Culture 1982

Alkire H. William. The Traditional Classification and Treatment of Illness on Woleai and Lamotrek in the Caroline Islands, Micronesia. Culture 1982. II(1): 29-41.

Alkire focuses on the traditional methods of prophylaxis, diagnosis, treatment, illness and injury on Woleai and Lamotrek atolls. The article centers on regular occurrences that reflect the main principles of organization in this society in the Caroline Islands. He discusses each topic in great detail including the incorporation of western medicines to their practices.

For example, he discusses how illnesses and injury are treated in two ways: through consumption and application of medicines and by means of massage. A main area that is also focused on is how this particular society believes that most illnesses and injuries are caused by, malevolent or offended ghosts or spirits. From this he moves on to discuss spirit prevention through prophylaxis in great detail. The prophylactic methods emphasize certain dualistic divisions. He goes into diagnosis in great detail followed by a discussion of class divisions of illness. The people of Woleai and Lamotrek recognize nine major classes of illness. They are either named after a specific spirit that is thought to be responsible for the illness, after a place where the spirit is believed to reside or a reference may be made to the class by making reference to an outstanding symptom of the illness. On Woleai and Lamotrek, the preparation of medicines and curing techniques belong to areas of specialized and guarded knowledge.

In closing the author states how on Woleai and Lamotrek there are three sets of spirits that work in the areas of illness and curing: illnesses and injuries are caused by angry spirits; diagnosis depends on messages received from the spirits of divination; and a discussion of how recovery is attained from the help of “good” spirits. During times when all procedures fail, organizational features such as the organization of causes and specialties, as well as a developed way of referring to other specialists have most likely contributed to the persistence and stability of the system. He also closes with discussing how with the large amount of other factors contributing to the society, there are also many ways that failures can also be explained.


APRIL GUAMOS York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Asch, Michael I. Capital and Economic Development: A Critical Appraisal of the Recommendations of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Commission. Culture,1982. II (3): 3-10.

In this article Michael I. Asch examines the impact that Mr. Justice Berger’s recommendation on the kinds of sources of capital available to the Dene economy to develop along lines which remain consistent with their traditional institutions and values. To this end, Berger recommends following: first, primary production of renewable resources traditionally associated with the native economy should be modernized and expanded; second, new industries based on the exploitation of these resources should be created to increase Native employment. And finally, Dene people should expand their economy into new but allied fields such as tourism. For these ends much capital will be required. Asch argues that Mr Justice Berger’s solution that funds should come from Government grants will have a strong negative impact in this area, mainly because this model doesn’t promote traditional institutions and values but instead capitalist ones.

Asch explores an alternative, which was proposed by the Native Northerners themselves and later rejected by Mr. Justice Berger. This alternative is based on the Native’s power to determine for themselves their political and economic future within Confederation, including the right to control and tax all economic developments undertaken in their traditional homelands. He finds this latter solution to be a better one, although not without difficulties including the Federal Governments’ unwillingness to grant these powers to the Native people; the uncertainty that a modern resource economy based on traditional institutions and values could be constructed and the ever present danger that the form of articulation with capitalist institutions envisioned in this proposal may itself act to undermine the ultimate goal.

Asch concludes that rents and royalties may provide temptations, but they are better in that they come in a form which is “collective”; they do not require significant labour input; and they are obtained on a continuing rather than one-time basis. Asch argues that each of these is a prerequisite if the form capital takes is to allow maximum flexibility to initiate institutional innovations.


JARNO VmKIPARTA York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Blundell, Valda. Symbolic Systems and Cultural Continuity in Northwest Australia: A Consideration of Aboriginal Cave Art. Culture, 1982. Vol.II no.1: p. 3-20.

In the article written by Valda Blundell, the overall argument that is addressed in the article is how Aboriginal foragers attempt to maintain the transgenerational continuity of their cultural systems. The way they maintain this continuity is through the cave art that is found in the caves of Northwest Australia. The painted figures found in the caves are visually present symbols whose meanings are analyzed independently through myth symbols. Cave art symbols communicate cultural models and can change without any alteration of their form, which provides an illusion of changelessness.

