Where Happiness Dwells
420 pages, 6 x 9
54 b&w illustrations
Release Date:01 Jul 2013
$34.95 Back Order
Ships in 2-5 weeks.
Release Date:27 Feb 2013
Release Date:27 Feb 2013

Where Happiness Dwells

A History of the Dane-zaa First Nations

UBC Press

The Dane-zaa people have lived in the Peace River area of northern British Columbia for thousands of years. Elders documented the people’s history and worldview in oral narratives and passed on their knowledge through storytelling. Language loss in the youngest generation, however, threatens to break the bonds of knowledge transmission.

At the request of the Doig River First Nations anthropologists Robin and Jillian Ridington present a history of the Dane-zaa people based on oral histories collected over a half century of fieldwork. Taking a poetic form that does justice to the rhythm of Dane-zaa storytelling, these powerful stories span the full length of history, from the story of creation to the fur trade, from the arrival of missionaries to cases heard in the Supreme Court of Canada. Elders document key events as they explain the very nature of the universe and how people and animals learned to live together on the land.

These oral histories, told by one of the last First Nations to experience the effects of colonialism, not only preserve traditional knowledge for future generations, they also tell the inspiring story of how the Dane-zaa learned to succeed in the modern world.

This book will appeal to anyone interested in Aboriginal studies, BC history, anthropology, or oral traditions.


  • 2014, Winner - K.D. Srivastava Prize, UBC Press
  • 2014, Commended - Aboriginal History Prize, Canadian Historical Association
From the indigenous perspective, a writer is accountable first and foremost to the people he or she writes about. The writing must proceed in the form of stories, in the voice of speakers addressing people they know. This book is one of great respect and insight that will be appreciated by scholars and enjoyed by all its readers. Jean-Guy Goulet, Faculty of Human Sciences, Saint Paul University
This book offers a highly original yet rigorous view of Dane-zaa culture and history. It will be an important book for all scholars of First Nations ... and for First Nations seeking a model to write their own histories. Guy Lanoue, Department of Anthropology, Université de Montréal
Robin Ridington is a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of British Columbia and has worked with the Dane-zaa First Nations since the 1960s. Jillian Ridington is an ethnographer and researcher who has worked with the Dane-zaa First Nations since 1978.  Their books about the Dane-zaa include Robin's Trail To Heaven: Knowledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Community, and a co-authored book, When You Sing It Now, Just Like New: First Nations Poetics, Voices and Representations.

Preface, with Linguistic Note and Pronunciation Guide

Introduction: Trails of Time

1 The Dane-zaa Creation Story

2 Tsááyaa, the Culture Hero

3 Shin kaa, the Vision Quest

4 Archaeology, Prehistory, and Oral History

5 The Early Fur Trade

6 The Later Fur Trade and the Hudson’s Bay Company Killings

7 Priests and Dreamers

8 The First and Last Dreamers

9 Kinship and Community

10 The 1899 North West Mounted Police Census and Treaty 8

11 Seasonal Rounds in British Columbia and Alberta

12 The 1918 Flu Epidemic

13 Losing Suu Na chii k’chige, the Great Fire, and Petersen’s Crossing

14 The Place Where Happiness Dwells, Indian Reserve 172

15 Today and Tomorrow

16 Dane-zaa Stories and the Anthropological Literature


Works Cited



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