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Cannery days a chapter in the lives of the Heiltsuk Brown, Pamela Therese 1994

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CANNERY DAYS:A CHAPTER IN THE LIVES OF THE HEILTSUKByPAMELA THERESE BROWNB.A., The University of British Columbia, 1990A THESIS SUBMITfED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Anthropology and SociologyWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIADecember 1993©Pamela Therese Brown, 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of ()‘bk92aljyThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate. (1.DE-6 (2/88)AbstractThis thesis consists of an exhibit, Cannery Days - A Chapter In The Life Of TheHeiltsuk which opened at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology(MOA) in May 1993, and a written paper which discusses the processes and political issuesinvolved in doing an exhibit on a subject that is not only complex, but poorly understood bythe general public.The context of the exhibit and this paper is the failure of non-Native society tounderstand that fish were and continue to be the economic wealth of B.C. First Nations.Within this context, the related issue of the invisibility of First Nations women and men inthe fish-processing industry is addressed through the exhibit using quotes, photographs, andtext.The exhibit and this subsequent paper grew out of concern and unease about howFirst Nations and their relationship with fish have traditionally been presented in academicliterature. The purpose of this thesis is to tell how my knowledge of the traditional fisheries,and my experience in the fishing and fish-processing industries, in combination with mytraining in the discipline of anthropology has been put to use in preparing an exhibit to tellabout Heiltsuk people and fish. It will discuss the exhibit as a medium or bridge whichallowed me to illustrate this relationship without diminishing the lives and experiences ofHeiltsuk people.Interviews with seventeen Heiltsuk women, four Heiltsuk men and one long-timeemployee of B.C. Packers open a window on a period of history which has not been welldocumented. To read conventional accounts of Native involvement in the fish-processingindustry, their lives were grey and dreary. The exhibit reveals that for the people who livedand worked in Namu, it was not just a place to work, it had many meanings and warmmemories.Stages of the exhibit development from concept through mounting are described.Although the entire project took longer than I had anticipated, the exhibit was moreIIrewarding for me than a conventional written thesis. In following a strict ethical reviewprocess to ensure that the people had more control over the way their story is told, I was ableto see the value of collaboration between myself, MOA and most importantly, Heiltsukpeople.This is seen in the quality of the results and because it allows First Nations to workwith non-Native professionals in ways which maintain dignity and respect on both sides.Through a museum exhibit, I found a way to present a First Nations perspective that providesbalance to written accounts. By putting a human face on the relationship between FirstNations and fish, my exhibit was able to reach a wider audience.The exhibit had two major themes; the continuing importance of fish to First Nationsculture and economy and the pivotal role of Heiltsuk people in the development of the fish-processing industry. I find that this paper also has two themes. The first is an examination ofthe value of exhibits like Cannery Days in allowing First Nations to tell their own story. Thesecond is an examination of my ability to function as an anthropologist without losing myidentity as a First Nations woman.The exhibit was well received by academics, First Nations and the museum public.This leads me to believe in the value of continuing fruitful collaboration between Native andnon-Native researchers.111Cannery DaysA Chapter In The Lives Of The HeiltsukTable of ContentsAbstract iiTable of Contents ivAcknowledgements vINTRODUCTION 1IMPORTANCE OF FISH TO FIRST NATIONS IN B.C 6THE HEILTSUK NATION 8The Central Role Of Fish In Heiltsuk Life 9Industrialization of the B.C. Fishery 10History of the Heiltsuk in the Modem Fishing Industry 12CRITIQUE OF EXISTING LITERATURE 15Advantage of A Heiltsuk Perspective 20WHY AN EXHIBIT 25PREPARING THE EXHIBIT 27EXHIBIT FINDINGS 31CONCLUSIONS 34Bibliography 35ivAcknowledgementsI am indebted to the Heiltsuk Band Council, the Bella Bella Community SchoolBoard and the Heiltsuk Cultural Centre for their encouragement and support.I would specially like to thank the following women and men who gavegenerously of their time to share their knowledge about their cannery experiencesand intimate relationship with fish. I learned much from them and at the sametime, strengthened my Heiltsuk identity. They are: Beverly Brown, ElizabethBrown, Irene Brown, Rena Brown, Mary Campbell, Elizabeth Hall, Phillip Hall,Lila Hanuse, Elsie Humchitt, Emma Humchitt, Florence Humchitt, Lorne Hume,Maggie Hunt, Mary Hunt, Chester Lawson, Phyllis McKay, Selina McKay, PaulThompson, Annie Wilson, Lillian Windsor, Maggie Windsor, and MarshallWindsor.Since June 1992 when I spent time with the women and men, two of the womenhave passed away. I would like to pay my respect to the families of the late AnnieWilson and the late Maggie Windsor.I would also like to honour three past Heiltsuk Sisterhood Presidents: BrendaCampbell, Mary Hall, and Kitty Carpenter. The contributions of these women areunique and their stories could only be hinted at in the exhibit and thesis.I would like to thank my son Ronald, my mother Bev Brown, my husband, NigelHaggan, my sister Bessie Brown, my great niece Faren Brown-Walkus, myfamily, and my friends, Millie McKenzie, and Linda Park for their unwaveringencouragement and support throughout a huge but rewarding project.I am grateful to the members of my Master’s thesis committee, Dr. JulieCruikshank, and Dr. Michael Kew for their thoughtful comments and support.Having acknowledged these special debts, I would like to state that anyresponsibility for the content and interpretations in this M.A. Thesis are minealone.VINTRODUCTIONI am Heiltsuk from the village of Waglisla (also known as Bella Bella), BritishColumbia. A great part of the identity and strength of Heiltsuk people comes from ourintimate relationship with fish. Fish is our life. Three generations of my family have fishedand worked in canneries on the central coast of B.C.In 1991, as a graduate student in anthropology at the University of British Columbia,I began the process of developing an exhibit at the University’s Museum of Anthropology(MOA). That exhibit, Cannery Days - A Chapter In The Lives Of The Heiltsuk is the resultof a collaboration between myself, the Museum of Anthropology and most importantly,Heiltsuk people. I have done my best to do justice to the time and effort which they gave sogenerously. The exhibit is theirs.The exhibit and this subsequent paper grew out of concern and unease about howFirst Nations and their relationship with fish have traditionally been presented in academicliterature. The purpose of this thesis is to tell how my knowledge of the traditional fisheries,and my experience in the fishing and fish-processing industries, in combination with mytraining in the discipline of anthropology has been put to use in preparing an exhibit to tellabout Heiltsuk people and fish. It will discuss the exhibit as a medium or bridge whichallowed me to illustrate this relationship without diminishing the lives and experiences ofHeiltsuk people.Due to strictures of time, resources and format, I decided to concentrate on the centralcoast in general and Namu cannery in particular because Namu is in our traditional territory.The experiences of Heiksuk people are also representative of life and work in the B.C. fishprocessing industry. The exhibit primarily spans the post-war years up to 1967 when Namucannery was closed, but it also gives a brief glimpse of Heiltsuk life today, where thefisheries continue to play an important role.1I was motivated to incorporate the exhibit as a major component of the MA thesis fortwo reasons. First, I have a personal stake in the matter. The recent B.C. Court of Appealdecisions1 in five cases relating to aboriginal fishing rights, concluding that there was noaboriginal right to sell fish commercially, show a profound and unsettling failure tounderstand the social and economic fabric of past and present First Nation societies in B.C.Second, with the impending First Nations treaty negotiations in B.C., there is anurgent need for Native people to make more use of the news media, museum exhibits, videos,and other communication systems- to begin an intensive education process about theimportance of fish in our lives.During my studies, I became aware that the history of the B.C. fishery is viewed verydifferently by First Nations and in traditional academic studies. Although there is anexceptionally large and diverse collection of literature on the modern fishing and processingindustry, as well as specific aspects of the role of First Nations in the development of thefisheries, conventional writings mask the crucial importance of fish to First Nations people.More recent literature has tried to present a summary overview of fish as a commonproperty resource.2 By contrast, this thesis focusses on the historic and ongoing importanceof the fisheries to one distinct First Nation society on the central coast.Most writings on the modern fishing and fish-processing industry in B.C. concentrateeither on the origins of the crisis in the modem fishing industry or on the fish-processingsector in the larger urban centres. Therefore, the accounts are more conservation oreconomy-oriented. Some writers look at the history of the salmon fishing industry through aparticular ideological perspective or from the standpoint of a special interest group.1 See Canadian Native Law Reporter, [1993] 4 C.N.L.R. With Cumulative Indexes. Saskatchewan: Universityof Saskatchewan. . v. Gladstone (1993)4 C.N.L.R. 75 (B.C.C.A.); R. v. Lewis (1993)4 C.N.L.R. 98(B.C.C.A.); R. v. Nikal (1993)4 C.N.L.R. 117 (B.C.C.A.); R. v. N.T.C. Smokehouse Ltd. (1993)4 C.N.LR.158 (B.C.C.A.); R. v. Vanderpeet (1993) 4 C.N.L.R. 221; (B.C.C.A.).2Pathcia Marchak, Neil Guppy and John McMullan, Uncommon Property: the Fishing and Fish ProcessingIndustries in British Columbia (Agincourt, Ontario: Methuen Publications, 1987).2More specifically, the literature about cannery workers portrays them as an exploitedwork force or treats their work as supplementary to the fishing industry. For example,anthropologist James McDonald views the involvement of Native women and children incanneries as exploitative and disruptive