To begin this analysis of continuity, Blundell provides background data on the West Kimberley Aborigines and how they have adjusted to the colonization of their land. Social and Territorial Organizations of the Aborigines are understood through a model called the wunan. The wunan consists of three aspects: Geographical locations of the clan; the idea that clans are interrelated by the exchange of trade or sacred items; that the clans are associated with certain plant and animal species. There are two eras that the Aboriginals live in, they are the ancient Dreamtime, when life began, and also present time. History to the Aboriginal is non-linear, that all aspects that are in the present were set during the Dreamtime. The present then becomes a re-enactment of these past events. Thus, the concept of change or evolution is something that the Aborigines are not aware of or even believe, and this is what Blundell is looking at. Their commitment to what they believe as changelessness is a fundamental feature of their culture.

Blundell then ties in the view of Anthropologists concerning foragers in Northwest Australia, which are supported in the archaeological data. One view is that throughout time there have been persistent adaptations by the Aborigines to the surrounding economical changes. There are textbooks that portray foraging societies as stable and characterized by only the slowest of change. Also prehistoric remains indicate a long period of occupation with little modification of technology or economy. A second view of foragers suggests that there are a number of ways in which people experience changing conditions. With the changes of the social environment, Aborigines have adopted many items of European material culture, and their settlement patterns have also been altered. With these examples of how the foraging societies have altered their way of life as time progressed, Blundell brings across the question of how she can argue that foraging societies are relatively unchanging. Her answer is that anthropologists are content with the notion of a society that is changeable, but somehow changeless. Foragers share this with future generations, this model of changelessness, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

Blundell believes that the cave art is the key in maintaining this cultural continuity among the foragers because it is based on symbolism, and symbolism is an effective means of communicating cultural information. Symbols also permit the accommodation of individual experiences and perception. The retouching of these paintings allows the Aborigines to assert cultural continuity and any threat of disorder or change are dealt with symbolically by freshening the paintings. Blundell views the paintings as symbolic denials of change and thus reinforces the model of changelessness.


ANDREA MARTIRE York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Hedican, Edward. Governmental Indian Policy, Administration, and Economic Planning in the Eastern Subarctic. Culture, 1982. 2(3): 25-35.

The author deals with the relationship and effects of government organizations and policies with Canadian subarctic Native communities. Specifically, the author looks at the history of reserve and non-reserve settlements and their correlation with Canadian government and society. Reserve settlements are closely tied with the government’s Department of Indian Affairs. Non-reserve communities have no single ties with the government or other external agencies to dominate local affairs. The major concern is the increasing role of government officials and other organizations influencing local affairs and leaders in both of these northern Native communities.

Hedican looks at the effects of Government Indian administration, planning, and economic development in the non-reserve, Ojibwa community, and reserve communities. He outlines three main problems in economic planning: the degree to which there exists an overall or comprehensive plan for development, the emergence of forceful local leadership, and the nature of dependency with institutions of the larger society.

Hedican tries to prove that it is impossible for Native communities to be independent from external or government agencies. For a Native community to survive an outside development agency and investment strategy is needed. In some cases external agencies expect to control these development strategies in the way they see fit. Thus, administrative decisions become compromised and the implemented strategies may not necessarily be what are best for Native communities.

Hedican suggests both external agencies and Native communities must be able to alter their positions on the issues of control in order to co-exist. External agencies must allow Natives more control of management and policy-making within their communities. At the same time, Natives must understand that with economic planning and financial investments, restricting external political influences becomes almost impossible.


ALYSIA SLUGA York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Miller, Virginia P. The Decline of Nova Scotia Micmac Population, A.D. 1600 – 1850. Culture, 1982. 2(3): 107 – 118.

The article discusses how the arrival of colonists in Canada from both France and England impacted the native inhabitants of Canada. The article looks at how the presence of the colonists effectively reduced the population of the once proud and numerous Micmac to the verge of extinction. Viginia Miller sets out to prove that it was the arrival of the English and French, that contributed in helping to effectively cut down the Micmac population for their own purposes. Miller discusses the three main factors which contributed to the decreasing of the population.

