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Homework answers / question archive / Abel stresses the adaptability of the Dene and their ability to make rational and satisfying choices when faced with a variety of external pressures

Abel stresses the adaptability of the Dene and their ability to make rational and satisfying choices when faced with a variety of external pressures


Abel stresses the adaptability of the Dene and their ability to make rational and satisfying choices when faced with a variety of external pressures. By reconstructing important moments in Dene history, she demonstrates how they have been able to maintain a sense of cultural distinctiveness in the face of overwhelming economic, political, and cultural pressures from European newcomers. Her interpretation questions the standard perception that aboriginal peoples in Canada have been passive victims in the colonization process.


Cruikshank, Julie. “Oral Tradition and Oral History: Reviewing Some Issues.” Canadian Historical Review 75, 3 (September 1994): 403-418.

Julie Cruikshank's research focuses on practical and theoretical developments in oral tradition studies, specifically how competing forms of knowledge become enmeshed in struggles for legitimacy.

NOTES AND COMMENTS ORAL TRADITION AND ORAL HISTORY: REVIEWING SOME ISSUES Compelling questions are being raised- in the mass media, in museum exhibits, and in both popular and academic writings – about how historical depictions of cross-cultural encounters are constructed and gain authority. One issue in these debates concerns the status of indigenous oral traditions, specifically how oral traditions can contribute to documenting the varieties of historical understanding in areas of the world where written documents are either relatively recent or even absent. In many ways, historians and anthropologists are converging in their approaches to historical reconstruction, pointing to the need to unite anthropological attention to cultural categories, cosmologies, and symbols with historians' disciplined control of written records? A related question, though, concerns who gets to frame and to tell the story- whose voices are prominent in these discussions and whose are marginalized. Increasingly, indigenous peoples are demanding that their oral traditions be taken seriously as legitimate perspectives on history. The issue, for them, centres on who controls the images and the representations of their lives portrayed to the larger world. While there is growing awareness in Canada about the need to re-evaluate the history of Native-white relations, it is clear that Aboriginal peoples' views of their own history rarely appear in academic literature. This debate is as much about epistemology as about authorship. Indigenous people who grow up immersed in oral tradition frequently suggest that their narratives are better understood by absorbing the successive personal messages revealed to listeners in repeated telling’s than by trying to analyse and publicly explain their meaning’s. This contrasts with a scholarly approach which encourages close scrutiny of texts and which contends that, I Studies pointing out the need to investigate symbolic and metaphorical elements in both written documents and oral accounts include, for example, Renato Rosaldo, Ilongot Headhunting5 1883-1974(Stanford: Stanford University Press 1980); Richard Price, First Time: The Historical Vision of an Afro-American People (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University 1983);Anne Salmond, Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772 (Aukland: Viking1991);Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Padtic (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1992);Anthony Pagden, European Encounters with the New World: From Renaissance to Romanticism (New Haven and London: YaleUniversityPress1993 ). Canadian Historical Review, LXXV, 3, 1994 0008-3755/94/0900-0403 $01.25/0¸ University of Toronto Press Incorporated 404 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW by openly addressing conflicting interpretations, we may illuminate subtle meanings and enrich our understanding? The challenge, then, is to acknowledge this dilemma without dismissing it as insoluble, to respect both the legitimate claims of First Nations to tell their own stories and the moral and scholarly obligation to write culturally grounded histories that can help us learn from the past. This short article attempts to do three things.

First, it summarizes how anthropologists and folklorists have shifted their evaluations about the kinds of historical evidence embedded in oral tradition.

Second, it provides some cross-cultural perspective about how contemporary peoples are currently using oral traditions to speak publicly about their past.

Finally, it asks whether such an overview provides any ethnographic instruction.

What, if any, guidelines emerge for historians re-examining the history of colonial encounters in Canada?

