Potlatch at Gitsegukla
296 pages, 6 x 9
16 b&w photos, 1 map
Release Date:01 Oct 2000
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Potlatch at Gitsegukla

William Beynon's 1945 Field Notebooks

UBC Press

William Beynon was born in 1888 in Victoria to a Welsh father and a Tsimshian mother. He was an accomplished ethnographer and had a long career documenting the traditions of the Tsimshian, Nisga'a, and Gitksan. In 1945 he attended and actively participated in five days of potlatches and totem pole raisings at Gitksan village of Gitsegukla. There he compiled four notebooks containing detailed and often verbatim information about the events he witnessed. For over 50 years these notebooks have seen limited circulation among specialists, who have long recognized them as the most perceptive and complete account of potlatching ever recorded.

In Potlatch at Gitsegukla the almost 200 pages of the notebooks are published for the first time. Sketches and a selection of photographs taken by Beynon are also included (augmented by photographs taken by Wilson Duff in 1952). In addition to meticulously transcribing and annotating the text of the notebooks, Margaret Anderson and Marjorie Halpin provide a comprehensive introduction that puts Beynon's account into a Gitskan cultural perspective, as well as extensive appendices listing names, places, and Gitskan terms in the notebooks. There is also an excellent timeline of key events in Gitskan history by James McDonald and Jennifer Joseph.

William Beynon's notebooks are among the most significant written records of Northwest coast potlatching and are an unsurpassed resource documenting these activities among the Gitskan. This rare, first-hand, ethnographic account of a potlatch reveals the wonderful complexities of the events that took place in Gitsegukla in 1945.

A meticulously transcribed and annotated version of these notes, set in a rich interpretive context. Society for Study of Indigenous Languages of Americas, April 2000
Margaret Anderson is Regional Chair and Program Coordinator, Northwest for the University of Northern British Columbia, and the editor of the Tsimshian: Images of the Past, Views for the Present. Before her untimely death in 2001, Marjorie Halpin taught in the Department of Anthropology and was a curator at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia. Among her books is Totem Poles: An Illustrated Guide.

Foreword by Hanamuukw, Joan Ryan


Editors' Introduction

Beynon's Notebooks, Volumes 1-4, with Annotations

Key Events in the Gitksan Encounter with the Colonial World, prepared by James McDonald and Jennifer Joseph


1 Note on the Orthography Used by William Beynon in the Notebooks

2 Place Names in the Notebooks

3 List of Names for Each Village Clan

4 Naxnox Names and Performances

5 Other Gitksan Terms in the texts

6 Names of the Poles

7 Types of Contributions 8. Types of Events

9 Types of Songs



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