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.
Foreword by Hanamuukw, Joan Ryan
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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