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Edited by Léo-Paul Dana and Robert B. Anderson
Chapter 26: The Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay, Cormorant Island, British Columbia
26 The Namgis1 First Nation2 of Alert3 Bay, Cormorant4 Island,5 British Columbia6 Léo-Paul Dana Introduction Diﬀerent societies measure wealth and status in a variety of ways. A European noble might be proud of his title; an American might ﬂaunt his sports car. In Lesotho, wealth is demonstrated by the number of cattle owned (see Chapter 9 in this volume). Along the west coast of British Columbia, Indigenous people traditionally used thin shield-shaped pieces of copper, referred to as coppers, to represent wealth and power. These documented signiﬁcant traditions and particular events, and the value of any one copper increased with time, unless broken.7 The mythical Wealthy One – also referred to as Kumugwe or Copper Maker – is said to have a house made of copper, at the bottom of the sea. Franz Boas was among the ﬁrst social scientists who focused on Indigenous people in this region.8 Boas wrote, ‘The Paciﬁc Coast of America between Juan de Fuca Strait and Yakutat Bay is inhabited by a great many Indian tribes distinct in physical characteristics and distinct in languages, but one in culture. Their arts and industries, their customs and beliefs, diﬀer so much from those of all other Indians that they form one of the best deﬁned cultural groups of our continent’ (1897, p. 317). Benedict elaborated: ‘They were a people of great possessions . . . Their civilization was built upon an ample supply of goods, inexhaustible, and obtained without excessive expenditure of labour’ (1935, p....
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