Historical Approaches to Analysis of Oral Tradition The terms' oral tradition' and' oral history' remain ambiguous because their definitions shift in popular usage. Sometimes the term oral tradition identifies a body of material retained from the past. Other times we use it to talk about a process by which information is transmitted from one generation to the next. Oral history is a more specialized term usually referring to a research method where a sound recording is made of an interview about first hand experience occurring during the life time of an eyewitness. s Because every culture has passed essential ideas from one generation to another by word of mouth, the serious study of oral tradition spans more thana century.

4A brief review of this literature suggests that even though the questions are old, they keep resurfacing and the same kinds of answers keep being reinvented as though they are somehow original. 2 A thoughtful discussion of this point is made with reference to Yup'ik narrative in Alaska in a working paper by Phyllis Morrow, 'On Shaky Ground: Folklore, Collaboration, and Problematic Outcomes,' Department of Anthropology, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. 3 Fora discussion of the differing definitions of oral tradition and oral history see Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition as History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1985),12-13; Trevor Lummis, 'Oral History, 'in Richard Bauman, ed., Folklore, Cultural Performances and Popular Entertainments (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press 1992),92-7. 4 A concise historical overview of theoretical approaches combining perspectives from British social anthropology and North American folklore studies can be found in Ruth Finnegan, Oral Traditions and the Verbal Arts: A Guide to Research Practices (London and NewYork: Routledge1992),25-52.


In the nineteenth century, for example, European folklorists saw orally narrated accounts as disembodied 'things' to be collected, much as museum collectors viewed objects of material culture. Folklorists treated oral narratives as cultural artifacts that had survived from earlier periods – as a kind of freeze-dried history-and hoped that these traditions might provide a key to the past. Embedded in an ideology of social evolution, this perspective had serious flaws. At best, E.B. Tylor and Sir James Frazer recognized the intellectual character of oral narrative, albeit treating it as kind of proto-science or proto-religion. At worst, their approaches embodied a crypto-racist analysis of so-called primitive thought.

Ironically, both 'intellectualist' and 'spiritualist' formulations are resurfacing in contemporary debates where the state becomes involved in evaluating oral tradition. One variation on the first emerged in the 1991 British Columbia Supreme Court decision that evaluated oral traditions in terms of how well they answered questions posed by the courts in terms accessible to the courts and judged them inadequate by those criteria? The second formula more often emerges when broadly based interest groups, claiming the best and most politically correct intentions, appropriate indigenous traditions, claiming to find in them evidence of innate spirituality or a 'natural' understanding of ecology? In both prescriptions, indigenous traditions are expected to provide answers to problems created by modern states in terms convenient for modern states.

If many nineteenth-century analyses ignored the social character of narrative, a subsequent generation of scholars showed much more concern for the social context in...


Heine, Michael, Alestine Andre, Ingrid Kristsch, and Alma Cardinal. GWichya Gwich”in Googwanak: The Histories and Stories of the Gwichya Gwich’in, Revises Ediction Tsiigehtshik and Fort MacPherson, NWT: Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute, 2007.

