M.A. Theses: Paul Prince, 1992

A People with History: Acculturation and Resistance in Kimsquit

This thesis is a study of the process of acculturation among the Kimsquit Bella Coola. It combines an examination of written documents with the analysis of archaeological material from four Kimsquit archaeological sites that show a sequence of relatively short occupations spanning the late prehistoric through historic periods.

The results of the study are as follows. Written records indicate that direct contact with Europeans was infrequent and unobtrusive until the 1870's with little visible impact upon lifeways or values. Attempts at directed change by colonial powers beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century were met with selective resistance. Resistance may have carried through to the 1920's when Kimsquit was abandoned. The analysis of the material assemblage shows the gradual incorporation and modification of European items into the indigenous cultural matrix and the retention of much of indigenous material culture until the mid 1800's. In the late nineteenth century Euro-American goods almost completely replaced indigenous materials and locally modified trade goods. Many of those goods involved the adoption of Euro-American practices (i.e. hunting, clothing and building methods) and the loss of traditional craft skills (i.e. lithic technology) but most have ambiguous functions and may have seen uniquely Native usages.

Archival documents indicate that European items were easily acquired at local fish cannery stores by the end of the century and were adopted for their convenience and prestige, but still many Euro-American values remained actively resisted. In the latter respect the thesis counters the tendency to think of Native societies as static or passive recipients of European traits.