of their way of life (1984:49). Other writers likeAlicja Muszynski analyse the place of Native women in the formation of the B.C.’s salmoncannery labour force from a Marxist standpoint (1986:109).However valid some of their observations may be, undue concentration on theeconomic and ideological approach loses sight of the lives and experiences of First Nationspeople. The accounts also do not give us a feel of what cannery life meant to First Nations.My own experience in the modem fish-processing industry and knowledge of our traditionalfisheries, caused me to question the wisdom of undue reliance on theoretical perspectives thatfail to reflect the overall experiences of First Nations people.The challenge facing me was to find a way of illustrating the special relationshipHeiltsuk people have with fish that would present an accurate picture of their traditionalfisheries and of the history of their involvement in the modern fishing and processingindustry. I was also determined that my work would be a useful resource for the connnunity.Thus, it would have to be written in terms understandable to community members.In June 1992, I spent a month in Bella Bella to learn more about the traditional fishingactivities and involvement of Heiltsuk people in the fish-processing industry. During myresearch, I interviewed twenty-two members of the Heiltsuk conimunity and a former B.C.Packers Personnel Manager. These interviews uncovered a wealth of information. Thisresearch reinforced the idea of presenting my findings in an exhibit. It also became veryevident that the Heiltsuk cannery experience would have to be presented in the context of thetotal relationship Heiltsuk people have with fish.Additional data for the exhibit were obtained from various Northwest Coastethnographies, archival material, and photographs collected inside and outside mycommunity. This information re-affirmed the importance of fish to Heiltsuk people. I also3used the resources of the UBC Museum of Anthropology and was assisted in my work by thetechnical staff.The exhibit fits well within the mandate and interests of MOA, which “has alwaysbeen concerned with the study and portrayal of human achievements from around the worldas a means of furthering understanding of other cultures” (MOA Guidelines, 1988:1-2). Theapproach also reflects a growing awareness in museums, anthropology, universities and themedia, about the way the history and way of life of First Nations is represented andinterpreted.In setting out to tell the story of Heiltsuk people and fish, I found out that I hadbecome the Curator of a museum exhibit. The very word “Curator” would not be used bymembers of my community to describe my role in putting the exhibit together. Thisillustrates the problem of interpretation with which I was faced. My decision as a Heiltsukperson, to mount an exhibit at the UBC Museum of Anthropology was also quite ironic giventhe ambivalent attitude of First Nations to anthropologists and museums. Nevertheless, I wasconvinced that the approach was valid.The exhibit was installed in the Theatre Gallery in May 1993. The installationincludes 25 frames with text, maps, and photographs. A comment book provided aparticipatory component. The responses in the comment book provided me with anunexpected source of data about the issues raised in Cannery Days. They also reinforced theneed for more exhibits of this sort.Through this exhibit I was able to discuss issues that were important to me, highlightthe role of Heiltsuk women in canneries, and give a brief but long overdue glimpse of thestrong role of the Heiltsuk local of the Native Sisterhood in Namu cannery and in our owncommunity.Although the entire exhibit process took much longer than I had anticipated, theexhibit was ultimately more rewarding for me than a conventional written thesis. Inexploring the literature about First Nations and fish, I saw that the people were ignored.4Speaking through a museum exhibit, Heiltsuk people told their story much more clearly andeffectively. As a result, the visitors of MOA gained a better understanding of the lives ofFirst Nations and the special relationship Heiltsuk people have with fish.While it is true that the ethical review process which ensures that First Nations peoplehave more control over the way their story is told requires a significant investment in time, itdoes have two benefits. Once these conditions are fulfilled, the value of collaboration isreadily seen both in the quality of the results and because it allows First Nations to work withnon-Native professionals in ways which maintain dignity and respect on both sides.The paper is organized as follows. I begin by speaking about the importance of fish,outlining how First Nations cultures and economies were founded and sustained overthousands of years by the fisheries resources on the Northwest Coast. Modern “industrialfishing” is distinguished from how First Nations have always used their wealth in fisheries.Recent B.C. Court of Appeal decisions are used to illustrate the difficulty which non-Nativesociety have in seeing fish as wealth.Second, I introduce the Heiltsuk Nation - our tribal territory, people and ourtraditional fisheries, and I touch upon the impact of modern industrial fishing. Specialemphasis is placed upon the fish-canning industry.Third, I critique a number of writings about the involvement of Native women incanneries and discuss how my own perspective as a Heiltsuk woman has affected this thesisand shaped the exhibit. The advantages of my cultural background and personal experiencesboth in research and in bringing a human dimension and depth to the lives of First Nationsare identified.Fourth, I explore the question, Why an Exhibit? This section develops the theme ofvalidating the lives, work and experience of First Nations women and men, and explains whyI was determined to prepare a museum exhibit rather than rely solely on a classic writtenthesis format.5Fifth, I document the stages of research, editing, preparing and mounting the exhibitand evaluate the success of the exhibit in generating interest and enthusiasm for the formatand subject by technical staff of MOA, First Nations and the museum public. Finally, Isummarize exhibit findings and conclusions.IMPORTANCE OF FISH TO FIRST NATIONS IN B.C.Over a period of at least ten thousand years, numerous First Nations in the PacificNorthwest evolved a sophisticated co-existence with the rich natural resources of the landsand waters and with each other (Newell, 1993:4). Up to the time of contact, they enjoyedunlimited access to and control over their fisheries resources which they used for social,economic and cultural purposes. In an absolute sense, these resources were their wealth.First Nations cultures and economies have been consistently misunderstood by non-Native society. In particular, non-Native people have trouble understanding how fish can beso important to us. There are two fundamental reasons for this misunderstanding. There isthe inability of non-Native people to understand that an entire society could be based on fish(Carlson, 1990; Newell, 1993; Pearse, 1982). There is also a failure to understand thatsophisticated cultures could exist without agriculture and writing. These misunderstandingspersist until today.It is important to state what I view as a critical distinction between the modern fishingindustry and the traditional fisheries of First Nations. This distinction is clearly stated in theexhibit for three reasons. First, I wanted to show the historic importance of fish to FirstNations, second, to illustrate that fish continue to be the wealth of their Nations and third, toshow the impact of the Indian food fish regulation of 1888 (which equated Indian fisheriesstrictly with subsistence harvesting) on First Nations societies.6Native people have long-standing concerns about the impact of the modern“industrial” fishing industry on their “traditional fisheries.” In 1916, the Chiefs of Bella Bellawrote a letter of protest to Ivan Fougner, Indian Agent, stating:From all time our fathers have taken salmon from the rivers near our home,for dry salmon is to us what bread is to white people, we cannot do without it.During the past few years there has been a growing demand for humpback anddog salmon at the canneires [sic] of Bella Bella and Namu, the result of thisdemand is we find that some rivers which used to supply us with humpbacksalmon now contain very few, and we are afraid it will be the same with dogsalmon. Will you please do your best to protect our interests in the matter(Fougner, 1916:387).The concerns and feelings of unease expressed by the Heiltsuk Chiefs in 1916 about theirtraditional fisheries are equally valid today.3Historian Dianne Newell says the Indian ‘food fish’ regulation raised two profoundissues for First Nations:First, it separated Indian harvesting and use of fish for personal consumptionfrom that for economic, social, or cultural purposes.. .The distinction betweenIndians fishing for their own food and fishing for any other purpose was anartificial one as far as Indian culture and practice was concerned. Secondly, itdivided resource production from resource management, officially transferringall management of this crucial Indian food and commercial resource fromIndians to the state (Newell, 1993:108-109).That is why it is important to make a distinction between our “traditional fisheries” and the“modern fishing industry” in the exhibit.