- 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the imposition of ethnographic values on the archaeological record is a continuing problem or a result of using such outdated resources.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.
- Ivory Thoughts by Renée Hulan
Books reviewed: From Talking Chiefs to a Native Corporate Elite : The Birth of Class and Nationalism Among Canadian Inuit by Marybelle Mitchell and Ancient People of the Arctic by Robert McGhee
- An Unlikely Hero by Clint Evans
Books reviewed: The False Traitor: Louis Riel in Canadian Culture by Albert Braz
- First Contact by Sophie McCall
Books reviewed: Myth and Memory: Stories of Indigenous-European Contact by John Sutton Lutz
- Indigenous Histories by Daniel N. Paul
Books reviewed: We Were Not the Savages: Collision Between European and Native American Civilizations by Daniel N. Paul and Weasel Tail: Stories told by Joe Crowshoe Sr. (Aapohsoy'yiis), a Peigan Blackfoot elder by Michael Ross
- The Full Circle by Madelaine Jacobs
Books reviewed: Restoring the Balance: First Nations Women, Community, and Culture by Eric Guimond, Madeleine Dion Stout, and Gail Guthrie Valaskakis
MLA: Driedger, Linda. Integrated Archaeology. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 25 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #175 (Winter 2002), francophone / anglophone. (pg. 168 - 169)
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