The story told in this book This book is based on the stories through which the Elders describe the history of the land since the earliest days of the world, and on the elders’ stories of their experiences of life on the land. These stories reach back to, and begin with, the earliest days of the land. This was a time when people and animals were equals. Animals had the power of speech and were able to change into human form, much as humans knew how to transform into animals. It was during this time that the outward shape of several animals as well as certain well-known sites on the land were created. Raven, who was involved in many of the events described in these stories, was an especially important person during these earliest days of the land. The Elders’ stories describe the subsequent epoch in the history of the land as the time of the great travellers and medicine people. These stories accompany the great medicine person and traveller Dinìizhok on his journeys across the land, and they witness the great battles between the Gwichya Gwich'in leader Atachuukaii and his enemy Naagaii tsal, leader of a group of Slavey warriors from up the river. Still closer to the present are the stories about friendly or hostile encounters with the Slavey and the Eskimo. (‘Eskimo’ is the elders’ name for the Inuvialuit. They do not use the word in a disrespectful way, but they learned it when they were young, and many elders use it to this day. Therefore, it is also used in this book.) The story of the woman Ahts'an veh’s daring escape from her Eskimo captors is one of the best-known stories describing a hostile encounter between Gwichya Gwich'in and the Eskimo. Stories about friendly encounters, on the other hand, describe the great summer gatherings and celebrations at the Flats—gatherings that had been held since the earliest days of the land. The stories of the immediate past, and of the present, describe the friendship and hospitality extended to the newcomers arriving on Gwichya Gwich'in lands, be it in pursuit of the riches of the fur trade, or in search of the trails leading to the gold fields of the Klondike. Other stories from this time period recall the arrival of the Oblate Fathers, and the ‘hard journey’ to the mission school in Fort Providence undertaken by Gwichya Gwich'in children after the 1920s. They describe the developments leading to the signing of Treaty 11, and—some 70 years later—the conclusion of the land claim settlement agreement, signed by the Gwich'in Tribal Council, and the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories, in 1992. It is with the land claim settlement agreement and its immediate consequences that the Elders’ stories end for now. As a tool, the agreement holds great promise for the future, but everybody knows that much hard work will be required to realize the goals laid out in it. The land claims settlement agreement is only a beginning. This part of Gwichya Gwich'in history has yet to be told. The Elders We would like to thank the Gwichya Gwich'in elders who over the last fifteen years shared their knowledge about the traditional way of life. This book is based on their stories. These elders are: The late Antoine (Tony) Andre, Caroline Andre, Cecil Andre, Gabe Andre, the late Hyacinthe Andre, Noel Andre, Rosa Andre, Pierre Benoit, Marka Bullock, the late Billy Cardinal, Eileen Cardinal, Rose and Dale Clark, the late Edward Coyen, John Paul Kendo, Agnes (Andre) Mitchell, Bella (Norman) Modeste, Barneyxvii Natsie, the late Joan Nazon, George Niditchie, Annie and the late Nap Norbert, the late Eli Norbert, John Norbert, Bob Norman, Pierre Norman, Therese (Remy) Sawyer, the late James Simon, and Willie Simon. Irene Kendo, Frederick Blake and Mabel English also generously shared their knowledge with us.


Di Mascio, Anthony and Leigh Hortop-DiMascio, “Residential Schooling in the Artic: A Historical case Study and Perspective.” Native Studies Review 20, 2 (2011): 31-49.

In recent years, scholars have brought to the surface the horrors and devastations of the residential school system as it existed in various Canadian regions. While our historical understanding of schooling imposed upon Aboriginal children and communities has grown, it has typically been drawn from studies of communities in the Canadian south. Canada’s most northern communities have received considerably less attention. A historical understanding of residential schooling in the Arctic, a region far removed—geographically, economically, and socially—from the Canadian south, offers new insight into key questions surrounding the motivation of state and church agencies in schooling Aboriginal children and the consequences of that schooling on individuals and communities.

This study considers the impact of residential schooling on Aboriginal children in northern communities through a case study of residential schooling in the community of Aklavik, Northwest Territories in the midtwentieth century. It brings to the fore the history of one community, and the stories and personal experiences of some of its children and parents. Through an analysis of the growth and development of Euro-Canadian schooling in this community, we can broaden our understanding of not only the socio-cultural but also the socio-psychological impact of such schooling on the children of Canada’s northern communities. This history helps us make sense of the contradictory process that Euro-Canadians undertook by encouraging the education of Aboriginal children while ultimately abusing them. This study extends recent insights into and practice of residential schooling was more than a socio-economic or socio-cultural process of assimilation. This history helps us make sense of the contradictory process that Euro-Canadians undertook by encouraging the education of Aboriginal children while ultimately abusing them. This study extends recent insights into and practice of residential schooling was more than a socio-economic or socio-cultural process of assimilation. Rather, it was one of clear and violent acculturation. That is, Euro-Canadians, backed by the power of law and its enforcement, were involved in a deliberate process of corrupting and debasing traditional Aboriginal beliefs, ideas, and values. The central sources in this study are the correspondences of govern.


