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

By Jean-Guy A. Goulet | Go to book overview

5. Visions of Conflict, Conflicts of Vision

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You can do crazy things when you are drinking.

--Dene Tha speaker

In previous chapters I have argued that Dene deeply respect one another's autonomy. This respect is manifest in their pursuit of true knowledge as personal knowledge, as well as in their emphasis on self-reliance. There is, however, another side to Dene lives, namely, the experience of aggression at the hands of fellow Dene who, when drunk, inflict injuries on others, or who, when resentful, secretly use their ech'int'e, their power, to bring misfortune and even death to others. It is to these aspects of Dene lives that we now turn.1

When I initiated fieldwork in Chateh, I avoided Paul's home because it was the scene of heavy drinking and fighting, including the knifing of a family member. Paul eventually became a friendly teacher of Dene Dháh and of Dene Tha ways of living. Over the years, as Paul quit drinking and healed his body and spirit, he often reminded me in his jovial voice that his rehabilitation was proceeding the "Indian way," with the help of Dene Elders. Similarly, Myrna told me that she gave up a long-standing drinking habit following a severe admonition and warning from dead relatives (see her account in chapter 6). Her change of habit led her to participate more regularly in the Prophet Dance. As documented in chapter 8, young Dene Tha men given to drinking and abusive behavior were also eventually rehabilitated by the community and Elders. These young men became drummers in the Prophet Dance. Other cases reported in this chapter and in following ones substantiate the Dene Tha view that sobriety goes hand in hand with deep experiences of dreams and visions, as well as with interaction with Elders living either in this land or in the other land.

Dene Tha Elders and younger Dene Tha men and women who live productively and soberly suffer at the sight of relatives and loved ones whose lives are devastated by the abuse of alco-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1. Stories from the Field 1
  • 2. True Knowledge and True Responsibility 27
  • 3. Powerful Beings and Being Powerful 60
  • 4. Powers to Heal, Powers to Respect 88
  • 5. Visions of Conflict, Conflicts of Vision 109
  • 6. Journeys of the Soul 142
  • 7. Searching for a Womb 167
  • 8. When the Drum and the Rosary Meet 193
  • 9. Dancing Your Way to Heaven 223
  • 10. An Experiential Approach to Knowledge 246
  • Notes 261
  • References 287
  • Index 329
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