“Menzies’s ethnography of the Gitxaala people is highly personal, enjoyably engaging, and a welcome contribution to community-based scholarship on the Northwest Coast. . . . Menzies’s analysis adds a clear voice to conversations about the impacts of global industrial processes on local peoples.”—Thomas McIlwraith, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Guelph and author of “We Are Still Didene”: Stories of Hunting and History from Northern British Columbia
The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast have a special place in the history of anthropology, as they do in the development of ‘autoethnography’ or ‘native ethnography.’ In the first regard, Franz Boas made them the focus of much of his life’s work, and in the second regard, much of Boas’ material was actually collected for and forwarded to him by George Hunt, a man of Tlingit descent. Hunt’s contribution to Boas’ knowledge amounts to thousands of pages of ethnological observations.
People of the Saltwater continues both of these proud traditions. It is a contemporary ethnography of a Tsimshian or Gitxaala community living still on British Columbia’s coast, written by an anthropologist who is himself a descendant of that society. The research focuses on the settlement of Lack Klan, “the village that many of my relatives live in” (p. 3), and as this phrase indicates, much of the book is written in the first person. Noting—and complaining—that his formal higher education in anthropology “was shallow and missed nuances that could come to light only with years of experience or the intimacy of belonging” (p. 6), he explains that the current book “is my account of of the world brought into being by the lagyigyet through the eyes of Gitxaala today” (p. 9). [con’t reading]
A pinch of sea salt goes with the territory at the village of Kitkatla on Dolphin Island, 45 km south of Prince Rupert.
In People of the Saltwater, UBC anthropologist Charles Menzies provides an ethnography of his own people, known variously as the Kitkatla, Gitxaala, or Git lax m’oon (“the people of the saltwater”).
“It isn’t often that an ethnography of an Indigenous community is authored by someone who is not only an anthropologist but a member of the community studied,” writes reviewer Robert Muckle.
Here he assesses an innovative and multifaceted book that applies Indigenous methods and decolonizing frameworks to the record of the Git lax m’oon left by ethnography, ecology, archaeology, linguistics, and oral and written history. [con’t reading]