Malicious acts of genocide against warring or peaceful natives by colonists, the exposure of European diseases to the Natives, and destroying or personally claiming what were exclusively native resources (animals that were food and clothing, shelter, and forests that previously helped to sustain them) lead to starvation of the micmacs. To prove her point, Miller focuses on several personal accounts from influential people of the time period who recount the mass spread of disease, how the supplies that the indians once lived on were eliminated, and accounts of mass genocidal acts. These testimonies help prove that the colonialists arrival that was directly responsible for the decline of Nova Scotia Micmac population. To further prove the point, Miller uses an estimated population chart to show how in certain years after the arrival of the colonists, she pinpoints different factors that wiped out chunks of the population, and shows how the estimated population dwindled at the specific time periods due to those factors.


BRANDON GOODMAN York University (Maggie Macdonald).

Morinis, Alan E. Skid Row Indians and the Politics of Self. Culture, 1982. II(3): 93-105.

The author of the article is exploring his theory of the `politics of self’ as a method of defiance against mainstream `white’ society among the Skid Row Indians in Vancouver. The lifestyle and attitudes of the Indians are mainly gathered through interviews with the Indians and other civil servants.

The population of Skid Row Indians, Skid Row being a loosely defined neighbourhood, is never truly accurate due to the amount of the homeless or simply people sleeping outside. Life is seen as having a low quality in the Skid Row from a middle class point of view, while the Indians themselves see life in the Skid Row as being better than the rural places which most of them come from; they get the excitement of the city without the need to work for wage, depending on welfare of charity for money and meals. Most of their money is spent on drinking, which is a large part of their social life.

The relationship with the law-enforcers is ambiguous, with the police seeming to see the Indians as a people in need of discipline before the Indians turn on them, though without any real animosity except to those that cross them, while the Indians see the police as oppressors and abusers. The few reports of police abusing Indians did not however seem to make a difference as none of the policemen involved were released from duty, which discourages Indians from trusting the law.

A large percentage of healthcare workers see communication as a major problem with the Indians. Most of them find Indians uncooperative in helping themselves in matters of their body, and in fact deliberately going against what a health expert might say.

The author does not see deviant behaviour such as drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and rejection of healthcare on the part of the Indians as a psychological problem, which many psychologists have tried to argue. Rather, it’s an act of defiance, an effort not to conform to the `white’ way, as the whites have persecuted the Indians both historically and in present day.

Hence, the `politics of self’ is a mode of rebellion by one’s very lifestyle, although it is very ineffectual.


RUTH HONG York University (Maggie McDonald).

Roth, E.A. Historic Fertility Differentials in a Northern Athapaskan Community. Culture, 1982. 2(2): 63-76.

The overall concern that Eric Abella Roth (Roth) investigates in his article is the effect that natural selection and random genetic drift has on the contemporary gene pool for the Kutchin Athapaskan population of Old Crow Village, Yukon Territory.

The larger intellectual concern that framed the author’s specific investigation was brought on by his curiosity to find out what was the potential cause(s) of fertility differentials in human microevolution. Specifically, his goal was to investigate the effect that natural selection and random genetic drift had on the contemporary gene pool for the Kutchin Athapaskan population.

Roth investigates the Kutchin Athapaskan people’s historic fertility differentials by, firstly, taking into account Crow’s Index of natural selection and, secondly, he combined demographic and genetic information to investigate random genetic drift with respect to: 1) the fate of a neutral allele, 2) decay of heterozygosity and, 3) the average half-life of a polymorph.

Roth concludes that neither natural selection nor random genetic drift were thought to be the prime determinants of the gene pool, rather genealogical examination of kin-structured migration and subsequent mating patterns indicate the presence of a pronounced historical founder effect.


DAVID SZYMKOWICZ York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Sawchuk, Joe. Some Early Influences on Metis Political Organization. Culture, 1982. 2(3): 85-92.

This article, in particular focuses on Metis political organizations. Essentially, Native associations are actually non-traditional in structure, rather they are imitations of existing Euro-Canadian political institutions. This is because Native institutions have and continue to function under the guidance of modern provincial and federal guidelines in order to be legally recognized, legitimized and funded by Euro-Canadian political systems. For example political groups have to be registered according to provincial laws, they are required to have a constitution, an annual gathering, a democratically elected president and so on. All of these Western-style governmental guidelines and more cause Native organizations to have to conform to political formats based in Euro-Canadian society. As a result the structure for these organizations follows that of Euro-Canadian political formats versus traditional Native organizations.

