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I’m Looking for Suggestions for BC Ethnographies

It’s that time early in the semester when I am required to submit my book requests for next semester. I will be teaching a first year course called British Columbia Native Cultures during the Winter of 2011. For years, I have required that students read Hugh Brody’s Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier. Brody’s book is wonderful. It is readable and balances nicely the first hand perspective of doing anthropology with third person accounts of British Columbia history and its impact of the lives of native people. But, based on research from the early 1980s and having been published first in 1981, it’s getting old. While that’s not always a reason to reject a book, I understand that to my 18 and 19 year old students, 1981 is a long time ago. Moreover, there have been many developments in aboriginal history and rights in BC in the past 30 years. I’d like to use an ethnography that was researched and written in the context of Delgamuukw and the BC Treaty Process.

So, while not categorically dismissing Maps and Dreams, I am soliciting advice on a different ethnography to teach in my class. I need a book that is accessible to first year students. Many of the students who will take the class have not had any anthropology classes; many do not know much about BC geography or history. I’d like it to have been written in the past 10 years (but that’s not a deal breaker). And, what about ethnographies written by aboriginal scholars? That would be wonderful.

Based on a few conversations with colleagues, here’s a short list of suggestions. Please make others in the comments, below. Thanks!

Suggested Ethnographies for British Columbia Native Cultures (Anth 1120) at Douglas College

Anderson, Margaret and Marjorie Halpin, editors. 2000. Potlatch at Gitsegukla: William Beynon’s 1945 Field Notebooks. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Atleo, Richard. 2004. Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Barker, John and Douglas Cole. 2003. At Home with the Bella Coola Indians: T.F. McIlwraith’s Field Letters, 1922-4.Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Blackman, Margaret B., with Florence Edenshaw Davidson. 1992. During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, A Haida Woman. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Blackstock, Michael. 2001. Faces in the Forest: First Nations Art Created on Living Trees. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.

Boas, Franz. 1975. Kwakiutl Ethnography. Helen Codere, editor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Brody, Hugh. 1981/1988. Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier.Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre.

Cardinal, Gil. 2003. Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole. National Film Board of Canada.

Carlson, Keith T., Albert J. McHalsie, and Kate Blomfield. 2001. A Stó:lo-Coast Salish Historical Atlas .Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.

Culhane Speck, Dara. 1987. An Error in Judgement: The Politics of Medical Care in an Indian-White Community.Vancouver: Talonbooks.

Daly, Richard. 2005. Our Box was Full: An Ethnography for the Delgamuukw Plaintiffs. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Dinwoodie, David. 2002. Reserve Memories: The Power of the Past in a Chilcotin Community.Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Furniss, Elizabeth. 1999. The Burden of History: Colonialism and the Frontier Myth in a Rural Canadian Community.Vancouver: UBC Press.

Kramer, Jennifer. 2006. Switchbacks: Art, Ownership, and Nuxalk National Identity.Vancouver: UBC Press.

McDonald, James A. (2003) People of the Robin: The Tsimshian of Kitsumkalum. CCI Press

Mills, Antonia. 1994. Eagle Down Is Our Law: Witsuwit’en Law, Feasts, and Land Claims. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Palmer, Andie. 2005. Maps of Experience: The Anchoring of Land to Story in Secwepemc Discourse.Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Pryce, Paula. 1999. Keeping the Lakes’ Way: Reburial and Re-creation of a Moral World among an Invisible People.Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Reid, Martine J. and Daisy Sewid-Smith. 2004. Paddling to Where I Stand: Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman .Vancouver: UBC Press.

Ridington, Robin. 1988. Trail to Heaven: Knowledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Community. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Roth, Christopher. 2008. Becoming Tsimshian: The Social Life of Names .Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Wa, Gisday and Delgam Uukw. 1992. The Spirit in the Land.Gabriola Island, BC: Reflections.

I feel like the answer is on the tip of my tongue. What am I missing?

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  1. marie-lucie tarpent wrote:

    Tad, I am not sure if this book fits your period or place requirements:

    Sergei Kan: The Tlingit Potlatch. (in Alaska)

    Many of the details are very much like the Nisqa’a customs (and unlike the specifically “Tsimshian” customs). If not for your students, then perhaps for yourself as background.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  2. marie-lucie tarpent wrote:

    p.s. Ghris Roth on Tsimshian names is very good, and fits both place and recency. He does not just analyze the social structure and the transmission of names but describes everything that is concretely associated with them.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  3. Hi Marie-Lucie … the Kan suggestion is worth a look. Thank you. I think Roth’s book could be good, but I need to spend some time with it thinking about it in the context of a first year class. Thanks for stopping by. -Tad

    Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  4. A pattern of presses is emerging. What presses not represented here publish ethnographic accounts of BC First Nations? Canadian First Nations?