“Traditional fisheries” refers to the use of First Nations’ wealth in fisheries for allpurposes including food, trade, barter, and sale. The continued use of the term “foodfisheries” by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the fishing industrydowngrades and trivializes our aboriginal right to use our economic wealth in fisheries for thebetterment of our nation as we have done and as we continue to do (Fougner, 1916; Newell,1993; Pearse, 1982).Peter H. Pearse, Managing Salmon In The Fraser. Report to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans on theFraser River Salmon Investigation, with Scientific and Technical Advicefrom Peter A. Larkin(Vancouver, 1992), 12. At present, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) statistics, FirstNations’ traditional fisheries take a mere 3.4% of the total B.C catch. The Supreme Court of Canada hasrecognized that aboriginal fishing rights flow unextinguished from pre-contact times of 100% ownership andjurisdiction (ibid). It defies common sense to suggest that these rights are satisfied with the 3.4% presently leftover from today’s modern fishing industry and sport fisheries.7Accordingly, I use the terms “industrial fishing, salmon fishing and fish-canningindustry” to refer to the post-contact fishing and fish-processing industries which harvestenormous amounts of fish coastwide to feed world market demand (Newell, 1993).THE HEILTSUK NATIONHeiltsuk people have occupied the central coast area for thousands of years. Longbefore the arrival of Europeans, Heiltsuk people had a well-developed culture which revolvedaround fish. Archaeological evidence found at Namu suggests that Heiltsuk tribal territoryhas been inhabited for at least 9,000 years (Carlson, 1990:60; Hobler, 1990:298).Some early anthropologists classified the Heiltsuk as part of the “Kwakiutl” or“Northern Kwakiutl” (Hilton, 1990:321; Kolstee, 1988:45; Black, 1989:274). The HeiltsukNation is not, in fact, part of the “Kwakiutl” or “Kwakwaka’wakw” as they now callthemselves.In this thesis, I refer to the six Heiltsuk-speaking groups that settled at Bella Bella asthe Heiltsuk Nation. The main Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella, known to us as Waglisla,is located on the east side of Campbell Island on the central coast of British Columbia.Today, 1,700 people live in Waglisla, with 500-600 Heiltsuk people in the Vancouver areaand elsewhere.Namu, the site of the cannery which figures largely in the text and exhibit, is also partof Heiltsuk territory (Large, 1968; Hobler, 1990). This was also confirmed by many of thewomen and men to whom I spoke.8The Central Role Of Fish In Heiltsuk LifeFish has always played a central role in the lives of Northwest Coast First Nationspeople. Today, over 200 distinct First Nations communities in British Columbia are locatedat or near important fishing sites. Fish are important to all First Nations communities, but areparticularly important to coastal people like the Heiltsuk.The seasonal migration to a number of resource sites was central to the economy ofthe Heiltsuk. For example, the summer and early fall salmon migrations involved a move tothe traditional family salmon sites. These sites were owned by families each with their owndistinct crests. They followed a seasonal round of activities dictated by salmon runs, huntingand other traditional pursuits (Hilton, 1990:314-315; Kolstee, 1988:45). Heiltsuk Elder,Phillip Hall explains it in these words:Well Heiltsuk people, in the season, they moved around quite a bit. It wasn’tas big before, they were all over the place - some in Roscoe, Nikas, Koeyeand Houyat. After a while they gathered here [in Bella Bella]. When seaweedtime comes - they all move to one place like, the one outside Ivory Island.There’s a place down here, it belongs to Charlie Windsor, seaweed camp. Inthe fall, they dry fish and move into Houyat or across here at Nilcas. Theymove out to Goose Island to dry halibut. They move in again summertimeand they go down to the rivers and trade with somebody, whatever they’regoing to trade. They’re always moving, seaweed, salmon, they’re alwaysmoving (Hall, 1992, Personal Communication).After the seasonal migration to different resource sites throughout their traditional territory,they returned in October or November to permanent winter villages to celebrate theceremonial season (Hilton, 1990:314-315).Heiltsuk people depend heavily on salmon. Heiltsuk Elder, Ed Martin remembers hisgrandparents “smoking 700 to 1,000 salmon at once” in their smokehouse at Houyet (Harkin,1986:3). The ability to harvest such an abundance of salmon indicates the extent of Heiltsukknowledge of the salmon resource. Like other First Nations in the Pacific Northwest,Heiltsuk people developed sophisticated fishing and fish-preservation technologies, yetmanaged to ensure they had adequate supplies of fish in their traditional territories over long9periods of time for themselves and for their neighbors. The late Angus Campbell, HeiltsukElder, recalls the importance of salmon to the people:The most important food for the First Generation was smoked and driedsalmon. These could be used later on when other fish started running. Whenpeople from other villages ran out of smoked and dried salmon, they wouldcome to Mauwash and ask my great great great grandfather to fish there.There were three salmon traps in the creek at Mauwash. . .The First Generationalways had a change of food in certain months, so they never hungered foranything (Storie & Gould, 1968:53-55).An extensive trade and barter system was a major part of the Heiltsuk economy. Recordsfrom the late 1 800s confirm that Heiltsuk people routinely traded with other Nations such asthe Haisla (Kitimaat), Nuxalk (Bella Coola), the Tsimshian, and Namgis (Alert Bay) (Hilton,1990:314-315; Kolstee, 1988; Newell, 1993:4OO). Although poorly understood by non-Native people, this extensive barter and trade system continues today.In the late 1800s, the central coast entered a period of industrial development. Whilethis affected the social and cultural fabric of First Nation societies, the most profound impactwas the near destruction of their traditional fish-based economies.Industrialization of the B.C. FisheryThe Pacific salmon industry began by exporting salted salmon in the 1830s.Emphasis then shifted to canning salmon for countries throughout the world from the 1870sto the present. As the new industry proved financially rewarding, salmon canning spread upand down the coast (Large, 1968:23; Knight, 1978:78)). In the early years of the fishingindustry, the government of the day was still informed by the 19th century attitude that theresources of the sea were limitless and inexhaustible (Meggs & Stacey, 1992:1; Newell,4 Newell, Tangled Webs: Indians And The Law In Canada Pacific Coast Fisheries. (Toronto:University of Toronto Press, 1993), 400. See also Barbara Lane, “Harvesting of Herring Spawn and Commercein Herring Spawn by the Heiltsuk (Bella Bella) Indians of Central British Columbia From Aboriginal Times tothe Present,” (unpublished paper, 1990), who cites, for example, William Fraser Tolmie: Physician and FurTrader (Vancouver: Mitchell Press, 1963).101993). For instance, in an 1875 report on the subject of Indian Reserves,5 the Attorney-General of B.C. comments:Our numerous bays, inlets and rivers, contain inexhaustible supplies of thefinest fish..No good reason exists why “Fisheries” such as those established byour merchants on Fraser River for curing and exporting salmon and othermerchantable fish, should not be created in suitable places for the benefit ofthe Indians, and be in time profitably controlled and conducted bythemselves.. .Many of the Indians are now employed in this industry asfishermen, at one dollar, or four shillings sterling a day. In the comparativecost of labour they would possess an enormous advantage as long as wagesremain at their present high figure.It is quite evident from the Attorney-General’s remarks that the ‘traditional fishing’ practicesof Indians were still recognized and that government officials took into account the criticalrole Indians played in the fishing and processing industry.The first cannery started on the Fraser River in 1871. By 1876, three more cannerieshad opened on the Fraser River. Other canneries on the Skeena River began operation in1875, the Nass River in 1881, and at Rivers Inlet and places like Namu on the central coastnot too long after (Large, 1968:23; Knight, 1978:78).By the late 19th century, most coastal groups were participating on a grand scale.First Nations women and men became the labour backbone of the salmon industry (Meggs &Stacey, 1992:8; Newell, 1993:93). Heiltsuk people like Liz Brown clearly understand thatthe development of the modern fishing industry relied heavily on the knowledge and labourof Native people:The fishing industry depended on the Native people to educate them aboutfishing. You know, being local, they knew where all the fish was, and so theydepended on them for that (Brown, 1992, Personal Communication).From the beginning, labour in coastal canneries was scarce, and Indian women playedan integral role in the rapidly growing canning industry. Cannery managers contracted withNative fishermen and paid them for their catch. Women and children worked in the cannery.See Canada, Report of the Government ofBritish Columbia on the Subject ofIndian Reserves, 17 August1875, 15.11Canneries started operating around the end of April and shut down during October.Most were run by a single company which provided housing and a company store for theirworkers. Canneries like Namu and Wadhams in Rivers Inlet were built close to Nativevillages to ensure an available source of labour.In their attempts to do away with the competition for fishermen and plant workers,cannery owners voluntarily agreed not to “steal” Indians away from other canneries (Newell,1993:147). At Namu cannery, Henry Doyle had his own labour strategy to guaranteeHeiltsuk labour. In a letter to Henry Bell-Irving, Doyle writes:..the canneries that in the past two years have had the service of certain tribesare to be left in undisputed possession of such tribes to the same extent thatthey have enjoyed in the past.. .Thus your having the Bella Bella Indians,. ..youwould continue to have those, without any attempt on our part to try andinduce, or accept, the services of members of those thbes to fish for us(Newell, 1989:67-68).In 1880, an estimated four hundred Indian women worked in the Fraser Rivercanneries. By 1895, one-third of B.C.’s canneries were located in the central and northernareas, most of them relying totally on the labour of Indian women (Mitchell & Franklin,1989:60).History of the Heiltsuk in the Modern Fishing IndustryFrom the earliest beginnings, Heiltsuk people have been active participants in thefishing and processing industry. In the early 1900s the Heiltsuk already operatedapproximately thirty gasoline-powered boats (Knight, 1978:83). The annual reports of IndianAgents for B.C. chart the yearly migration of Heiltsuk people to canneries. The Bella BellaIndians, “who subsist largely on fish and game, both of which are plentiful,” also worked atthe Rivers Inlet Canneries (DIA, Annual Report, 1882:113).12Heiltsuk Elder, Elizabeth Hall, recalls that her family:.usually go to Rivers Inlet first, then when it’s slow in Rivers Inlet, we go toNamu. Rivers Inlet is a long ways in, and all around Rivers Inlet, on both sides,quite a ways - canneries here, canneries there, all kinds of different canneries(Hall, 1992 Personal Communication).As Phillip Hall emphasized above, Heiltsuk people were accustomed to movingseasonally, so they were able to incorporate fishing and cannery work into their lives withlittle difficulty. Their intimate knowledge of their own traditional territories and the fisheriesfacilitated their entry and large scale participation in the fish-processing industry (Newell,1993:5).6For Heiltsuk people, one of the most important canneries that figure in their historywas Namu. The first cannery in Namu Harbour was built in 1893 by Robert Draney. It waslater sold to B.C. Packers. It operated