Signs of the Time
Nlaka'pamux Resistance through Rock Art
Rock art – etched in blood-red lines into granite cliffs, boulders, and caves – appears as beguiling, graffiti-like abstraction. What are these signs? The petroglyphs and red-ochre pictographs found across Nlaka’pamux territory in present-day British Columbia and Washington State are far more than a collection of ancient motifs.
Signs of the Time explores the historical and cultural reasons for making rock art. Chris Arnett draws on extensive archival research and decades of work with Elders and other Nlaka’pamux community members, their oral histories and oral tradition, to document the variability and similarity of practices. Rock art was and is a form of communication between the spirit and physical worlds, a way to pass information to later generations, and a powerful protection against challenges to a people, land, and culture.
Nlaka’pamux have used such culturally prescribed means to forestall external threats to their lifeways from as early as the sixteenth century – when they were aware of incipient European encroachment – until well into the twentieth. As this important work attests, rock art remains a signature of resilience and resistance to colonization among Nlaka’pamux today.
As well as providing essential reading for scholars and students of archaeology, cultural and applied anthropology, Indigenous studies, and art history, Signs of the Time will also fascinate rock art specialists and amateur enthusiasts.
Signs of the Time is innovative and provocative, adding dramatically to the discussion of how Western science interacts with and accommodates Indigenous knowledge, concerns, and heritage.
Signs of the Time is informative and accessible, giving equal voice to Indigenous knowledge keepers and academics in presenting the ideas in petroglyphs and pictographs. It is an excellent example of how Eurowestern academics can work alongside Indigenous knowledge experts to understand the Indigenous world. I highly recommend it.
A major compendium of Nlaka’pamux ethnohistorical and ethnographic accounts. Chris Arnett has undertaken a commendable enterprise in this book.
Chris Arnett is an archaeologist, researcher, and writer who lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. He has lectured in anthropology and archaeology at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and Malaspina University-College (now Vancouver Island University). Among his publications are They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever: Rock Writings of the Stein River Valley, British Columbia (co-authored with Annie York and Richard Daly) and The Terror of the Coast: Land Alienation and Colonial War on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, 1849–1863. Arnett is a registered member of Ngāi Tahu Whānui of Murihiku, Te Wai Pounamu, and a descendant of British and Scandinavian ancestors.
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