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 7:03 am | Permalink
  5. This list also says something about the nature of anthropology -all of the items are about First Nations.

    The closest that one might find would be books by sociologists, a few published papers, or books that look at the aboriginal/non-aboriginal divide.

    While I haven’t put any of my papers into a book form, I have done a few papers that look specifically at non-aboriginal people. They are located in journals like Studies in Political Economy, Labour/Le Travail, and MAST: Maritime Studies (this alone might say something further about anthropology given that the major anth journals seem less interested in non-aboriginal issues.

    It would seem to me that a contemporary ethnography should include some recognition (beyond the sort of blame it on on the red-neck approach of some books)that BC is neither simply indigenous nor wholly a colonial outpost -it is a hybridized space of complex interactions in which long time non-aboriginal BC’ers are as likely to be part of aboriginal families as aboriginal people are to be part of non-aboriginal families.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink
  6. PS, both Kan and Roth are way to complex and involved for a first year course.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 7:28 am | Permalink
  7. Sorry, one more thought -if we go along the aboriginal theme, Brody’s The Other Side of Eden is a great book. It goes beyond BC, but covers many of the critical issues. It too, is a few years now from publication.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink
  8. Bob Muckle wrote:

    I like “But We Are Still Native People” by Tad McIlwraith. Really.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink
  9. Charles … thank you for the thoughtful comments about the nature of the list. I found myself musing about the list itself, too, as it started to develop. Indeed, many of these books are too complex for a first year course. But, as the list has taken off, I wanted to include all suggestions (some of which are coming in on Facebook).

    You’re very kind, Bob. Perhaps … one day …

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  10. Tad, still the issue that there are no apparent works that consider people other than indigenous communities. Many of those works that concern indigenous communities do so in a manner that bizarrely ignore the reality of our current society. Or, they default to the bad redneck thesis.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  11. Charles, is the issue (for the list and my course, I mean) that the worthwhile ethnographies are not on the list or that they don’t exist?

    I’d like to teach an ethnography as part of the BC First Nations course, and one that provides the kind of critique of anthropology and ethnographic writing that you imply would be most welcome, but my problem of finding such a book still remains.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink
  12. Tad, as you likely know the bulk of my work in BC is with and about First Nations peoples.

    Your call asked for BC Ethnographies. Perhaps you meant ethnographies about or focused upon First Nations peoples in BC and not simply ethnogrpahies located within BC.

    Nonetheless, my comments are not about the nature of your class. Rather, that for what ever reason anthropologists doing research in BC, aside from a small minority, do not do research on people other than First Nations and this raises a serious comment about the implicit orientation of anthropological practice (and consequently raises issues about the very nature and structure of the discipline of anthropology).

    The lack of ethnographies dealing with non-Indigenous societies documents in rather stark relief the ways in which anthropology deals with the so-called ‘savage slot.’

    Note, if you take this as a direct criticism of what YOU are doing (teaching etc) then you are misreading the commentary (a problem inherent in computer mediated discussion). This is a criticism of the discipline.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 5:46 am | Permalink
  13. Here’s some examples of books that come close, they aren’t ethnogprahies, but they show that the topics I am thinking of are being addressed; however, they are being dealt with outside of anthropology which is a shame.

    Terrain of Memory -about Japanese people in BC, written by a communications professor.

    Speaking for a longtime -about memory and public spaces in bc. By a sociologist

    Colonial Proximities -by ubc sociologist about intersection of race, law and colonialism in BC -archival, but comes close but isn’t really an ethnography

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 5:57 am | Permalink
  14. This is really fascinating, Charles. I did imply without clarifying that my search was for an ethnography of an indigenous group and not of some other British Columbia-based community. As your comments appeared, I did start to wonder about ethnographies of the Japanese in BC. (Bob Muckle, you might have some thoughts here.) If the course I was teaching was primarily on ethnography (and not the anthropology of BC), then a wider search would be useful and necessary.

    To your question, though, about non-indigenous oriented ethnographies by anthropologists or other social scientists, I’d be interested in generating a list of such texts for Canada as a whole (or North America). BC becomes an arbitrary boundary pretty quickly.

    (And, no, I haven’t felt that your comments or those of anyone else are an indictment or criticism of my question or practices – although I do appreciate you considering the limitations of this kind of discussion space.)

