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Producing materials, places and identities : a study of encounters in the Alberni Valley Green, Denise Nicole


This dissertation explores how Nuuchaanulth people living in Port Alberni, British Columbia articulate their sense of place and belonging in the Alberni Valley through tuupatii (ceremonial rights and privileges), genealogies, histories, material culture, and everyday engagement with the landscape. Port Alberni is a small town located in the Alberni Valley, a region rich in resources at the head of Barkley Sound on the Western coast of Vancouver Island. The Valley has been home to the Huupach’esat-h for thousands of years, but in the last 200 years has become a coming-together-place for Nuuchaanulth people more generally. As such, I explore how Nuuchaanulth people produce places within the Valley, engage with the haahuulthii (traditional chiefly territories) of the Huupach’esat-h First Nation, and experience ongoing colonialism. I examine how places are produced through encounters between peoples, histories, memories, supernatural phenomena, material artifacts, ceremonies, and forms of cultural knowledge. I develop the concept of encounter to interpret how places are produced through frictional interfaces. Drawing upon four-and-a-half years of ethnographic research, I have found that cultural practices, such as potlatching, addressing grief, knowing genealogies, and participating in oral traditions, have strengthened Nuuchaanulth communities in the Valley amidst entrenched capitalism and ongoing colonialism. I begin by using the concept of encounter to illustrate histories on the Westcoast generally, and the Alberni Valley more specifically. Next, I focus on particular encounters between families of the Huupach’esat-h, Hikuulthat-h, and Nash’asat-h to connect genealogies to production of knowledge and place. In the last three chapters, I use different cultural forms (e.g., dress, weaving, and ceremonial curtains) to illustrate how bodies and materials work together to produce understandings of place. My intention is to give a sense of the contemporary situation facing Huupach’esat-h people, who live amidst histories, animate materials, and ongoing colonialism in the Valley

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada