Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Maps of Experience: The Anchoring of Land to Story in Secwepemc Discourse

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Maps of Experience: The Anchoring of Land to Story in Secwepemc Discourse

Article excerpt

Andie Diane Palmer, Maps of Experience: The Anchoring of Land to Story in Secwepemc Discourse (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), xxiii + 250pp. Cased. £32. ISBN 0-8020-3559-0. Paper. £15. ISBN 0-8020-8435-4.

Andie Diane Palmer's book guides the reader through the Alkali Lake Reserve in the interior of British Columbia. The Secwepemc people, the trails they travel and the stories they tell constitute the framework for this study. The method used is a 'discourse-centred approach to culture and language' (p. 16), which implies meaning constructed in the dialogue between interlocutors and cultural systems.

The book is born from participant observation in hunting and gathering contexts, and recordings made during travel and at resource sites. Palmer advocates a respectful approach to story that is 'a bundle, carried in a light, portable package, unwrapped in each telling, shared and then wrapped up for another time' (p. 4). Secwepemc narratives are grounded in past oral tradition and have a special relationship to place. The author contends that they become shared knowledge, forming an oral map of the landscape and its resources.

The central issue of the book - Secwepemc identity as it is connected to land, story and language - is viewed against a background of colonial encounters: land-claims, the Gold Rush, diseases brought by settlers and mission education, as well as the co-existence of hunting-gathering ways and a cash economy, epitomised by foot-trails encroached upon by highways.

The ongoing battles waged in law courts over land-use rights show the clash between cultural systems. Palmer's book argues in favour of a respectful interaction with Alkali Lake people and throws light on the special relationship between individual and community, the human and the natural world in the indigeneous culture. It reveals the reason for preserving hunting-gathering practices: hunting, just like Secwepemc placenames and life-story narratives, contributes to the transmission of cultural knowledge, completing the 'circle of training' (p. …

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