UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From feasts to Facebook and back again : technology, media, and belonging among urban Nisga'a and Tsimshian youth Wolowic, Jennifer Marie


For urban Tsimshian and Nisga’a youth in Prince Rupert, cell phones, cameras and Facebook are among the latest tools used to connect with families and friends across geographical distance as well as address the historical, cultural, and economic gaps created by processes of displacement. Traditional Northwest Coast First Nations’ social practices and feasts are expressed in intensely public ways; that visibility construct and maintain their social relationships and communities. Although the youth I met sometimes feel alienated from larger Canadian society as well as from village communities and feast protocols, traditional ideas of public participation embedded in social activities are sometimes successfully remediated to digital technology and Facebook for two reasons. First, public presentation and dissemination have effectively stabilized Northwest Coast First Nations’ societies across vast geographical distances for centuries. Second, the continued emphasis on public expression is part of new, creative ways the youth and families I met use mobile digital technology to create an active, somewhat de-localized, community-based support system. It is a response to colonization that creates opportunities to find and manage economic, emotional, and social support. As one result, I argue digital technology and media have become part of a succession of technological practices and tools used to create community, identity, and social stability for young people. By exploring historical practices as they relate to digital technology—some of which was introduced via photography and media production during the course of this research—I explore traditional and emergent modes of public participation that connects youth to their heritage and community, while addressing their unique needs.

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