for sixty-nine years until January 1962, when it wasdestroyed by fire (Lyons, 1969:200). It was one of the biggest canneries on the central coast.Heiltsuk Elder, Phillip Hall remembers being told as a child how Namu cannerybegan and the promise by Robert Draney, to employ Heiltsuk people. Willie West, a friendof his family, told him about being in Namu camping at the time:A boat came in there. The people didn’t know how to speak English. Theboat came in and dropped its anchor. Willie West, his wife and ChiefMoody’s wife went up the bush and hid. They were up in the bushes for somany days before they were brave enough to get out there in the canoe andstart talking. The guy’s name that started the cannery is Robert Draney. Heput Willie West to work. And West told me that there was a notice put up onthe wall in Namu. It was Draney’s agreement with the people. Any Heiltsukperson who wanted to work, could go to work and never have to ask anybody.Like I say, the letter disappeared, nobody knows what happened to it (Hall,1992 Personal Communication).People came from all over B.C. to work in Namu. In speaking about the mix ofpeople who worked there, former B.C. Packers Personnel Manager, Lorne Hume says:6The ease with which First Nations adapted to the seasonal pattern of the modem fishing and fish-processingindustry masks the fact that modern industrial fishing ultimately attacked the social and cultural fabric of FirstNations society first, by shifting the economic base from subsistence and trade to cash, and, later by the closureof canneries.13• ..we made arrangements with people from Alert Bay and we used to get someSechelt people, Ooweekeno people, and people from Blunden Harbour, fromBella Coola and then people from the Skeena. So we had pretty well a Leagueof Nations as it were (Hume, 1992 Personal Communication).At Namu cannery, Heiltsuk women and men worked for wages or piece rates. Theywashed fish, filled cans with salmon, patched,7 wiped cans, weighed cans, labelled them,made boxes, packed cans, worked in the cold storage and mended nets. Many of the womenremembered helping their mothers in canneries. Irene Brown remembers helping her motherat age thirteen. She says:The first year I start working was in Klemtu, but I wasn’t on the payroll. I wasjust working along with my Mom. She was teaching me how to fill cans(Brown, 1992 Personal Communication).Many Heiltsuk families worked all their lives in Namu or other central coastcanneries. The late Heiltsuk Elder, Maggie Windsor who was born in Waglisla in 1903worked in Namu for forty-four years. An interview with her in 1992 reveals that she startedwork in Namu at the age of ten.I was about ten years when I start working in Namu. I put the cans in a tray,ten cents an hour. And the last time I worked in Namu I made about ninedollars and ninety five cents. I worked everywhere, washing fish, drying thecans, making cans, and patching. My daughters [Mary Hall and DorothyWailcus] started working when they were about ten years old, putting the cansin the tray for twenty-five cents an hour. At first, it was ten cents and thewages kept coming up (Windsor, 1992 Personal Communication).Many children grew up in Namu. The late Annie Wilson said with pride:All my family grew up in Namu. When they were old enough to work, theyall worked there. My kids Phyllis, Donald, Verna, Richard, Ronnie andGerry, Marie and Kenny, they all grew up in Namu. They all worked in thecannery (Wilson, 1992 Personal Communication).B.C. Packers’ cannery at Namu was one of the last canneries on the central coast toclose. When Namu shut down its operations, many Heiltsuk people were left without whathad come to be their major source of income. With the loss of participation in the canning7 Gladys Young Blyth, Salmon Canneries, British Columbia North Coast, (Lantzvile: oolichan books, 1991),45. When a can of salmon was underweight, it was automatically ejected onto the patching table then ‘patched’to bring them up to the prescribed weight.14industry, 90% of their population was unemployed. The welfare costs increased enormously(Scow, 1987:7).Their isolated location, work experience and historical involvement in the fishingindustry, limited Heiltsuk people in accessing other employment opportunities. When Namucannery closed, Heiltsuk people were no longer able to participate in the fish-processingindustry. This left them with a great sense of frustration and loss. In the words of PhyllisMcKay:The company [B.C.Packers] did a lot for the people. This is something thatI’ll always regret is that they did away with the cannery. I really believe thatwhen they did this, when they started closing canneries up and down the coast,I believe a lot of their self-esteem was just brought down, right down. Thatwas my first job, when I used to work in the Namu cannery, and I always relive my good ole [sici cannery days (McKay, 1992 Personal Communication).The fish-processing industry introduced Heiltsuk people to a new way of life, the casheconomy. However, with the rapid growth of the industry, their wealth went elsewhere. Theintroduction of a cash economy brought changes that would profoundly impact the traditionaleconomies of First Nations societies. Through all these changes, Heiltsuk and other FirstNations peoples experienced a great sense of unease about the effect of the fish-processingindustry on their aboriginal right to fish.CRITIQUE OF EXISTING LITERATUREIn this section, I will examine how First Nations women and men are represented inthe conventional literature on the B.C. fisheries. I will also discuss how my research findingscontradict some of these writings.In her doctoral dissertation, “The Creation and Organization of Cheap Wage Labourin the British Columbia fishing industry,” Alicja Muszynski uses a Marxist view of labour todescribe the situation of Native women in canneries. She argues that race, age and genderwere categories used to stratify the labour force within fish plants, resulting in the creation of15a cheap wage labour force which worked for wages below the subsistence level (1987:iii).She suggests that Native women survived because they were “embedded in pre-capitalistsocial relations.. .They subsisted using a combination of wage labour and unpaid work”(1987 :iii). Because Native people were not entirely dependent on wages to subsist and werenot conscious of themselves as proletarians, they accepted very low wages (Muszynski,1986:116).While there is an undoubted kernel of truth in this, it misses the fundamental fact thatwork at the cannery was largely a positive experience, and also that women contrived tobalance their traditional subsistence activities and their wage labour. The real damage wasdone by the sudden and brutal closure of the canneries.Once again, we see a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept and value oftraditional fisheries, (here described as “subsistence”) both as a social activity and as a sourceof wealth.9 The use of the term ‘proletarian’ to analyse the labour of Native women incanneries is also outdated.A more recent work by Gillian Mary Stainsby examines the perceptions of 23 womenwho worked in canneries in Prince Rupert, Vancouver, and Steveston. Of those interviewed,10 were Native women. Her thesis argues that “these women make up a reserve army oflabour, in that they are employed on a random and capricious schedule, depending on thecatch of fish” (Stainsby, 1991 :iii). In discussing the experience of the Native women in fish-processing, she says, “Since fish processing is not pleasant, or well-rewarded, native womenwith several generations of family history in the industry are perhaps there because they havefewer options and fewer social supports than members of other racial and ethniccommunities” (1991:26).8 Here Muszynski uses the term “subsistence” in the classic European sense of survival or just scraping by. It isparticularly unfortunate that the same word is also commonly used to denote traditional economies such as theHeiltsuk which were wealthy by any standards, old or new.9For a fuller description see Hugh Brody’s Maps And Dreams (1981). Brody’s analysis of the economy of theBeaver Indians confirms the importance and value of traditional subsistence practices to First Nations’economies.16Here Stainsby seems to be projecting her own attitude to fish on First Nations women.It doesn’t seem to occur to her that the women actually enjoyed the work and took a real pridein being an elite, skilled labour force. Former Personnel Manager at Namu, Lorne Humeremembers a time when they had more salmon than they knew what to do with, and howHeiltsuk women came through for them:Mac McLean [the Manager of Namu in the 1940sJ and the cannery foremanand myself went around and talked to the women as to whether they wanted towork until the fish was finished. A couple of young girls folded. Theycouldn’t take it. Julia Humchitt [a Heiltsuk woman] said, ‘Ah, those kids, theydon’t understand, us old ladies will show you guys how to work.’ And theyworked right through till seven o’clock the next morning and we cleaned up allthe fish and we packed over ten thousand cases (Lorne Hume, PersonalCorrespondance 1992).Stainsby describes the women she interviewed as all fitting the description of‘powerless’ and ‘underprivileged’ but continues to say that, “it is significant that many of themwould take exception to that definition” (1991:21). As the previous quote from Lorne Humeand the following description of the achievements of the Native Sisterhood demonstrate, sheerrs in depicting Native women as victims who have no power over their lives.The Native Sisterhood of B.C. was formed in 1933. Brenda Campbell from theHeiltsuk Nation was its first President and held this post for twenty years. In Namu cannery,members of the Heiltsuk local of the Native Sisterhood of B.C. were very vocal and assertive.As cannery workers, Heiltsuk women formed a group called the “Plant Committee.” Thespokepersons for this committee were Brenda Campbell, Kitty Carpenter, and Mary Hall.The committee worked directly with the cannery managers for better housing, better workingconditions and better pay (Brown, 1992 Personal Communication).For many years women cannery workers were represented in labour negotiations bythe Native Brotherhood. Although they paid membership fees, they did not have votingprivileges even though one of their major roles was fundraising for the Brotherhood. TheSisterhood were very active and vocal in obtaining equal voting rights within the NativeBrotherhood. They received these voting rights at one of the annual Brotherhoodconventions (ibid.)17All women cannery workers from youngsters to Elders were members of the NativeSisterhood. Members of the Bella Bella Local were in constant contact with other SisterhoodLocals up and