested in a possible explanation for the casotreum that was found on this ancient artifact. It is an explanation that I feel is highly plausible, and I hope some or all of you will agree.

Hunting caribou or other large game is an extremely difficult task, even with modern tools. A well-placed atlatl dart may allow an injured caribou to travel for 30-100 metres, making the animal relatively easy to find.

Another common scenario is that the dart may miss the mark, and a wounded animal may travel many kilometers. This presents a difficult problem for the ancient hunter, who is trying to maximize efficiency by minimizing travel, and obtain a vital source of food an other useful materials.

Why did the atlatl dart that was found have casotreum on it’s fletching and elsewhere?

It is my belief that the strong smelling casotreum was placed on the atlatl dart as a means of tracking injured animals.

Please let me explain.

When game is hit with an atlatl dart, the dart often stays in the animal, and the fletching has the opportunity to drag on the ground or brush against vegetation. If there is casotreum on the fletching, it would leave a strong scent trail.

This scent trail could have been followed by the hunters, if the scent and/or wind was strong enough. More likely it could have been followed by trained hunting dogs. This would allow the hunters to track the wounded game and significantly increase their likelihood of retrieving the animal.

The paper explains that the casotreum was found in association with the dart fletching, and in places where the previous sinew had come off. If casotreum was repeatedly dabbed on the sinew it would likely leave residue underneath it over time (atlatl shafts were often reused). It makes sense that it would be dabbed on the sinew rather than the feathers because if it contacted the feathers it would probably alter flight characteristics.

The casotreum that was found at the proximal end of the shaft may have been fresh material that was dabbed on quickly just before the hunt to increase the potency of the scent. This would explain why Tahltan hunters carried in a container that they attached to their belt, as the paper explains. If the casotreum was solely used in dart production, it would not be necessary to carry it in such a fashion (although casotreum does have other uses).

It is also logical to put casotreum on the scarf joint, as this is the most likely part to break if the dart is forced against vegetation or the ground. The broken tip would contact vegetation and also leave a scent trail.

If true, this represents an elegant, ingenious technique that illustrates the advanced use of natural materials and hunting techniques that evolved over thousands of years. I feel it is worthy of further study across many archeological contexts.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your thoughts, I would be interested in working with any of you that wish to explore this idea further.

Graham Cole

Letters to the editor