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Trying to make a life : the historical political economy of Kitsumkalum McDonald, James Andrew


Anthropological inquiries into the human condition have long been tempered with a concern for the difficulties experienced by non-Western societies faced with prolonged contact with the expanding Western social systems. In economic anthropology, studies of contemporary tribal and peasant societies have turned to the literature on development and underdevelopment to explain the features and processes that are associated with that contact. This dissertation is the result of such research into the social and economic problems on the Northwest Coast. The work examines the history and ethhography of the Tsimshian Indians to determine the underlying social forces that led to and still maintain the underdevelopment of the social and economic potential of Tsimshian groups. Particular attention is given to the form and dynamics of the Tsimshian economy, of the regional expression of the expanding world market economy, and the relations between the two. The dissertation thus explores the socioeconomic aspects of the interlock between Indian development and the evolving development of capital. The Tsimshian village of Kitsumkalum was the focus of the inquiry. Using its history, I document how the changes which brought about an economic reversal for the native people were at the same time favourable to the establishment and growth of industrial capital in the region. Two sets of factors are critical for understanding.this shift: (1) new forms of property which, through government intervention, transferred ownership and control of the factors of production to the industrialists, and in the process redefined the resources, technology and labour in terms consistent with the development of capital; (2) the diversion of Tsimshian resources, technology and labour out of traditional production into the modern economy, where they were transformed and ultimately became dependent on the vagaries of a global market in which the Tsimshians had little or no control. The specific information in the dissertation explains how these processes occurred, how the independence of the old political economy was undermined, how an ostensibly "peaceful penetration" of the area occurred as a result, and how the Tsimshian responded by alternately accommodating and resisting the situation.

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