down the coast. The late Louisa Humchitt and Mrs. Bertie Humchitt gaveguidance to Brenda Campbell, who became one of the most prominent leaders of theSisterhood (ibid.). There is obviously a great deal more to cannery life than what is told inthe literature, a human story with highs and lows.If we read between the lines in early written accounts, journals and reports fromcanneries, we also get a different perspective on the lives of First Nations women workingthere (Mitchell & Franklin, 1989:49-56). As evident in the following observations of acannery supervisor writing in 1891, Indian women were far from invisible. They did not takepoor working conditions and low wages lying down:According to the supervisor who described the Klootchmen, as they werecalled, as “awfully self-willed,” squashing salmon, filling cans with “nothingbut back and skin” and angrily throwing filled cans on the floor and shouting“you work” when he criticized them. He also described an incident when agroup of twenty Indian men and twenty-five Indian cannery workersflourished their long knives at him in a pretend thrust, watching his face to seeif he was frightened (Carmichael, 1891).The feisty, knife-wielders of the Fraser River are hardly people with “no power over theirlives!” Annual reports by Indian agents also show how assertive Indian women were aboutgoing to work in canneries. In 1882, the Indian agent for the Fraser River bemoaned the factthat Indian men and women went off to fish instead of cultivating reserve land.There is no class of labourers to compete with them at the fisheries.. .on theFraser River. Their women, also, who are very industrious, are profitablyemployed at the fisheries during the fishing season, making nets and cleaningfish for the canneries.. .The Indians like working in batches together, and muchprefer the above kind of employment to agricultural labour (DIA, AnnualReport, 1882:166).Although much of the conventional literature on the B.C. fisheries does not give acomplete or accurate picture of the role of First Nations people in the fishing and fishprocessing industry, there have been a number of valiant attempts to document theexperiences of First Nations people in the fish and fish-processing industry.18Rolf Knight’s brief but seminal book, Indians at Work. An Informal History ofIndianLabour in British Columbia, 1858-1 930 was one of the first accounts to recognize the criticalrole of First Nations people in the development of the modern fishing and fish-processingindustry.In Cork Lines and Canning Lines (1992), Geoff Meggs and Duncan Stacey usehistoric photos and text to tell the story of B.C.’s fishing industry. The photos present a rareglimpse of the First Nations men and women who were instrumental in the development ofthe fishing industry. However, the story is not told in their own words.A more recent study of Indian fishing issues that breaks new ground is DianneNewell’s Tangled Webs: Indians and the Law in Canada’s Pacific Coast Fisheries (1993).Her work is one of the most comprehensive written accounts to date of the involvement ofIndians in the Pacific Coast fisheries, from early times to the present (1993:28). I found herwork on canneries especially helpful. She illustrates the fishing and cannery experiences ofFirst Nations women and men using the words and perceptions of the people themselves.I believe that it is essential that scholars who contribute to Native research respect theviews of First Nations people and represent their longstanding relationship with the fisheriesusing a strict and rigorous methodology. With few exceptions such as Percy Gladstone andLeona Sparrow, almost all theoretical accounts about fishing are written by non-Natives.Sparrow1°is one of the few aboriginal anthropologists who has done some exploratoryresearch on the work histories of Native people. Her description of her grandparents workhistory in canneries gives a good idea of how they viewed cannery life. If we are ever to geta better understanding of First Nations and fish, it seems clear that First Nations need to telltheir own stories, in their own words and through their own perceptions of the fisheries.In exploring the numerous written accounts of the historic and modern fishing andfish-processing industry, I felt a growing concern and unease about the way First Nationswere represented. I feel particularly uneasy about writers who use Native experience to10 See Leona Sparrow, “Work Histories ofa Coast Salish Couple,” (M.A. thesis, University of B.C., 1976).19exemplify a particular ideological perspective. There is good reason for concern. As thetreaty negotiation process begins in B.C. an unexpected weight will be attributed toconventional literature about the fisheries.Written evidence will play a large role in treaty negotiations. The traditionaleconomic base of First Nations is based on fish, but First Nations history is based on oraltradition. The majority of written material about the fisheries in B.C. is by non-Nativepeople. Because First Nations didn’t write, this creates a serious imbalance.As a First Nations person, I feel I have to find a way to restore the balance. As a FirstNations anthropologist, I am acutely aware of the need for objectivity, not only out of a senseof fairness and professionalism, but also because there is a high probability that future effortsto do justice to First Nations economies will be subjected to the most rigorous analysis duringtreaty negotiations or, as already happened in the case of the Gitksan Wet’suwet’en, besubjected to merciless cross examination in court.Most of the existing literature on the modern fishing and fish-processing industriestreats the traditional fishing practices of First Nations as a separate issue. What this literaturefails to acknowledge or even see is that it is the modern fishing and fish-processing industrywhich has relegated First Nations traditional fisheries to a minor or side issue.Advantage of A Heiltsuk PerspectiveMy determination to change the way First Nations have been represented in theliterature flows from my identity. One of the most striking commonalities of the diverse FirstNations of B.C. is our determination to retain our identity and culture. Thomas Berger, oneof Canada’s foremost exponents of the validity of Native culture and perspective, recentlyremarked:Native people will not be assimilated, and their fierce wish to retain their ownculture is intensifying as industry, technology and communications forge alarger and larger mass culture, extruding diversity.. .The Native people have20survived draconian measures for half a millennium. They may be poor, theymay be oppressed, but they know who they are (Berger, 1991:16 1).To date, First Nations people have been extremely frustrated with the way theirhistory and way of life have been represented and interpreted. Virginia Dominguez pointsout that one of the far-reaching consequences of non-Native scholars writing the history ofother peoples is that:When we acknowledge that an idea, object, history or tradition is not ours, wedistance ourselves from it. When we then proceed to use, incorporate orrepresent it, we arrogate the right to employ what we acknowledge as notours.. .it is something we do because of our perception of it as other. Theimplicit hierarchical nature of otherness invites seemingly innocuous practicesof representation that amount to (often unknowingly) strategies of dominationthrough appropriation (Dominguez, 1987:132).As a First Nations student in anthropology and museology, I continually struggledwith these issues. Although change is slow, First Nations are starting to confront these issuesand provide resolutions to the problems. In speaking about the challenges museums andanthropologists face with the emergence of the “Native point of view,” Dr. M. Ames, theDirector of MOA, writes:As Native intellectuals regain control over their own images and their owndestinies, they will also claim the right to provide the answers. It will be wiseto listen carefully, even if we might not always agree, because the growingintellectual autonomy of indigenous people will have considerable impact onhow anthropologists and museums deal in the future with the ‘natives.’ (Ames,1992:80-87).Dr. Nancy Marie Mitchell, a Native American anthropologist says it well.If these majority institutions looked to their tribal counterparts for more than atoken appearance, some real contributions could be made to this field.Perhaps the most major contribution I see coming from an indigenous agendafor museums is the granting of humanity to those people talked about inexhibits. Not only is it more engaging for a museum visitor to learn about anidentifiable “real” person, it is also more respectable. Who will believe nowthat the subjects of research can offer more than just raw data for otherpeople’s theories? Their voices can be heard, if one just listens (Mitchell,1990:16-19).21It has been suggested by anthropologist Wayne Warry that researchers concernedwith Native issues should be guided in their work by an adherence to the principle of Nativeself-determination. He advocates a shift from independent to collaborative research forseveral reasons.Research findings, cloaked in jargon, have been unintelligible to communitiesor have been largely irrelevant to community needs. ..Native leaders nowadvocate research that is collaborative and meaningful to theircommunities.. .Native research takes place in an increasingly politicized andchaotic policy making environment.. .Our responsibility is to make explicit aparticipatory methodology whereby our own and the Native voice aredifferentiated and strengthened.. .Collaboration ensures self-reflection andinvites critical re-assessment of our methods (Warry, 1990:61-70).As a First Nations woman and student of anthropology, I was greatly inspired bythese words. They validated and re-confirmed my motivation for granting humanity toHeiltsuk people through a collaborative exhibit. It was also important to me that the researchbe useful, relevant to the research needs of my community and be told in more human terms,in language that was understandable both to my Nation and the general public.As an anthropologist, I find that my Heiltsuk origin confers four advantages. First, Ido not carry the baggage of non-Native anthropologists. Although some community memberswere initially a little reserved when I went to their homes, that rapidly disappeared andpeople became extraordinarily generous and forthcoming.Most of the members of our community view anthropologists with distrust andskepticism. Heiltsuk history and culture has been poorly documented by early ethnographersin comparison to their neighbours, the much studied Kwakwak’wakw peoples (Kolstee, 1988;Black, 1989:274). In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, anthropologists