Surviving, accessible documents pertaining to residential schooling in then North shed much light on the experience of residential schooling and its consequences, and also demonstrate that these consequences were not unintentional. The experiences of Aboriginal children were hardship through the forced separation of parents and children, and the anxiety and pain of returning to a way of life that was now unknown and unwanted. The issue of the residential school system remains a dark chapter in Canada’s history, and a vivid illustration of paternalistic, Eurocentric, and acculturative goals. That such a system was seen as essential in a place so remote and so distant from the southern communities of Canada suggests that there was virtually no limit to which EuroCanadians were willing to travel to achieve those goals.


Fumoleau, Rene. As Long as This Land Shall Last: A History of Treaty 8 and Treaty 11, 1870-1939. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2004.

As Long As This Land Shall Last is a thorough document of Treaty 8 (1899-1900) and Treaty 11 (1921) between the Canadian Government and the Indigenous Peoples of Northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. These treaties promised that the Indigenous Peoples who inhabited these places could live and hunt in freedom on their ancestral lands “as long as the sun rises from east to west, as long as the river flows downstream, as long as this land shall last.”

Historian Réne Fumoleau has delved into church and government sources dating from 1870 to 1939 and compiled interviews with over seventy Dene witnesses to provide a clear picture of treaty negotiations and their aftermath.

Originally published in 1975, this new edition contains an afterword by Joanne Barnaby, Former Executive Director of the Dene Cultural Institute, outlining the significant cultural and political developments in the time since the book’s first publication and paying special attention to their lasting implications for the future.

As Long As This Land Shall Last is an invaluable resource not only for Treaty scholars, but also a fascinating source document for those who wish to chart the evolution of Indigenous Studies in Canada.

Sovereignty or Security? Government Policy in the Canadian North, 1936-1950, by Shelagh D. Grant

