UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Interaction of myth and social contect in the village of Cape Mudge the myths of a people are bound into the total system of social relations Inglis, Joyce Gloria


The problem around which this thesis is written concerns the relation of myth to social organization in a small society. The society chosen for intensive study is Cape Madge, British Columbia, a Kwakiutl village of the Southern Lekwiltok group on the Northwest coast of North America. That myth and social organization are bound in together in a total system of social relations has been demonstrated for primitive societies by such eminent anthropologists as Raymond Firth, Bronislaw Malinowski, and Sir Peter Buck for the Oceanic area. The material gathered by Boas for the Kwakiutl of the Northwest coast of North America implies the same for traditional Kwakiutl society. Myths interact with all other elements of social structure and organization, so that the total system of social relations in the society is not to be understood without an understanding of the role of myth in providing a wide frame of reference within which the total social behavior of the members of the society becomes significant. This proposition has been accepted into the body of generalizations about primitive society built up In the field of anthropology. It does not Imply a conception of society as an apparatus maintaining the culture as it is, since all cultures are changing by the stresses inherent in social interaction and by the choices open to individuals. The empirical data brought forward in this thesis to support the assumption that myth and social organisation are bound together in a system of social relationships demonstrate that such a system is not closed, but open to adjustment without apparent opposition. This thesis is an attempt to give fuller meaning to the generalisation that the myths of a people are bound into the total system of social relations. The proposition advanced here is that even under conditions of advanced acculturation (to Western European culture) in a small once tribal society, myth will play a part. Where the old myths fade, new ones will arise to take their places in the, changing social context. The alteration of social structure, of social organisation, and of the roles played by individuals will create the need for maintaining some ancient myths that underwrite the worthiness of the individual and group. New myths will arise to justify rapidly changing patterns of behavior under the impact of Euro-American culture. This proposition has been tested and supported by the data derived from field work. Upon the basis of the affirmation of this proposition by data derived in a small society in the process of rapid change, the above hypothesis may be generalised to suggest that in all tribal societies moving rapidly into the orbit of advanced ones, myth will not be lost. Just as social structure, social organization and the roles of individuals will change feat be fitted into new configurations, so myth will not disappear but be transfigured or newly created in order to meet the needs of people for an understanding of their changing existence. The operation of myth and social context In Cape Hudge society today is discussed in this thesis by reference to the operation of myths in two important areas of social organizations social control and values. The exploration of myth in these areas touches upon most aspects of life in the village. Intensive field work was of one month's duration in the summer of 1963 when I lived with my husband and three children in the village but casual contacts and interest in the village had extended over a ten-year period prior to the formal study. The contacts made by my husband, two teen-age children and on pre-school child extended the range of social contacts very considerably. The definition of my position as wife and mother was of prime importance to my ready acceptance. The villagers had happily been introduced to anthropologists through Helen Codere who left behind an atmosphere of admiration and trust. The villagers expressed the opinion that other villages were getting anthropologists interested in them and they thought it was high time for someone from the University to come again. The field work situation could not have been more propitious I wish to express my sincere regard for the great achievements of these people and my thanks for their generosity and hospitality.

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