Edited and with an introduction by Barnett Richling
In 1935, National Museum of Canada anthropologist Diamond Jenness did several months of fieldwork with the Coast Salish peoples of southwestern Vancouver Island. His main focus was the WSANEC, then a little-known group whose reserves lay on the Saanich Peninsula, a short distance from Victoria. Here, and later in neighbouring areas, local elders shared with him their knowledge of the “old ways,” a mode of living they all knew at first-hand in their younger days.
Covering a wide array of subjects, everything from fishing practices and marriage customs to conceptions of the natural world around them, the elders filled Jenness’ notebooks with the substance of what stood to become a major contribution to the growing literature on the indigenous peoples of Canada’s Pacific northwest. But when World War II intervened and he was called away to other duties, his partly-finished manuscript—The Saanich Indians of Vancouver Island—was set aside, the only of his many museum-sponsored ethnographic researches to remain unpublished in his lifetime. Now, with publication of The WSANEC and their Neighbours, the words and insights of those elders, written down eighty years ago, are available to a general readership for the first time. Drawing on Jenness’ notes, editor Barnett Richling has completed the book as originally planned, supplementing the material with annotations, illustrations, and a collection of Salish myths and legends the anthropologist recorded during the same field trip. The result is a highly readable account, a blend of ethnography and oral history favouring description over analysis, and plain language over jargon. This body of WSANEC traditional knowledge comprises a valuable addition to scholarship on Coast Salish peoples, and also forms an excellent companion piece to Richling’s recent edition of Jenness’ Three Athapaskan Ethnographies.
BARNETT RICHLING is a senior scholar in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Winnipeg, and author of In Twilight and in Dawn: A Biography of Diamond Jenness (McGill-Queens, 2012). He taught for many years at Mount St. Vincent University.
"Barnett Richling ... has compiled Jenness's only unpublished notes with minimal editing into a book that is immediately engaging and highly readable. Jenness's narrative is packed full of information about the lives of the WSANEC and five other Coast Salish bands.... With a keen ear, genuine interest in, and a high regard for Native culture, Jenness immersed himself in the WSANEC culture and formed close relationships with a dozen Elders, giving him inside access to both the mundane and ritual lives of these Indigenous people.... Jenness does not impose on either his subjects or his readers his interpretations, analysis, speculations, and suppositions. He reports. Jenness simply, concisely, and thoroughly reports what he is learning in an engaging and interesting manner; thus, The WSANEC and Their Neighbours feels as intimate as if we are sitting at the kitchen table with Jenness over coffee." --Melonie Ancheta, Journal of Native American and Indigenous Studies
"Richling has made a major contribution to the history of anthropology with the release of Diamond Jenness’s 1935 study of the Coast Salish.... The most valuable contribution of the book are the 45 stories that follow Jenness’s general ethnographic summary." --Wendy Wickwire, BC Studies
"For over seventy years an important unfinished ethnographic manuscript and a stack of typed and handwritten field notes, recording the work of anthropologist Diamond Jenness with knowledgeable Coast Salish elders, languished in obscurity known only to a few specialists. Following his field work on the Saanich Peninsula, the east coast of Vancouver Island, and the Fraser Valley in 1934 and 1935, Jenness began writing. He completed nine of his sixteen planned chapters before other interests intervened. Now, thanks to the work of editor Barnett Richling and Rock’s Mills Press, Jenness’s manuscript, with additional material gleaned from his field notes, is made available to a wider audience.... These detailed and fascinating accounts will significantly enrich the reader’s knowledge of the Indigenous history and culture of southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands." --Chris Arnett, BC BookLook
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