Myth and Memory
Stories of Indigenous-European Contact
The moment of contact between two peoples, two alien societies, marks the opening of an epoch and the joining of histories. What if it had happened differently?
The stories that indigenous peoples and Europeans tell about their first encounters with one another are enormously valuable historical records, but their relevance extends beyond the past. Settler populations and indigenous peoples the world over are engaged in negotiations over legitimacy, power, and rights. These struggles cannot be dissociated from written and oral accounts of “contact” moments, which not only shape our collective sense of history but also guide our understanding of current events.
For all their importance, contact stories have not been systematically or critically evaluated as a genre. Myth and Memory explores the narratives of indigenous and newcomer populations from New Zealand and across North America, from the Lost Colony of Roanoke on the Atlantic seaboard of the United States to the Pacific Northwest and as far as Sitka, Alaska. It illustrates how indigenous and explorer accounts of the same meetings reflect fundamentally different systems of thought, and focuses on the cultural misunderstandings embedded in these stories. The contributors discuss the contemporary relevance, production, and performance of Aboriginal and European contact narratives, and introduce new tools for interpreting the genre. They argue that we are still in the contact zone, striving to understand the meaning of contact and the relationship between indigenous and settler populations.
The essays provide a fascinating surf of ‘first contacts’ from New Zealand, England, southern Africa, and the Pacific Northwest, from the eighteenth century to today […]. A plentiful range of new approaches to the genre of the contact narrative distinguishes this impressively interdisciplinary collection, with contributions from historians, anthropologists, linguists, and literary critics.
Myth & Memory injects an interesting and crucial ‘new’ narrative into the historical record.
This convincing and solid collection encourages assessment and reassessment of contact narratives. … Ten scholars from various fields, including history, anthropology, linguistics, and literature, engage in this informative work. …Edited by University of Victoria historian John Sutton Lutz, the chapters in Myth and Memory integrate a number of global indigenous perspectives. Lutz’s extensive insight regarding native and newcomer relations provides a solid basis for editorial expertise of this compendium.
John Sutton Lutz teaches in the Department of History at the University of Victoria and is the author of Makúk: A New History of Aboriginal-White Relations and co-editor, with Jo-anne Lee, of Situating “Race” and Racisms in Space, Time and Theory.
Contributors: Judith Binney, Keith Thor Carlson, J. Edward (Ted) Chamberlin, Nora Marks Dauenhauer, Richard Dauenhauer, Michael Harkin, I.S. MacLaren, Patrick Moore, and Wendy Wickwire.
Introduction. Myth Understandings: First Contact, Over and Over Again / John Lutz
1. Close Encounters of the First Kind / J. Edward (Ted) Chamberlin
2. First Contact as a Spiritual Performance: Encounters on the North American West Coast / John Lutz
3. Reflections on Indigenous History and Memory: Reconstructing and Reconsidering Contact / Keith Carlson
4. Poking Fun? Humour and Power in Kaska Contact Narratives / Patrick Moore
5. Herbert Spencer, Paul Kane, and the Making of “The Chinook” / I.S. MacLaren
6. Performing Paradox: Narrativity and the Lost Colony of Roanoke / Michael Harkin
7. Stories at the Margins: Toward a More Inclusive Historiography / Wendy Wickwire
8. When the White Kawau Flies / Judith Binney
9. The Interpreter as Contact Point: Avoiding Collisions in Tlingit America / Nora and Richard Dauenhauer
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