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Ways of Knowing: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Dene Tha

Synopsis

This innovative study reveals the creative world of a Native community. Once seminomadic hunters & gatherers who traveled by horse wagon, canoe, & dog sled, the Dene Tha of northern Canada today live in government-built homes in the settlement of Chateh. Their lives are a distinct blend of old & new, in which traditional forms of social control, healing, & praying entwine witth services supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a nursing station, & a Roman Catholic church. Many older cultural beliefs & practices remain: ghosts linger, reincarnating & sometimes causing deaths; past & future are interpreted through the Prophet Dance; "animal helpers" become lifelong companions & sources of power; & personal visions & experiences are considered the roots of true knowledge. Why & how are such striking beliefs & practices still vital to the Dene Tha? Drawing on extensive fieldwork at Chateh, the author, an anthropologist, delineates the interconnections between the strands of meaning & experience with which the Dene Tha constitute & creatively engage their world. The author's insights into the Dene Tha's ways of knowing were gained through directly experiencing their lifeway rather than through formal instruction. This experimental perspective makes his study especially illuminating, providing an intimate glimpse of a remarkable & enduring Native community.