Threads to the past : the construction and transformation of kinship in the Coast Salish social network
This thesis describes the aboriginal and contemporary social organization of the Coast Salish people of southwestern British Columbia and northwestern Washington State, with a focus on the Squamish Nation whose Reserves are situated in North Vancouver and the Howe Sound area. It is based on field research undertaken over a 30-year period and on published and unpublished sources. The thesis explores the construction of kinship and social groups among the Coast Salish, and the transformation of these relationships over time and in various historical circumstances, from the mid-19th century to the present day. Drawing upon the theoretical approaches of William Davenport (1959), Raymond Firth (1963) and Anthony Cohen (1985), among others, the thesis discusses key components of Coast Salish social organization and identity, including a group's contrasting identity and relation to the groups within its ambit of comparison, the association of specific social units with territory, and the expression of status in both traditional and contemporary society. Specific findings document a shift to nuclear family households, the adoption of English kinship terms, the development of hereditary and elected leadership, and the emergence of the Tribe and the First Nation as primary symbols of identity in the 20th century. Some current issues resulting from the impact of change are examined in the context of naming ceremonies and disputes over inherited property, including ancestral names. The thesis argues that the diversity and complexity of neither the traditional nor transformed expressions of Coast Salish social organization find congruence with models of aboriginal society being deployed by contemporary Courts and Treaty negotiators. Issues of territorial "overlap" presently impeding treaty negotiation among BC's Coast Salish peoples were nevertheless predictable, for like some of the world's other cognatic societies, the Coast Salish could hold discrete notions of identity simultaneously. In conclusion, the thesis examines briefly the application to the Coast Salish of Lévi-Strauss' "House-society" as a specific form of social organization.