UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

sq̓əq̓ip : gathered together Wilson, Jordan P. H.


The Musqueam First Nation are a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking people whose traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory encompasses what is now the Greater Vancouver area. Our main village and reserve is located at mouth of the Fraser River, and the ancestors of present-day Musqueam people have lived in this estuary for thousands of years. This thesis responds to a two-part research question: what forms does biography take, and what role does it have in the contemporary Musqueam community? As a Musqueam community member and researcher, I provide an ethnographic account of two distinct experiences to answer this question: a life history recording project conducted with a Musqueam Elder, as well as several sessions spent with an advisory group for the community-based museum exhibit "c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city." By drawing on the first account, I underscore the continued importance of place and place-based practices, particularly in remembering and sharing lived experiences. I also highlight the personal nature of how individuals relate to place. By drawing on the second account, I demonstrate a) the inseparability of narrating lived experiences and carrying forward our community’s distinct values, worldviews, laws, history, practices (otherwise known as snəw̓eyəɬ – teachings received since childhood); b) the collective nature of telling and remembering biographies and community history; and c) how this form of oral tradition – of life-telling – requires its own set of skills. I conclude that conversation, and more particularly, listening to expert storytellers gathered together, influenced not only the curation of an exhibit, but also how it can potentially inform other forms of representation such as biography and ethnography. This thesis seeks to contribute to the literature and discourses around the production of Indigenous life histories, oral history, Coast Salish and Northwest Coast ethnography, and the representation of Indigenous communities, particularly in the realm of museum work.

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