Coast Salish Senses of Place: Dwelling, Meaning, Power, Property and Territory in the Coast Salish World

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Thom, Brian David
Coast Salish mythology
This study addresses the question of the nature of indigenous people's connection to the land, and the implications of this for articulating these connections in legal arenas where questions of Aboriginal title and land claims are at issue. The idea of 'place' is developed, based in a phenomenology of dwelling which takes profound attachments to home places as shaping and being shaped by ontological orientation and social organization. In this theory of the 'senses of place', the author emphasizes the relationships between meaning and power experienced and embodied in place, and the social systems of property and territory that forms indigenous land tenure systems. To explore this theoretical notion of senses of place, the study develops a detailed ethnography of a Coast Salish Aboriginal community on southeast Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Through this ethnography of dwelling, the ways in which places become richly imbued with meanings and how they shape social organization and generate social action are examined. Narratives with Coast Salish community members, set in a broad context of discussing land claims, provide context for understanding senses of place imbued with ancestors, myth, spirit, power, language, history, property, territory and boundaries. The author concludes in arguing that by attending to a theorized understanding of highly local senses of place, nuanced conceptions of indigenous relationships to land which appreciate indigenous relations to land in their own terms can be articulated.
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