Prophecy and Power among the Dogrib Indians

By June Helm | Go to book overview

surfaced. In the process of keeping up with events I began to hear about the contact of some Dogribs with Dene prophets to the south, in northern Alberta, and then to learn that the Dogribs now had their own prophets. So, as has generally been the case, data emerging in the field turned me to attend to a subject I had not contemplated before.

Prophecy is "the work, function, or vocation of a prophet," and the prophecies of the three protagonists of this study conform nicely to the dictionary characterization: "Jewish & Christian Theol[ogy], inspired declaration or revelation of the divine word, including moral teaching by warning, consoling, exhorting, giving an example of fellowship with God, and the like" ( Webster's New International Dictionary, 1940). These Dogrib prophecies, however, did not include the particular characteristic that the dictionary goes on to describe as "on special occasions . . . of foretelling, of declaring beforehand, the purpose of God."

The emphasis in this study is not on "culture" nor is the subject "religion," although the activities of the prophets and the attention of the Dogrib people were certainly on topics that are usually subsumed under those rubrics. The focus, as indicated in the title, is on the public careers of three Dogrib prophets who emerged in the late 1960s and on the distinctive character and personal style that each brought to his role.

This inquiry in part treats of the opinions that individual Dogribs held of each of the Dogrib prophets and of the prophets' opinions of each other. Their expressions of unfavorable judgments, kinds of opposition, and dislikes call for sensitivity on my part to what I believe might be the wishes of certain persons respecting anonymity. Also, old-time manners require that persons' names not be mentioned casually. Therefore, with two exceptions, the names of persons living at the time of the fieldwork among the Dogribs have been altered. I have assigned pseudonyms to two of the prophets; I call them Jack the Rae Prophet and Chi the Marten Lake Prophet. However, I use the Bear Lake Prophet's actual name, Naidzo. Naidzo's evident gratification with his fame among Dene and sympathetic whites as a significant and respected figure led me in this and other writings to accord him the overt recognition I am confident he would have desired.

Part 2, "Ink'on," presents the lore and knowledge about medicine power that my long-time Dogrib friend and consultant Vital Thomas provided through the years as my steno pads filled on all kinds of topics. His acerbic opinion of one prophet led me to assign Vital a pseudonym in the writing of "Three Styles." Then in 1990 Vital Thomas died. Given his departure and my certain knowledge that he so much enjoyed recognition for his command of the history and lore of the Dogrib people,

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Prophecy and Power among the Dogrib Indians
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xii
  • Orthography xiv
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Three Styles in the Practice of Prophecy 5
  • 1 - Prelude to Prophecy 7
  • 2 - Message, Performance, and Persona 27
  • 3 - The Foundations of Prophecy 52
  • Part Two - Ink'On 73
  • 4 - One Man's Ink'On 75
  • 5 - Aspects of Ink'On 80
  • 6 - The Highest Men for Ink'On"" 101
  • 7 - Ink'On in Play and Legend 121
  • 8 - Vital Thomas: A Brief Autobiography 146
  • Appendix 155
  • Notes 158
  • References 164
  • Personal Name Index 169
  • In Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians *
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