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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Southern Yukon beadwork objects : a narrative of reclaiming culture Johnson, Ingrid


This thesis concerns the process and outcomes of my research involving a group of Southern Yukon beadwork objects, a project carried out on behalf of the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon, in 1993. I studied the objects themselves, researched museum documentation of them, and subsequently interviewed several women elders/beadworkers. In the thesis I examine several ways of studying and researching material culture and provide an analysis of these methods. Looking at objects in different ways tells us something about the nature of them but raises new questions which I address here. Reviewing museum collections records tells us more about the institution and the institutional lives of the objects than about their original context and meaning. Asking elders about the objects inspires them to speak about many seemingly unconnected topics: history, personal and mythical stories, and long ago life and times. An underlying theme which emerged in interviews with elders was their commentary on cultural and societal change within the First Nations community and how this has affected the process of learning for younger generations. I argue that beadwork objects can be best understood as learning and teaching tools for First Nations people of every generation, that their creation and essence are linked to every aspect of the culture, and their reclamation cannot properly happen without observance of all of these connections.

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