ANCIENT VILLAGES AND TOTEM POLES OF THE NISG̱A'A

Missionary response to Nisg̱a’a culture

This 5.5 minute video is an excerpt from an interview with the late Chief Rod Robinson, who held the Nisga’a chieftain name of Minee’eskw (the name has since been given to another chief). In it he speaks of the missionaries who came to the Nass Valley. He shares his interpretation of their understanding of Nisga’a culture, which is based on a study he made of historical letters and documents.

Below the video clip, there is a brief description along with a “think” bubble that says, “Think about the implications of having people interpret the ways of life of another culture…”

Video Icon Link Click HERE to go to video clip now.

Possible Activities:

Other questions that could be posed include: What might the impact of missionaries' interpretations be on Nisga'a ways of life in the past? What about now? Parallels then and now? How might missionaries’ observations and inferences compare to Nisga’a’s observations and inferences of the missionaries? Why might people make inferences that do not fit with reality? How might this matter? What lessons can we learn from the potential for incorrect inferences? How can this help us when we try to interpret historical documents/artifacts?

The video could be used as a vehicle for further study of and reflection on the impact of such historical events on First Nations today, to be expressed in a journal, or some other medium.

It could be a springboard for inquiry into the significance of the totems/art objects to First Nations way of life, parallels in other cultures with written histories, and implications of their loss.

It could be a springboard into a unit of study on the Nisga'a culture with a positive focus re-their efforts to reclaim their culture.

Useful References and Resources:
Robin Fisher (1990). Contact and Conflict: Indian-European Relations in British Columbia, 1774-1890. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. (See Chapter 6, the Missionaries).
Charles Lillard (Editor). Mission to Nootka, 1874-1900: Reminiscences of the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Sidney, BC: Gray’s Publishing. (The personal diary of Father Augustin Joseph Brabant; Lillard notes while it misrepresents known facts, it is important as one eye-witness account among others by religious men who witnessed and contributed to the collapse of various Indian cultures.)