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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Representation, revision and resistance Jaffary, Nora Elizabeth


This is a preliminary examination of a body of coastal Tlingit oral narratives about first contact with Europeans collected and recorded by ethnologists between 1886 and 1984. In this paper, I compare how three features of the contact situation -- the Tlingit's initial perception of European ships, the nature of the first Tlingit-white interaction, and the Tlingit's reactions to European cultural products -- are portrayed in different versions of the accounts. I adopt the idea that one useful way to interpret these narratives is to understand them as a means by which the Tlingit interpret and order their past, and I argue that both the immobility of some features in the narratives, as well as the transformation of others, can perhaps best be understood if the chronicles are analyzed within the historical contexts in which they were told. Such an analysis reveals that a correlation may exist between the way contact with Europeans is depicted in the narratives and the historical events and social structures that were having significant impact upon the Tlingit's existence at the time of their telling. And I suggest in this study that this correlation demonstrates that the Tlingit, far from possessing ritualized, immobile, or mythic preconceptions of the past, possess active historical traditions that, like all historical traditions, are periodically revised and reinterpreted in the light of new information and insight.

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