Becoming tsimshian: The social life of names by Christopher F. Roth

By Christopher F. Roth

The Tsimshian humans of coastal British Columbia use a procedure of hereditary name-titles within which names are handled as gadgets of inheritable wealth. Human employer and social prestige dwell in names instead of within the people who carry those names, and the politics of succession linked to names and name-taking rituals were, and stay, on the middle of Tsimshian life.

Becoming Tsimshian examines the best way names hyperlink individuals of a lineage to a prior and to the areas the place that prior spread out. At conventional potlatch feasts, for instance, collective social and symbolic habit “gives the individual to the name.” Oral histories mentioned at a potlatch describe the origins of the identify, of the home lineage, and of the lineage's rights to territories, assets, and heraldic privileges. This possession is renewed and well-known by way of successive generations, and the ancient courting to the land is remembered and acknowledged within the lineage's chronicles, or adawx.

In investigating different dimensions of the Tsimshian naming procedure, Christopher F. Roth attracts commonly on fresh literature, archival reference, and elders in Tsimshian groups. Becoming Tsimshian, which covers vital topics in linguistic and cultural anthropology and ethnic experiences, could be of serious price to students in local American reviews and Northwest Coast anthropology, in addition to in linguistics.

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I spent much of 1996 living in Terrace and workIntroduction 25 ing in the Kitsumkalum Treaty Office, interviewing elders, attending meetings and feasts, and turning this material and information from church records and band lists into matrilineal charts (Kitsumkalum Tribal Treaty Office 1996; Tsimshian Tribal Council 1996a). Eventually I was able to do similarly detailed genealogical surveys of each of the Tsimshian communities. My work for the Kitsumkalum Treaty Office is ongoing, most of it on a pro bono basis, and it has come to include producing detailed research reports on specific topics in Kitsumkalum genealogy, history, and social structure.

Tsimshians eventually accepted this extension of the terminology to the Gidestsu, GitkЈaЈata, Gitkxaala, GitsЈilaasü, and Gitsmgeelm but not to Gitksans and NisgaЈas (who have never considered themselves Tsimshians either), and that pattern has informed the current configuration of three Tsimshianic-speaking nations. It follows linguistic lines more or less. Unlike the more complicated NisgaЈa situation as outlined in their treaty, no Tsimshian or Gitksan has ever ceded any territory or authority to Britain, Canada, or British Columbia.

Will Robinson (1962), Kenneth Harris (Harris and Robinson 1974), and Bookbuilders of ЈKsan (1977) collect and organize oral histories from a Native perspective. Publications in the 1970s, 1980s, and after, many based on Hartley Bay fieldwork and inflected by structuralism, reinvigorated the exploration of social and cultural theory through Tsimshian material (Halpin 1973, 1984a, 1984b; Miller 1978, 1981, 1982, 1984a, 1998; Lévi-Strauss 1982; Dunn 1984a, 1984b; Guédon 1984; Seguin 1984a, 1986; Anderson 2004), including two full-length monographs (Seguin 1985; Miller 1997).

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