carrieda vision of the unspoiled, pure Native culture. Bella Bella was not considered to be one ofthese communities. One reason for this neglect is the early involvement of the Heiltsuk withmissionaries (Black, 1989:275). Early anthropologists like Franz Boas who studied theHeiltsuk concluded that “the whole culture of the Bella Bella has practically disappeared”(Boas, 1928:ix).22The Heiltsuk Band Council now screens anyone wishing to carry Out research in BellaBella. Since I was born in Bella Bella, and come from a big family who are fairly well-known and respected, it was easier for me to get formal permission from the Band Council todo research in my community. Because I am Heiltsuk, I was acutely aware of the need toshow proper respect to community members. Above all, it was important to me that I dojustice to my Nation in the exhibit.Once the people understood what my research was about, and knew that I would notmisuse or distort what they said to me in the interviews, our conversations became morecomfortable and people were very generous with their time and knowledge. Not only didthey feel freer about discussing their experiences, they grew excited about the exhibit.Second, with my knowledge of the people, territories, and their involvement in thetraditional and modem fisheries, I knew what to look for, who to talk to, and where to beginlooking. I also had access to the archival material and photos in the Heiltsuk Cultural Centre.My family which has been involved for years in the fishing and fish-processingindustry told me who to talk to in the community and pointed me in the direction of peoplewith good photo collections of Namu. As a community member, the people entrusted mewith some of their treasured family photos to use in the exhibit, many which had never beenseen.Most Heiltsuk families can boast of having three to four generations which havefished and worked in Namu and other central coast canneries. The photos brought backwarm memories of their fishing days, and cannery experiences. They also brought out apride in their heritage, of who they are and their family history.By using old photographs to look at the history of canneries like Namu, I was able togain a better sense of how Heiltsuk women connected their social and family life to theircannery work. Looking at photos of Namu brought back a flood of memories for many ofthe men and women I talked to. Liz Brown remembered her sister, Selina McKay gettingmarried at Namu. It was the biggest wedding in Namu. Other photos brought back23memories of when the management at Namu cannery took down the ‘Indian’ and ‘White’ signsfrom the washrooms (Brown, 1992 Personal Communication).Third, my life experience allowed me to critique the incomplete or slanted accountsand restore the balance by allowing people to speak for themselves. Although in the past, Ihad often reminisced with family and friends about our cannery experiences and traditionalfisheries, I was overwhelmed by the depth of knowledge and feeling which surfaced in theinterviews, especially from Elders in our community. Of particular interest to me was theirconcern about our traditional fisheries.The subject is not merely academic for me. Even as a city-dwelling Heiltsuk person,fish is still a big part of my life. Before I began my research, I had gone to Bella Bella on aregular basis to visit relatives and to get our annual supply of fish. My family cans fish on anannual basis. The whole process is an art in itself. It brings my family together socially aswell as prepares us for the year. My mother also maintains an extensive trade network withfamily, friends and relatives in Bella Bella and Kitasoo.Lastly, on a more personal note, as a member of the community I was able toparticipate fully in the life of my community. I attended a settlement feast that was hostedby my fathers’ family. First Nations people from all over the coast attended the occasion. Itwas a big family reunion. This family event, combined with discovering all the material onHeiltsuk history and Namu cannery, renewed my belief in myself as a Heiltsuk person andas a anthropology student. I have always been very proud of my identity, but in going backhome, my sense of identity as a Heiltsuk person was strengthened even more.Before I went to Bella Bella, I was extremely frustrated by academic life. Theuniversity world I experienced was very abstract and distant from the world I grew up in. Ifelt like I never belonged or was understood. I was also torn between my own ambivalentfeelings towards anthropology as it used to be, and the new “post-colonial” anthropology,where First Nations are now being given voice. My personal experience and the positiveresponse from my community validated my intention to prepare an exhibit.24WHY AN EXHIBIT?During my studies at U.B.C. and while I was working in MOA, I found myselfconstantly looking for ways to explain who we are as Heiltsuk people and what matters to us.I also found it frustrating trying to explain to non-Native people how important fish is to FirstNations people.Museums have been criticized by First Nations for presenting Native history andculture as though it is static, dying, or as though it no longer exists (Ignace, 1993:168-169).One of the ways MOA responded to the criticism was to re-examine the way theyrepresented First Nations people. Source books which use photos and texts to give museumvisitors a better understanding of the lives of First Nations people in B.C. were seen as oneway to help correct the stereotypical depictions of Native people. The concept of sourcebooks was in fact, first developed by MOA.I think the first time the idea of an exhibit came to me was when I took a MuseumStudies course, Anthropology 431, in my undergraduate years. Students were given achoice of mounting a group exhibit or developing a source book. I chose to do a sourcebook on the history of the involvement of First Nations in the fishing industry in B.C. Toshow the continuity and longstanding relationship First Nations have with fish, I used oldand contemporary photographs.Students in the Museum Studies course were encouraged to follow strict ethicalprocedures in developing a source book. One of the most important piece of advice studentswere given was the need for more consultation with First Nations people. The NativeBrotherhood of B.C. reviewed my source book to ensure that my facts were correct, and thatit respected the views of First Nations people who were involved in the fishing and fishprocessing industries. It also went through further editorial review by Dr. M. Kew and Dr.M. Ames. Although it was a time consuming process, I could see the value of it by thefinished product. It was also being read by museum visitors. After going through thislearning process, I decided to do an exhibit.25The idea of doing an exhibit as a way to present the Heiltsuk perspective and to allowthe people to speak for themselves was also reinforced by my frustration at the incompletepicture presented in academic literature. Yes it is true First Nations people worked incanneries for 10 cents an hour. It is also true that they worked long hours under poorworking conditions. But the way we are represented ultimately belittles the canneryexperiences and lives of First Nations.It is equally true that they enjoyed working in canneries. For years First Nationswomen were the backbone of the fish-canning industry. Lillian Windsor, who worked inNamu for many years commented to me:Sometimes we get together, and the ladies reminisce, and say remember this,remember that. We’d go to work at 8 a.m. in the morning and get off at 2o’clock in the morning in the cold storage. I’d go home and wash diapers andhang them out, and then go to bed and get up again at 7:00 a.m., just a fewhours sleep. But I enjoyed work in Namu (Windsor, 1992 PersonalCommunication).The idea of giving ‘voice’ to the people was in part inspired by Village Journey (1985)where Thomas Berger allows the people to tell their own story in their own words. Thismakes the people come to life for the reader. It also gives a better understanding of theimportance of ‘subsistence’ to the Alaskan Native people. Subsistence means to them whatthe fisheries means to us.To the extent possible, the exhibit was structured to allow the men and women Iinterviewed to speak for themselves. These voices speak eloquently both of cannery daysand of the meaning and importance of fish to our people. Through oral testimonies, photosand archival records, we begin to see just how strong-willed and tough Heiltsuk womenwere. In the words of Selina McKay:It didn’t take the company long to realize that in those years the hours werevery long. It didn’t take them very long to find out that the Indian ladiesespecially could work longer hours then the others. I remember one time weworked almost twenty-four hours, and about the eighteenth hour some ofthem, non-Indians, they were leaving and some of them were actually so tired,they were crying (Selina McKay, 1992 Personal Communication).26Listening to Heiltsuk people speak about their lives in Namu, we get a real sense ofthe people themselves and their close ties to the sea. These resources were at their backdoor.Irene Brown puts it well:My husband Maxwell and I were always involved in Namu. We used to bowlall the time. We used to also go up the lake for picnics. Summertime, we’d goto Koeye. Max [her husband] used to have a speedboat and we were out onthe boat a lot. It was so handy to have, we used to go seaweed picking,jigging, clam digging and everything. We used to get lots of abalone (Brown,1992 Personal Communication).Although I came under considerable pressure to abandon the idea of an exhibit andpresent a more “classic” thesis hidebound by the strictures of academia, my first inclinationto curate an exhibit was re-confirmed by the sheer volume of information which I unearthedin my community and archival research. The only way to do justice to the information andthe women and men I interviewed was through an exhibit. The exhibit let me show you thepeople in my community and our history. It allows the people to speak for themselves. Theirwords and photos tell their story.PREPARING THE EXHIBITThere were five stages to preparing the exhibit. The first step was to outline theconcept. In developing the exhibit, I deliberately chose not to follow normal museumguidelines for putting an exhibit together. From my earlier work on the source book onfishing, I had developed a clear mental picture of how my exhibit would look.I was, however, influenced to some extent by the research strategies of historianDianne Newell, who uses ethnohistory to look at the social history of cannery sites. Shepoints out that:There are three lines of evidence with allow us to study aspects of the