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Through an analysis of ethnographic texts I work to elucidate the 19th-century human-fish relationship and through collaboration with Laich-Kwil-Tach Elders, based on Vancouver Island on the Northwest Coast of North America, I seek to understand how the 19th-century enlivened world informs 21st-century Laich-Kwil-Tach ontology.In this ethnographic and ethnohistorical account of the relationship between Laich-Kwil-Tach people and fish I grapple with the question of how, within a framework of ontological difference, we can better understand foundations of Indigenous rights and find ways to respect and give agency to multiple forms of knowledge in practice.In the literature, much emphasis has been placed on the Kwakwaka’wakw winter ceremonial with its lore of cannibalism, the taming of a man gone wild, its intriguing dances, vibrant and intricately carved masks, its art, drama, and its interaction with the spirit world.Many of these writings attempt to re-interpret the Boas and Boas-Hunt materials in an effort to gain an understanding of the winter ceremonial’s fundamental meaning.The importance of these issues is similar for the Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwaka’wakw and the primary concern is additional lands.

Between 18 Richards and his dedicated crew surveyed and charted the entire coastline of Vancouver Island, creating baseline information for the nautical charts we use today.This article moves the discussion of the Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonial in a different direction.By considering the Kwakwaka’wakw summer ceremonial, its connection to salmon and traditional animistic beliefs, we begin to understand how Kwakwaka’wakw cosmology was sensitive to salmon ecology.By accepting western-based science as one among many ways of producing knowledge, space is made for other forms of knowledge.In the process we are better able to respect Indigenous land and marine tenure systems, as well as the Indigenous right to maintain a long-standing and on-going relationship with other beings and all that this entails.

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