'Pictures Bring Us Messages'/Sinaakssiiksi Aohtsimaahpihkookiyaawa: Photographs and Histories from the Kainai Nation

By Lewis, Philippa | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2008 | Go to article overview

'Pictures Bring Us Messages'/Sinaakssiiksi Aohtsimaahpihkookiyaawa: Photographs and Histories from the Kainai Nation


Lewis, Philippa, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Alison K. Brown and Laura Peers, with members of the Kainai Nation, 'Pictures Bring Us Messages'/Sinaakssiiksi aohtsimaahpihkookiyaawa: Photographs and Histories from the Kainai Nation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 420pp. Cased. £48. ISBN 0-8020-9006-0. Paper. £20. ISBN 0-8020-4891-9.

Between 1924 and 1927 Beatrice Blackwood, an academic researcher from the United Kingdom, took photographs for an anthropological study of Native communities in both Canada and the United States. In 1925 she visited the Kainai Nation on the Blood Reserve in Alberta and photographed several family and social groups. Her intention was to note and document physical characteristics and familial similarities within these groups. She also intended to examine the cultural dissonance between generations as the Nation's older traditions were being replaced and the younger members of the community were being educated in Catholic schools. Blackwood's photographs were subsequently archived in the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University. In 2001, museum staff Laura Peers and Alison Brown took those photographs back to the Blood Reserve with the intention of finding out more about the people in the pictures. The Kainai Nation subsequently agreed to work with Peers and Brown in identifying those ancestors.

In chapters two and three, 'Anthropological Contexts' and 'Working Together', the authors outline the history and development of Blackwood's original project and explain their methodology. They detail the initial reactions of the Kainai Nation on being asked to participate in this study and also explain the delicate negotiation of traditional power issues in the relationship between the researcher and the subject community. …

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