materialexpressions of cannery culture: relevant historic photographs, interviews withsurviving cannery people, and old fire insurance plans of the sites. Each ofthese sources contains special details about the social, economic,technological, and spatial aspects of life at the canneries.. .They allow us to27deal with three critical components that are often missing in traditionalsources about industry - spatial, female and racial (199 1:26-27).The exhibit uses government reports, oral testimony from Heiltsuk men and women,early ethnographies on the Northwest Coast, surviving fire insurance maps from Namucannery, historic and contemporary photos and archival material to reveal the significant roleof Heiltsuk people in the development of the modern fishing industry and the importance ofthe traditional fisheries to Heiltsuk people. Using this strategy to tell the story of Heiltsukpeople and fish, I was also able to show the important role fish continues to play in shapingour identity.The second stage was to do the research for the exhibit. This was accomplished overa period of two years. The first step was to get the written consent of Heiltsuk Band Councilfor the research and interviews. I was also given access to archival material in the HeiltsukCultural Centre. The staff were very supportive of the idea of an exhibition and went out oftheir way to help.I went to Waglisla in June 1992, and spent one month interviewing communitymembers. I was also fortunate to travel to Namu on my uncle’s gilinetter and tour the oldcannery site.I spoke to a number of community members about the exhibit beforehand to makethem more aware of my research and what it entailed. Unfortunately, time limited thenumber of people I could interview. Since the exhibit was focused around the Namu canneryexperience, I interviewed mainly Heiltsuk people. All interviews were voluntary. Most ofthe interviews were held in the interviewees’ homes or the community school. FromNovember 1992 to January 1993, I interviewed several on and off-reserve Heiltsuk womenand a former B.C. Packers employee who worked in Namu.I chose to visit Bella Bella in June before the start of the fishing season in July. WhatI overlooked was that most of the men would be getting ready for the fishing season or busywith the traditional fisheries. As a result, I interviewed more women. In the end, the wordsof seventeen Heiltsuk women, four Heiltsuk men, and one long-time employee of B.C.28Packers open a window on a period of history which has not been well documented. Theinterviews also evoke a flood of warm memories.The third stage of preparing the exhibit was to get the consent and approval from allthe people who gave so generously of their time and knowledge to tell the story of Heiltsukpeople and fish. This included the use of the quotes and photos for exhibit display.Transcribing the interviews was one of the most time-consuming aspects ofdeveloping the exhibit. The whole process, which included transcribing and sending thefinished copy to the women and men interviewed for their approval, took approximately fivemonths to complete. In all, I ended up with some 250 pages of transcript, which will bestored in the Heiltsuk Cultural Centre. I then had to identify recurring themes and choosequotes that best captured and illustrated the points raised by the people I interviewed. I alsotook great pains to ensure that each person’s memories were fairly represented. Thesethemes, quotations and reminiscences are presented in the exhibit.During this time, I was also searching various museums and archives in and beyondthe lower mainland of Vancouver for photographs of Namu cannery. I ended up with somany valuable and interesting photographs that I had to go through a rigorous process ofelimination to select those I would be using in the exhibit. Many of them had never beenseen by community members or published. I used some of my own family photos and wasalso fortunate to find several rare photos from the families of two former SisterhoodPresidents. I then wrote for permission to use them for display purposes. Not surprisingly,most of the photos used in the exhibit came from my community.The fourth stage of developing the exhibit involved editorial guidance and approvalof the text to be used for Cannery Days. Those involved in this process included Dr. MichaelAmes, the Director of MOA, Dr. Marjorie Halpin, Curator of Ethnology at MOA, DavidCunningham, Designer at MOA and my two Advisors from the Department of Anthropologyand Sociology, Dr. Julie Cruikshank and Dr. Michael Kew.29The selection of quotations and photographs plus writing the captions and supportingtext was, I thought, the final step. Not so. The fifth and final stage was to mount the exhibitat MOA. Finding a suitable colour of matte board for the 30” x 22” frames was a task initself, to say nothing of cutting it to size. I then found that, despite the long sorting, I still hadmore material than the Theatre Gallery at MOA would hold. The final sorting, text editing,mounting and hanging the Exhibit involved a great deal more work than I had anticipated.The Exhibit was hung on May 15 and officially opened on May 18, 1993. It ran until themiddle of January 1994.In this final stage of mounting the exhibit, I learned a lot of new skills from thetechnical staff of MOA. For example, I learned: how to design a low-cost exhibit, newcomputer and photography skills, the steps to follow in mounting an exhibit, and how to costand budget exhibits. Without the resources of MOA, and the skills and knowledge ofDesigners, David Cunningham, Bill McLennan and Skooker Broome, I would have beenhard pressed to mount the exhibit. For their help and guidance, I am grateful.The exhibit will travel to Waglisa in January 1994, and then to other smallcommunities on the coast, such as Oweekeno, U’Mista Cultural Centre, Klemtu, Nuxalk, PortEdward cannery, as well as urban museums such as the Richmond, Delta, and Stevestonmuseums.30EXHIBIT FINDINGSAs ours is an oral history we are most often seen through the perceptions of non-Native researchers. As a student of anthropology, I was searching for new ways to present aFirst Nations perspective. In its use of quotes and visual images, the exhibit provides balanceto written accounts. It transmits a sense of continuity through a series of visual images frompetroglyphs to modern seine boats. It counterbalances the tables and statistics ofconventional academic studies with images of real people.I also found that an exhibit is a way to reach beyond the academic community to awider audience. Academic studies, while accessible to the general public, are not widelyread. By contrast, in allowing people to speak for themselves, indeed, by putting a humanface on the relationship between First Nations and fish, my exhibit speaks to a broaderaudience.The central difference between my exhibit and an academic study of the same topic isthat the exhibit provided me with a medium of expression that allowed me to tell aboutHeiltsuk people and fish in a way that brought the people to life. To read the accounts ofMuszynski, McDonald and Stainsby, the lives of cannery workers sound grey and dreary.Reality was far otherwise; people had a lot of fun and enjoyed cannery work. For the peoplewho lived and worked in Namu, it was not just a place to can fish, it had many meanings andwarm memories.A strict ethical review process reassured the community members interviewed thattheir information would not be cited out of context or without their permission. The fact thatI am a member of the Heiltsuk Nation encouraged the generosity of community memberswith their time and in sharing their traditional knowledge and treasured photographs.Although it was an afterthought, the Comment book proved to be a useful researchand survey tool to capture public response and should be an integral part of the exhibit in its31travels. I anticipated and received favourable comments from First Nations people. Forexample, Viola Thomas from the Secwepemc Nation says:I really like how you portrayed the racism and the care and compassion FirstNations have for fish - I only wish people from the B.C. Sports fisheries andUnion people could see this exhibit - I hope you will do more exhibits tochallenge mainstream people’s thinking and continue to ensure our stories aretold from our own unique perspectives (MOA, 1993).For First Nations people, it is important that we begin telling our own stories. Russ Jonesfrom the Haida Nation wrote:I’m glad that someone is documenting this interesting part of our history fromour perspective. Well done (MOA, 1993).I was agreeably surprised by the number and warmth of favourable comments from Museumvisitors from B.C. and worldwide. Pania Noema from New Zealand wrote:Thank you for allowing us to share in such a special way your history andlives. Beautifully told, great snaps of everyday people and life (MOA, 1993).It also invited critical dialogue from museum visitors about fish. Joy and Miles Bigg fromGrassington, Yorkshire U.K. wrote:What hope is there of keeping all this traditional industry alive, in today’sgreedy “economics is all” climate” (MOA, 1993).The exhibit was getting the message across. Some of the comments also show the need formore exhibits like Cannery Days. For example, A. Kenlyling (unknown place of residence)wrote:Wish the Museum of Anthropology would sponsor more research orientedlocal histories with a point of view which has a stake in reviving a buriedhistory (MOA, 1993).As the exhibit travels and reaches other audiences, successive comment books will serve tocapture perceptions of different sections of the community (fishing community, schools etc.).The exhibit prompted positive responses from the Aboriginal Museum InternshipProgram at Victoria and the Canadian Museum of Civilization to assist in developingmuseum training programs that are relevant to the needs of First Nations communities. It canserve as a guide for further development of low-cost exhibits or displays that can be used byschools, community centres and cultural centres.32Although the exhibit was developed before Turning The Page: Forging NewPartnerships Between Museums And First Peoples, (1992) the joint Task Force Report onMuseums and First Peoples came out, Cannery Days meets several of the Task Forcerecommendations.11Although it was ultimately rewarding, my own and past experience shows that anM.A. exhibit-thesis requires a great deal more time, effort and indeed expense, than astandard written M.A. thesis. This raises the question of where an exhibit-thesis should fitinto the hierarchy of M.A. and Ph.D. theses. In fairness to those who come after me,consideration should be given to developing criteria for the production and evaluation of anM.A. exhibit-thesis and to identifying monetary and other