Many have assumed that all models for Metis native organizations were adapted from traditional practices constructed on rules of the buffalo hunt that had selected guides and captains to govern the expedition. Although some of these regulations were indeed derived from the hunt, the structure however of the Native committees was not. As a result Natives have had to learn to function within the dominant society, gaining understandings of the Euro-Canadian establishments and power structures in the process. Thus Euro-Canadian politics were and continue to be well entrenched in Metis organizations. While Native leaders argue that the persistence of White non-native values has subjugated indigenous peoples, the political institutions and the very actors they use to challenge this, are based on the system they are in opposition to. Yet Native political organizations still maintain their organizations are based on ideas of “nativeness”. The author concludes however that despite the ultimate denial of Native forms of political organization, indigenous peoples have learned to function efficiently within the dominant political structure and in the very scene that can be aimed against them. Native organizations have been given a political legitimacy, which they otherwise may have lacked, allowing them a powerful way to continue challenging the overall system.


GAIL ATKINSON York University (Maggie MacDonald).

Trigger, B. Archaeological Analysis and Concepts of Causality. Culture, 1982. 2(2): 31-42.
A challenge that all archaeologists must face is how to explain their data sufficiently while recognizing that their own biases are part of their explanations. Traditionally, archaeologists explained their research through the use of individual events or processes, or a set of `primary goals’, which establish general laws about human nature. However, these approaches leave one unanswered question: what is human nature? Richard Gould (1978:251) argues that when speaking in terms of human nature, there are certain laws, which describe constant variables, and there are processes, which can change over time.
We must remember that archaeologists are studying culture as it existed in the past, so it would be impractical to try to understand it in terms of the behavior of the individual, rather they seek to understand all learned behaviors and aspects of human adaptation. This approach leaves itself open to the question of whether culture is a random collection of ideas or something that has deep structural properties.
There are certain aspects any culture that can be seen as being part of a `cultural structure’. Reason, variation, and determinism are found to be the catalysts of cultural change in many different societies regardless of time or geography. The degree in which these factors affect the growth of the culture depends their relationship with all the external influences that society is exposed to.
Archaeologists have spent too much time classifying types of social structures and too little time studying what cause these social structures to change. A better understanding of a society will come through a better understanding of how that society used reason, variation, and determinism to shape its own destiny.
GEOFFREY FLEMING York University (Maggie MacDonald)

Vanderburgh, M. Rosamond. When Legends Fall Silent Our Ways are Lost: Some Dimensions of the Study of Aging among Native Canadians. Culture,1982. II(1): 21-27.

This article discusses that despite growing concern among researchers that the traditional roles of elders in Native Canadian societies are being lost, the elder’s roles are in fact being maintained. Vanderburgh discusses that some believe that the elders’ roles are being diminished by such factors as lack of homogeneity of the ethnic group, situational factors, urbanization and the modernization model of aging. The article focuses on how the roles of the elders are still present but in a different capacity. Vanderburgh explains that a traditional role of elders in Native Canadian societies is the socialization of children and that this tradition is maintained despite the lack of homogeneity. The article emphasizes that the grandparent and grandchild relationship is warm and is key in the cultural transmission of information, wisdom and power. Within native societies the learning and teaching roles of elders and the children are important aspects of the culture and are not affected by the homogeneity of the culture.

Vanderburgh then discusses that the situational factors (being a long history of control of native societies by outside forces), have produced many social programs within native communities. Language programs have been established in which elders teach their language to the youth, an Elders program is another important institution in which elders teach traditional healing practices, and counsel teenagers and adults on how the cope with changing environments such as living on reserves or in a city. The programs main idea is different from other cultural societies in that they ask what the elders can do for the community rather than what can the community do for the elders.

Another important program that has been established is an Art program in elders in the urban settings hold summer sessions in which they teach youth traditional art practices. These programs provide generations of Native Canadians, who have never lived on native reserves, cultural connections to their heritage thought art, which helps counteract urbanization. Vanderburgh states that through the art messages of wisdom and power are preserved and passed of from the elders through the artist and the art to youth.

Vanderburgh concludes that Native Canadians are maintaining the traditional roles of elders and that these roles are not fading away but are still present and important in native societies. The article also concludes that the modernization model of aging which explains that aging population experience reductions in income, increased numbers, diminished status in society and separation from greater life processes cannot be applied to native communities.


ALEXIS THOMSON York University (Maggie MacDonald).