SOVEREIGNTY OR SECURITY? GOVERNMENT POLICY IN Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1988. 385 p., maps, illus., index, bib. Hardbound. Cdn$29.95. Shelagh Grant’s detailed and competent study of Canada’s northern policy in the crucial 1936-50 period is sure to spark considerable debate. The question that frames the study - sovereignty or security - clearly bedeviled officials and politicians during the time under investigation and, as recent discussion over submarines, pipelines and Canada’s ability to defend its interests in the Arctic reveal, through to the present. (There was a third element - stewardship over northern Native peoples - that Grant considers and which was clearly a major element in policy discussions at that time.) It was in this period, as Grant carefully documents, that Canadian officials finally overcame an attitude towards the North that Jack Granatstein characterized as “a fit of absence of mind” and asserted full colonial control over its northern appendages. The volume begins with an overview of Canadian policy towards its northern lands, well-covered ground but essential to what follows. After a brief description of the North during the depression years, Grant turns to political and diplomatic considerations. A description THE CANADIAN NORTH, 1936-1950. By SHELAGH D. GRANT. of the state of federal northern administration and policy is followed by the strongest segment of the book, which covers the rapid changes that followed the outbreak of war and the American “invasion” of the Canadian North. The remainder of the book considers federal struggles with the competing demands of “sovereignty, stewardship or security in the post-war period.” Grant’s study fits neatly into the mainstream of northern historiography. Her emphasis is clearly on Ottawa and the politicians, government officials and influential private citizens (particularly those associated with the Arctic Institute of North America and the Canadian Institute of International Affairs) who sought to awaken the country to its northern obligations. She goes beyond the existing scholarship, however, in documenting the marked impact of American and British diplomatic and military pressures in forcing Canada to reconsider its long-standing neglect of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Sovereignty or Security? has much to recommend it. The diplomatic and political nuances are carefully traced. Northern administrative structures (and changes thereto) are described with precision. One leaves the book with a very solid understanding of how official Ottawa perceived the North, how that perception shifted through the war years, and how federal policy changed as a result of competing regional, national and international forces. At this level - and this was clearly Grant’s objective and priority - the book can only be judged a major success. There are, however, weaknesses with both this approach and its execution. The book includes auseful description of the North in the depression years, although I would disagree with the author’s characterization of the northern society and economy on several points. Because of this early chapter, one anticipates that later discussion of government policy will be closely connected with the actual situation in the region. Sadly, that is not the case. As the book progresses, one gets farther and farther from the North and more firmly ensconced in Ottawa. The promising beginnings are lost and one gets another “traditional” northern history, in which the North is reduced to a field of government responsibility and is not considered as a vital regional society. There are other difficulties. Most readers will find this to be a tough read, particularly in the latter half when discussions of myriad meetings, exchanges of correspondence and administrative changes tend to overwhelm. It is hard to know how this could have been avoided, for it reveals that increasing complexity of government activities in the North, but one feels swamped by the bureaucracy. Also, Grant’s characterization of the major actors is overly generous. Hugh Keenleyside and several other key figures are presented in a particularly favourable light and without the critical insight that time and distance should have permitted. (It is unlikely, for example, that the major civil servants, who often passed on quickly to other departments and responsibilities, were as committed to the North as this book suggests.) On a different level, the brief segments allocated for statistical analysis of government spending are impressionistic and inconclusive; a more sophisticated discussion, and one with a longer time frame, would have been helpful. The connections between Ottawa civil servants and federal officials in the field are shown in chart form, but not always followed up in the text. George Jeckell, Controller of the Yukon for most of the period in question, is mentioned on only five occasions; Ottawa insiders rate far more coverage. (We are given photographs of many of the major Ottawa-based personalities, but none of the minor federal officials in the field or territorial politicians.) Grant makes her Ottawa-orientation very evident, which reveals a great deal about her approach to the study of government policy. Francis Prucha, a noted American historian, once wrote that “a policy can be fully understood only by watching it unfold in practice.” We are not offered that perspective here. The omission is important, for we are left with little sense of how people in the region perceived the Ottawa mandarins and their policies. One Yukon politician, writing in 1947, applauded the Yukon Fish and Game Association for starting to “inject some intelligence into the craniums of the ignorant dictators in Ottawa.” One gets no sense of this regional hostility in Grant’s analysis, which presents a very positive image of the federal policy makers. This said, however, Grant’s book clearly provides a crucial foundation for anyone wishing to investigate the regional implementation of federal policy. Sadly, this book is not up to the production standards one expects from a major university press. The text includes a number of small errors. There are numerous problems with the illustrations, which is a particular shame since the book contains a variety of well-chosen images. One set of plates is, inexplicably, relegated to the appendix and several of the illustrations are mislabelled (my copy included handwritten corrections). [The publisher has advised that a printed “errata” sheet is now available and that many of these problems will be corrected in any subsequent printings. - Ed.] There are a number of functional maps, but they are too small and, in several instances, hard to use. The book also contains seven appendices. While some are valuable, others are of marginal use and could have been dropped without much loss. In general, the book required more careful editing and greater attention to the details of publishing. Ms. Grant has been poorly served. The critical test of this book, ironically, will not rest with northern historians. Despite Grant’s suggestion to the contrary, regional scholars are very much aware of the critical transition in government policy between the 1930s and 1950s and are, in a variety of ways, tracing the impact of post-war government programs on northern society. The major contribution of this study lies in its analysis of the inter-connections between Canada’s northern policy and its relations with the United States and Britain. It would do this volume a grave disservice to label it as simply a work of northern history; it is, instead, an important contribution to Canadian diplomatic and political history. Canadian historians have long been noted for their ability to ignore most of what is northern in this country, seemingly believing that northern topics are seldom of much national interest or importance. Shelagh Grant’s Sovereignty or Security? speaks directly to the misapprehension and challenges historians of World War I1 and the immediate post-war era to give serious consideration to the role of the Canadian North in the formulation of government policy.

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