resources for the incorporation ofexhibits into both the M,A. and Ph.D. programmes.It may also be worth observing that the MOA mandate,12 while well intentioned, isstill Eurocentric. Consideration should be given to expanding the mandate to explicitlyinclude the idea of the ability of other cultures “to hold a mirror to our own.”Task Force on Museums and First Peoples, Turning the Page: Forging New Partnerships BetweenMuseums and First Peoples (Ottawa: 1992) (Chair: Tom Hill and Dr. Trudy Nicks). The exhibit responds to:the need for better representation of First Nations in museum exhibits, increased involvement of Aboriginalpeoples in the interpretation of their culture and history, and links First Nations heritage with relevantcontemporary issues (Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Museums Association, 1992:4).12 See MOA Guidelines. The mandate of MOA “has always been concerned with the study and portrayal ofhuman achievements from around the world as a means of furthering understanding of other cultures” (1988:1-2).33CONCLUSIONSThe exhibit, Cannery Days - A Chapter In The Lives Of The Heiltsuk had two majorthemes, the continuing importance of fish to First Nations culture and economy, and thepivotal role of Heiltsuk people in the development of the fishing and fish-processing industryon the central coast of B.C.This thesis also has two themes. The first is an examination of the value of exhibitslike Cannery Days in allowing First Nations people to tell their own story. A second,unexpected but important, theme which emerged as the exhibit and thesis progressed, is anexamination of my ability to function as an anthropologist without losing my identity as aFirst Nations woman. Of necessity, this led me to explore the potential for fruitfulcollaboration between Native and non-Native researchers.It is inevitable that as a First Nation person, I will be perceived as coming from apoint of advocacy. This is a cross I have to bear. What it means to me and other FirstNations anthropologists is that we have to be doubly vigilant to ensure that we do full justiceto our area of research by presenting all the evidence in objective terms with minimaleditorial comment.The exhibit provided a forum for First Nations people and the academic communityto collaborate while maintaining dignity and respect on both sides. With the pending treatynegotiations in B.C., it is crucial that First Nations find new ways to increase publicunderstanding that fish is their wealth. My personal experience of mounting an exhibit whichwas well received by academics, First Nations and the museum public, leads me to believe inthe value of continuing fruitful collaboration between Native and non-Native researchers.34BibliographyAmes, Michael1992 Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology ofMuseums. Vancouver:University of B.C. Press.Berger, Thomas R.1992 A Long And Terrible Shadow, White Values, Native Rights In The Americas 1492-1992. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.1985 Village Journey, The Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission. NewYork: Hill and Wang.Black, Martha1989 Looking For Bella Bella: The R.W. Large Collection And Heiltsuk Art History.The Canadian Journal OfNative Studies, Vol. 9 (2) pp. 273-292.Blyth, Gladys Young1991 Salmon Canneries, British Columbia North Coast. Lantzville: Oolichan Books.Boaz, Franz1928 Bella Bella Texts. Reprinted 1969, New York: AMS Press.Brody, Hugh1981 Maps And Dreams, Indians and the British Columbia Frontier. Canada: Douglas& McIntyre.Canada1875 Report of the Government ofBritish Columbia on the Subject ofIndian Resen.’es.Victoria: Government Printer.1882 Department of Indian Affairs. Annual Report. Ottawa.Canadian Native Law Reporter1993 Canadian Native Law Reporter, [1993] 4 C.N.L.R. With Cumulative Indexes.Saskatchewan: University of Saskatchewan.Carison, Roy L.1990 Cultural Antecedents. In Handbook ofNorth American Indians. Vol. 7.Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles, pp.60-69. Washington, DC:Smithsonian Institution Press.Carmichael, Alfred1891 “Account of a Season’s Work at a Salmon Cannery.” UnpublishedCorrespondance, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.Dominguez, Virginia1987 Of Other Peoples: Beyond the Salvage Paradigm. In Discussions inContemporary Culture, edited by Hal Foster, pp.131-137. Seattle: Bay Press.35Fougner, Ivan1916 Department of Indian Affairs. Records ofBritish Columbia Indian Agents, 1881-1948. Ottawa: National Archives of Canada.Gladstone, Percy Henry1959 Industhal Disputes in the Commercial Fisheries of BC. Unpublished MA thesis,University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.Gould, Jennifer & Susanne Stone1968 eds., Bella Bella Stories. Told by the People ofBella Bella. Vancouver: B.C.Indian Advisory Committee.Harkin, Michael1986 Interview with Ed Martin. Field Notes. Waglisla: Heiltsuk Cultural Centre.Hilton, Susanne1990 Haishais, Bella Bella, and Oowekeeno. In Handbook ofNorth American Indians.Vol. 7. Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles, pp. 3 12-322. Washington,DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Hobler, Philip1990 Prehistory of the Central Coast of British Columbia. In Handbook ofNorthAmerican Indians. Vol. 7. Northwest Coast, edited by Wayne Suttles, pp. 298-305. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.Ignace, Ron1993 Some Native Perspectives on Anthropology and Public Policy. In Anthropology,Public Policy and Native Peoples in Canada, edited by Noel Dyck and James B.Waldram, pp. 166-19 1. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Joseph, Gene1981 History of the Native Brotherhood ofBritish Columbia. Vancouver: NativeBrotherhood of B.C.Kolstee, Anton1988 To Impersonate The Supernatural: Music and Ceremony of the BellaBellalHeiltsuk Indians of British Columbia. Ph.D. dissertation, Urbana, illinois:University of Illinois.Knight, Rolf1978 Indians At Work. An Informal History ofNative indian Labour in BC 1858-1 930.Vancouver: New Star Books.Lane, Barbara1990 Harvesting of Herring Spawn and Commerce in Herring Spawn by the Heiltsuk(Bella Bella) Indians of Central British Columbia From Aboriginal Times to thePresent. Unpublished paper, Vancouver.Large, Geddes1968 Drums and Scalpel. Vancouver: Mitchell Press.Lyons, Cecily1969 Salmon: Our Heritage. Vancouver: Mitchell Press Limited.36Marchak, M. Patricia, Neil Guppy and John McMullan1987 Uncommon Property: The Fishing and Fish Processing Industries in BritishColumbia. Agincourt: Methuen Publications.McDonald, James1984 Trying To Make A Life. Ph.D. dissertation, University of British Columbia,Vancouver.Meggs, Geoff and Duncan Stacey1992 Cork Lines and Canning Lines, The Glory Years ofFishing on the West Coast.Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.Mitchell, Marjorie & Anna Franklin1989 When You Don’t Know the Language, Listen to the Silence: An HistoricalOverview of Native Indian Women. In B. C. New Canadian Readings. A HistoryofBritish Columbia, Selected Readings. Edited by Patricia E. Roy, Copp ClarkPitman Ltd., pp. 49-68. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman Ltd.Mitchell, Nancy Marie1990 Oppositional Theory And Minority Museums. Unpublished Paper. University ofBritish Columbia Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver.Muszynski, Alicja1988 Race and gender: structural determinants in the formation of British Columbia’ssalmon cannery labour forces. Canadian Journal of Sociology. 13:1-2.1987 The Creation and Organization of Cheap Wage Labour in the British ColumbiaFishing Industry. Ph.D. dissertation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.1986 Class Formation and Class Consciousness: The Making of Shoreworkers in theB.C. Fishing Industry. Studies in Political Economy. 20:85-116.1984 The Organization of Women and Ethnic Minorities in a Resource Industry: ACase Study of the Unionization of Shoreworkers in the B.C. Fishing Industry1937-1949. Journal of Canadian Studies, 19:89-107.Newell, Dianne1993 Tangled Webs: Indians And The Law In Canadac Pacific Coast Fisheries.Toronto: University of Toronto Press.1991 The Industrial Archaeology of the Organization of Work: A Half Century ofWomen and Racial Minorities in British Columbia Fish Plants. Material HistoryReview, 33:25-36.1989 The Development of the Pacific Salmon-Canning Industry: A Grown Mans Game.Montreal: McGill-Queens’ University Press.1988 Dispersal and Concentration: The Slowly Changing Spatial Pattern of the BritishColumbia Salmon Canning Industry. Journal ofHistorical Geography, 14:22-36.Nicks, Trudy and Tom Hill1992 Turning the Page: Forging New Partnerships between Museums and FirstPeoples. Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association.37Pearse, Peter1992 Managing Salmon In The Fraser Report to the Minister ofFisheries and Oceanson the Fraser River Salmon Investigation, with Scientific and Technical Advicefrom Peter A. Larkin. Vancouver: Department of Fisheries and Oceans.1982 Turning the Tide: A New Policy for Canada Pacific Fisheries. Commission onPacific Fisheries Policy, 1981 [Pearse Commission]. Final Report. Ottawa:Minister of Supply and Services Canada.Pinkerton, Evelyn1989 ed. Co-Operative Management ofLocal Fisheries, New Directionsfor ImprovedManagement & Community Development. Vancouver: University of BritishColumbia Press.Scow, Peter1987 Native Brotherhood of British Columbia. License Study 1987: A ProposalforRestitution. Vancouver: Native Brotherhood of British Columbia.Sparrow, Leona1976 Work Histories of a Coast Salish Couple. MA thesis, University of BritishColumbia, Vancouver.Stainsby, Gillian Mary1991 “It’s the Smell of Money”: Women Shoreworkers of British Columbia. MAthesis, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.Tolmie, William Fraser1963 The Journals of William Fraser Tolmie: Physician and Fur Trader. Vancouver:Mitchell Press.UBC Museum of Anthropology1982 Revised July 1993. UBC Museum of Anthropology Professional Guidelines.1993 Unpublished notes from Comment Book on exhibit, Cannery Days - A Chapter InThe Lives of the Heiltsuk, UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver.Vancouver, University of British Columbia, Department of Anthropology and Sociology.1992 Taped Interviews with Irene Brown, Mary Hunt, Annie Wilson, Phyllis McKay,Phillip Hall, Maggie Windsor, Marshall Windsor, Lila Hanuse, Maggie Hunt,Emma Humchitt, Florence Humchitt, Paul Thompson, Elizabeth Hall, ElsieHumchitt, Mary Campbell, Chester Lawson, Lillian Windsor, and Rena Brown,Waglisla, B.C.; Elizabeth Brown, Selina McKay, Bev Brown and Lorne Hume,Vancouver, B.C.Warry, Wayne1990 Doing Unto Others: Applied Anthropology, Collaborative Research and NativeSelf-determination. Culture, X (1):61-73.38


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