- Alan D. McMillan (Author)
Since the Time of the Transformers. University of British Columbia Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Linda Driedger
As an ethnographer who works with living people, studies their languages, and does so in the midst of their social relations, I have long been intrigued by how archaeologists view their scraps of non-mutable material remains as evidence. The book Since the Time of the Transformers provided me with a glimpse at the reflexive pond. There I surmised that archaeologists view my evidence with as much suspicion as I do theirs. Nonetheless, I have long admired archaeological approaches that attempt to integrate the histories of Native peoples, and Alan McMillan attempts valiantly to integrate the existing anthropological, oral cultural and historical record of the Nuu-chah-nulth, Ditidaht and Makah peoples of the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Since the Time of the Transformers is based on a number of academic projects, mainly a dissertation, yet it is an easy book to read. However, the section relying on linguistic and ethnographic sources needs theoretical updating. In addition the review of the quite ancient ethnographic writings lacks an awareness of how many of the assumptions underlying these works have changed significantly over the years. It is hard to know whether the imposition of ethnographic values on the archaeological record is a continuing problem or a result of using such outdated resources. However, based on the linguistic and ethnographic reviews in this book, I can only assume that little ethnographic work has recently occurred among these peoples, a lack that would pose problems in the integration of this kind of material.
In fact, the author has much evidence to support an attempt at a holistic historic development and elaboration of Nuu-chah-nulth, Ditidaht and Makah polity. Such an endeavour would facilitate the integration of archaeological, linguistic, oral literature, historic literature and ethnography. On the other hand, such an approach would require removing the overly long chapters of site reports, and abandoning the primary valuing of archaeological facts. Most probably it would also involve the use of more recent cultural theory. Most specifically, Alan McMillan needs to rethink "scientific" collection in archaeology and the role of "interpretation" in all anthropological sub-disciplines, not just to update his sources, but because it would support a holistic academic project better than his present assumptions.
More importantly, theoretical updating would also clearly integrate the Native viewpoint into the overall work. Despite claims to the contrary, this work is primarily archaeological and more research is needed if it is to attain its holistic intra-and interdisciplinary goals. In the end, however, the project of integrating the histories of the Nuu-chah-nulth, Ditidaht and Makah is a far more important project than the sub-disciplinary arguments that waylay the true purpose of this book, and I hope that Alan McMillan fulfills that purpose in his next publication.
- Varied Stories by Rita Wong
Books reviewed: A Larger Memory: A History of Our Diversity, With Voices by Ronald Takaki and Choose Me by Evelyn Lau
- The Vanished Beothuk by Jennifer S. H. Brown
Books reviewed: A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk by Ingeborg Marshall
- Listening to the North by Sherrill Grace
Books reviewed: Walking on the Land by Farley Mowat, Inuksuit: Silent Messengers of the Arctic by Norman Hallendy, and It's Like the Legend: Innu Women's Voices by Nymphs Byrne and Camille Fouillard
- Three Solitudes by Laura J. Murray
Books reviewed: We Are Not You: First Nations and Canadian Modernity by Claude Denis
- No Escape from the Past by Suzanne James
Books reviewed: Unsettling Narratives: Postcolonial Readings of Children's Literature by Clare Bradford
MLA: Driedger, Linda. Integrated Archaeology. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #175 (Winter 2002), francophone / anglophone. (pg. 168 - 169)
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