Life Lived Like a Story
Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders
Storytelling is a universal activity and may well be the oldest of the arts. It has always provided a vehicle for the expression of ideas, particularly in societies relying on oral tradition. Yet investigation of what contemporary storytellers actually communicate to their listeners occupies a restricted place in anthropology. The growing literature on small-scale hunting societies pays careful attention to their subsistence strategies but less to ideas that seem peripheral to their economic activities. A gap remains in our knowledge about the contribution of expressive forms like storytelling to strategies for adapting to social, cultural, and economic change.
The life stories appearing in this volume come from communities where storytelling provides a customary framework for discussing the past. Angela Sidney, Kitty Smith and Annie Ned are three remarkable and gifted women of Athapaskan and Tlingit ancestry who were born in the southern Yukon Territory around the turn of the century. Their life stories tell us as much about the present as about the past, as much about ideas of community as about individual experience; they call our attention to the diverse ways humans formulate such linkages.
- 1992, Winner - Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, Canadian Historical Association
There is pure gold here for those who want to understand the rules of the old ways … [The book] has a convincing sureness, an intensity which cannot be denied, a strong sense of family … Candidly, and often with sly humour, the three women discuss early white-Indian relations, the Klondike gold rush, the epidemics, the starvation, the healthy and wealthy times, and building of the Alaska Highway … Integrity is here, and wisdom. There is no doubting the authenticity of the voices. As women, they had power and they used it wisely, and through their words and Cruikshank’s skills, you will change your mind if you think the anthropological approach to oral history can only be dull.
Life Lived Like a Story is not a standard biography or autobiography. Instead, it remains true to the native way of recounting the past by giving appropriate weight to stories and songs as well as reminiscences … The charm, the wisdom (and often cheekiness) of these three women rings clear.
This is an exemplary work … It is thorough, clear, and wonderfully detailed. What’s more, it is co-authored in a real, rather than fictive sense, bringing to the reader a kind of authenticity and bite that is rarely available … Certainly specialists will be fascinated with this study, but it is so readable, so interesting, so innovative, that I think it will appeal to a wide audience … [It] should be a cornerstone in Native American studies, and essential reading in women’s studies, northern studies, and to anyone curious about alternative ways of seeing the world and living a life. It ultimately stands alone, proof that there is progress in anthropological method and description.
Introduction: Life History and Life Stories
Part I: My Stories Are My Wealth / Angela Sidney
Part II: My Roots Grow in Jackpine Roots / Kitty Smith
Part III: Old-Style Words Are Just Like School / Annie Ned
Cultural Constructions of Individual Experience
Glossary of Native Terms
Map 1. Languages spoken in southern Yukon Territory
Figure 1. Partial family tree of Deisheetaan ancestors of Mrs. Angela Sidney
Figure 2. Partial family tree of Dakl'aweidi ancestors of Mrs. Angela Sidney
Figure 3. Partial family tree of ancestors of Mrs. Kitty Smith
Figure 4. Partial family tree of ancestors of Mrs. Annie Ned
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