Critical Book Review
You Are Asked To Witness is a very well written and laid out piece of collaborative literature. The style is free flowing and it has excellent continuity even though it was written by multiple authors. I like how the book starts with the first contact with Xwel?tem and then continues through time to the present day. It goes through St?:lō life, history, and culture in a very easy to read and straight forward manner. It also examines the consequences of the Xwel?tem influence on St?:lo culture in a non-emotional approach. This made me feel as thought the authors were being honest and sincere in there attempt to help me understand what their history has actually been like, not what I have been told by other individuals. The method in which the events are described is much like an encyclopedia, just telling us the details without any derogatory or condescending comments, in other words, ?Just the facts, maim?. I like how there are quotes from Aboriginal people. I adds a personal feeling to the work as well as making what the author is talking about a more tangible or real. There is not only quotes from aboriginals but excerpts from letters to superiors from the Europeans in charge. There is even telling of the Xwel?tem side of the story, the reasons why the certain Xwel?tem did the things they did. For example it talks about the reasons why Colonial Governor James Douglas tried to assimilate the St?:lo. He felt that assimilation of the St?:lo would, ?Result in the moral elevation of the native Indian races, in rescuing them from degradation, and protecting them for oppression and rapid decay?? (Carlson, 1997, p.67). I also like how in the preface they said, ?This volume is only a series of interpretations. It is not the interpretation.? (Carlson, 1997, p.iii). This is something that should be put into all history books because it is very true as there is bound to be someone with a different interpretation, such as Trutch, if he were still alive today. Although I have said that this book pretty much provides a unbiased interpretation of the way in which the Xwel?tem interacted with the St?:lo, I have only done some reading outside of this and can hardly be considered an expert on the material presented here. For instance, the insights into the rationale of Trutch?s motives could be just one of the many possible interpretations. I have seen only this one interpretation but it was presented in an honest and straight forward manner as well as citing Trutch?s letters so I am inclined to believe these authors over the partially correct information that I learned in Social Studies 10.
I liked the pictures that were in this book too. They helped me to see what things were like. For example there is the mention of dip netting being used by St?:lo fishermen. I liked how it had pictures to accompany the text as I had a very different mental image of what dip netting was. The pictures of the St?:lo with small pox were an asset to the chapter that they were in because it made the grim reality of disease more apparent. Instead of the symptoms just being imagined in my head I was able to see how painful and debilitating it would have been.
The subtitle, ?The St?:lo in Canada?s Pacific Coast History? merely informs the reader that in this book there will be discussion on the ways in which the St?:lo influenced, contributed, and were involved in the history of Canada?s pacific coast. The use of Canada in the title limits the discussion to the time since the coming of the Xwel?tem. The history of Canada?s pacific coast starts with the coming of George Vancouver in 1808 and continues right to today. There is a chapter devoted to this question, chapter 6: People and the Development of the B.C. Wage Labour Economy. In that chapter there is dialogue on what industries the St?:lo participated in as well as why they were able participated in them, namely their intention to maintain their traditional seasonal way of life.
Throughout this text there is constant mention of the ways in which the St?:lo have contributed to the commerce, agriculture, exploration, and the fisheries on B.C.?s coast. The authors gave detailed, non-condescending, and easy to read accounts of how the St?:lo participated in each of these boons to B.C.. There was talk of what the St?:lo did and how it helped B.C.. For example the St?:lo were integral to the development of commerce. Starting with the salmon-trade at Ft. Langley in the 1820?s the St?:lo were, ?instrumental in the economic success of the European fur and salmon trade.? (Carlson, 1997, p.113). The St?:lo also participated in major economic events such as the Gold Rush by packing and freighting supplies and people around as well as acting as guides (Carlson, 1997, p.115). The St?:lo were also essential in setting up the canneries which helped the B.C. fish industry.
The St?:lo were also involved politically in the history of the west coast. This text talks in great detail the ways in which the Xwel?tem degraded, subjected and humiliated the St?:lo. When I read the parts of the book that talked about this subject I noticed that there no editorial comments like, ?the stupid Xwel?tem? or other similar emotional remarks in the main body of the chapter. There were some in the commentary or quotations but that just gives the reader an insight into what the certain people thought about what the author was talking about. This is a good way of writing as it doesn?t make me emotional and allows me to make my decision on the book without heated emotions getting in the way.
The theme of colonialism in this text is dealt with in a very professional manner. As mentioned before there is no bad mouthing or name calling directed toward the Xwel?tem. This allows me to read the material presented without getting heated and defensive and thus not really listening to what the author has to say. Also, there is no blame placed or mention of whether deeds done were right or wrong, just statements of the facts and the results of the decisions made by the Xwel?tem. I liked this technique as it lets the reader decide whether what the colonial government did was right or wrong.
Colonialism is the aggregate of various social, economic, and political policies by which an imperial power maintains, or extends it?s control over other area?s or people. There is discussion of all of three policies these right through this text. In one chapter in particular these three guiding principles of the imperium were looked at in depth, chapter 5: Early Nineteenth Century St?:lo. This is when most of the detrimental decisions concerning the St?:lo were made. In this chapter all of the policies regarding the St?:lo are mentioned and gone over and the consequences, both positive & negative are looked at in depth. It goes on to explain why things didn?t work, whether it was because of the St?:lo culture or interference of the Xwel?tem. For example the text talks about how the ?Civilization Act? affected the St?:lo. The Civilization act, ?defined ?Indians? or Aboriginal people as wards of the government ? The ?Civilization Act? established a rigid criteria for Aboriginal people to fulfill before they could be ?promoted? to full and equal citizenship and be recognized as ?civilized?. They had to be able to read and write, be free of debt, and of good moral character.? (Carlson, 1997, p.97). Then the author goes on to go over why this policy wouldn?t work because of the way that St?:lo society and culture worked. The St?:lo never had need for a written language so it would take a little while for them to adapt to writing. As potlatches were part of St?:lo culture it was virtually impossible for any St?:lo to be free of debt as they were usually indebted to another siy?:m, but to the St?:lo it wasn?t debt in the Xwel?tem sense. Yet again because of St?:lo culture they could never become Canadian citizens because they practiced polygamy and kept slaves, both of these being integral to St?:lo daily life.
This book is an asset to teaching future generations of Xwel?tem and c about what actually happened to Aboriginals on the Pacific Coast, not the ideas taught in high school today; that the Europeans took advantage of the Indians and that the Indians are better off being ?civilized?. I really enjoyed reading this book as it was well written and that it had some really nice pictures to help me visualize what the authors are talking about. The subtitle, ?St?:lo in Canada?s Pacific Coast History.? lets the reader know that the authors are going to relate St?:lo and the Xwel?tem histories since the coming of Europeans to Canada?s Pacific Coast. This was done in a neutral manner that made it easier on my palate by not making me feel guilty for the injustices done to the St?:lo and other First Nations people. It did however make me want to help the Aboriginals of today gain certain freedoms as to allow the Aboriginal to enter society in a extremely productive way, not like the way the Canadian government tried to mould the Aboriginals into something they weren?t. This was the intent of the authors so they have written a great piece of learning material. The theme of colonialism was dealt with in the same way as mentioned above, provoking the same feelings of not pity, but a feeling of wanting to right the wrongs that were done in the past. That would allow the Aboriginal people to become productive members of society in their own way, not the European way.
1.Morgan, D. Biblical Precepts: Questionable Guidelines