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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reclaiming symbols and history in multiple zones : experiencing Coast Salish culture and identity through performance at Hiwus Feasthouse Scarangella, Linda


This ethnographic research project examines the re-creation, performance and dissemination of identity through performance (storytelling, song, and dance) at a tourist site, Hiwus Feasthouse. In general, this thesis examines how the Salish negotiate meaning and significance through performance. The overall objective is to explore what Hiwus, as a site for creating and performing identity, means to the Coast Salish people who work there. This thesis demonstrates how the Salish at Hiwus have a great deal of agency in terms of the content of performances, unlike many other tourist sites where the corporation often controls the program. I suggest that the Salish employees express layers of a "meshed identity" - local, ethnic-tribal, Canadian, and pan-Indian - at different times throughout the performances. I also suggest that the First Nations people at Hiwus deconstruct the "imaginary Indian" via performance and valorize their own re-imagination of history and identity. I propose that they do this by drawing on Salish epistemology and world-views. In particular, I demonstrate how Salish understandings of "place" and the use of a "ceremonial framework" at Hiwus provide the Salish a way of sorting through multiple zones of contact. This thesis contributes to the anthropological literature on tourism in that it focuses on First Nations people's agency, views, and perspectives. I also challenge problematic terms such as authenticity, "staged authenticity," and tradition. The current literature on tourism lacks a workable theoretical framework for examining the dialogical interactions at tourist sites. I attempt to deal with this dilemma by drawing on my own ethnographic data, complemented by the existing ethnographic literature, to examine how the Salish perform identity and culture at Hiwus.

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