    Thanks Charles.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  15. BC is an arbitrary border -but national and regional borders do make differences. I can think of all kinds of ethnogrpahies situated in the US that consider all sorts of peoples. It seems that, for what ever reason, those ethnographies that do exist in the region west of the Rockies (i.e. BC) have been shaped by a particular historical process. I am almost willing to bet that there are very few non-aboriginal ethnographies written about people in BC.

    (This will show my bias, but the only ethnographic writings that I know about that consider non-aboriginal peoples are either only found as theses or dissertations or have been written by myself about fishing people on the north coast of BC)

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  16. michael- wrote:

    What about Cruikshank’s books?:

    2005. Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters and Social Imagination. Vancouver: UBC Press

    1998. The Social Life of Stories: Narrative and Knowledge in Northern Canada, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press and Vancouver: UBC Press.

    1991. Reading Voices: Dan Dha Ts’edenintth’e. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre.

    1990. Life Lived Like a Story: Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press and Vancouver: UBC Press

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink
  17. Bob Muckle wrote:

    Another ethnography for your list comes to mind: “The Curtain Within: Haida Social and Symbolic Discourse” by Marianne Boelscher-Ignace (UBC Press), based on her dissertation. Probably too difficult for use in an introductory level course though.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  18. Yes, Julie Cruikshank’s work is remarkable and quite accessible. Until now, I’ve been trying to stay in the arbitrary boundary of BC, but as I admit to my students, if you organize the material around culture areas (as it often is), the subarctic extends well beyond BC.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  19. J. Murphy wrote:

    Here you go, an ethnographic and history of Fernie, BC.
    Imagining Difference: Legend, Curse and Spectacle in a Canadian Mining Town Robertson, Leslie
    UBC Press,2005.

    Friday, September 17, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink
  20. Thanks for the suggestion of Imagining Difference. It sounds really quite good.

    Friday, September 17, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
  21. Michelle Walks wrote:

    Hi Tad!

    I know it has been a while since you posted your question, but I find myself looking for non-Indigenous, BC-focused ethnographies/anthropology right now and came across your post.

    There are 4 that come to mind, 3 of which I have read (& are recent), and the 4th is Out-Out-Print, and I know the author so am going to try to get my hands on a copy.
    In any case, here are the 4:

    Jacquelyne Luce’s Beyond Expectation (2010) [304p]
    Parin Dossa’s Racialized Bodies, Disabling Worlds (2009) [192p]
    Culhane & Robertson’s In Plain Sight (2005) [176p]
    Annamma Joy Ethnicity in Canada (1989) [282p] OOP

    If Charles Menzies or anyone else has others that come to mind, I’d love to get my hands on more. (Of course, I also hope my current PhD will also be added to this list one day!) 😉

    Thanks & good luck!
    -Michelle (PhD student at UBCO)

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  22. Tad wrote:

    Thank you for the additional suggestions Michelle. Never too late! Best of luck with your work and please add to the list in the future. I’d like to hear more about what you’re doing too.


    Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  23. Michelle Walks wrote:

    Hi Tad!
    Glad it is never too late. 😉
    I am working on “Gender Identity and In/Fertility” – or, in other words, experiences and choices of butch lesbians, transmen, and genderqueer individuals in regards to their fertility and infertility. BC is my geographic focus.
    Also, Tad, I believe I met you briefly once or twice back in early 2008, when I filled in at Douglas for a short time.
    Hope you are keeping well!

    Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink
  24. Amazing work, Michelle. Do you know, have you spoken with Marni Westerman, chair of Sociology and Anthropology at Douglas? (She may have contacted you when you worked at the college.) She’d be really interested in your topic. I suspect you’d have a lot to talk about, particularly given her sociological interests in sexuality. I’d be happy to introduce you – and I’m pleased we’re back in touch. -Tad

    Friday, May 13, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. FieldNotes › Canadian Ethnographies About Non-indigenous People? on Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 9:44 am

    […] My request for help finding an ethnography to teach in a First Nations of British Columbia anthropology class has generated more than a dozen comments on the blog, via email and through facebook. Since I wasn’t entirely clear that I was looking for an ethnography of an indigenous group or community — but the list that was generated turns out to be exclusively about indigenous peoples — Charles Menzies raised the following question (which I’ve edited only slightly): Can you suggest ethnographies about British Columbia (or Canada) that focus on non-aboriginal peoples? The works should be clearly anthropological as there are certainly books by sociologists, historians, geographers, about non-aboriginal peoples. Where are the ethnographies written by anthropologists set in BC, the Yukon, or Alaska that are not about aboriginal people? […]