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

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

8. When the Drum and the Rosary Meet

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When only two people are left on earth, one to sing and another to dance for him, this song will not become old, but will remain fresh.--Dene Tha dreamer

Dene Tha live their lives according to a distinct indigenous tradition. They do so in a social context that includes numerous Western institutions: the school, the police station, the nursing station, and the church. The schoolteachers, the R.C.M.P. officers, the nurse, and the doctors all expect Dene Tha to accept Euro- North American standards of life. These professionals, however, have not eradicated or rendered obsolete Dene ways of teaching, of avoiding open conflict when sober, and of healing. Rather, Dene Tha draw on Western institutions to complement their own practices in the areas of education, social control, and health. A similar form of adaptation can be seen in the Dene Tha response to the presence of missionaries among them.

Nearly all Dene are Christians of one denomination or another, mostly Roman Catholic or Anglican. The question nevertheless remains: Were the missionaries able to "change Dene moral concepts and abolish Dene spiritual values?" ( Abel 1989, 81). According to Kerry Abel ( 1989, 90), a careful analysis of the historical and anthropological record suggests that "the Christian missions did not make profound changes in the daily lives or cultural outlook of the Dene; . . . Christian labels have been applied to non-Christian concepts; Christian rituals have been interwoven with traditional ceremonies." Helm ( 1994, 70) similarly writes that among the Dogribs "the world of inkon and the Christian cosmos do not merge," the former being the world within which contemporary Dogribs, like their predecessors of old, continue to live their lives. This is certainly the case for the contemporary Dene Tha, despite the long-standing efforts of missionaries and educators of all sorts to convince them otherwise.

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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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