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Shishalh responses to the colonial conflict (1791-present) : resilience in the face of disease, missionaries and colonization

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Title: Shishalh responses to the colonial conflict (1791-present) : resilience in the face of disease, missionaries and colonization
Author: Merchant, Peter S.
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Anthropology
Copyright Date: 2012
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2012-10-02
Abstract: Anthropological research regarding Coast Salish responses to the colonial conflict has held a central place in Northwest Coast anthropology for decades. Recently, it has been argued that “inordinate” attention has been given to these developments as processes of assimilation, rather than as strategic responses. This process has been viewed by the Crown as the inevitable absorption of the Coast Salish into what would become Canadian society: a result that has been facilitated by the forces of colonialism, including missionization, removal of the Coast Salish from their land, and its resources and the perceived desire of the Coast Salish to adopt Euro-Canadian practices and institutions. Through the exploration of ethnographic accounts, oral narratives, historical documents, and archaeological evidence, I illustrate how one Coast Salish people, the shishalh, have responded to and (when possible), resisted the political, social and economic stresses of the colonial conflict. I argue that shishalh resistance can be observed in the complex pattern of population redistribution from the period immediately prior to and following the smallpox epidemics of the late 18th century, and subsequent European contact and colonization. Through the use of oral narratives I situate the identified changes in population distribution within the broader framework of shishalh history, allowing for the contextualization of population restructuring in the post-contact period, not as an isolated response to the calamitous effects of contact, but more accurately as the latest in a long line of shishalh responses to changing circumstances throughout their history. Post-contact shishalh history is poorly understood by outsiders, and little academic research has been dedicated to this period of rapid, social and political reorganization. Privileging shishalh accounts provides an emic perspective and an alternative to standard scholarly interpretations of the colonial conflict that has traditionally relied on outsiders’ perspectives. By foregrounding shishalh oral history my approach includes a distinctive shishalh voice to the interpretation of this seminal event.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/43318
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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