As part of an impact study related to the Alaskan pipeline slated to ""slice through British Columbia on its way from one...



As part of an impact study related to the Alaskan pipeline slated to ""slice through British Columbia on its way from one part of the United States to another,"" Brody spent 18 months with a small group of Athapaskan Indians in the northeastern part of the province, mapping their land-use patterns and studying the economic system based on these hunting and trapping patterns. This book, in alternate chapters, is both a personal account of those 18 months with the Beaver people and a report on white encroachment on the area from the earliest European presence. The scheme has its hazards, but Brody has thematically integrated the two sides of the story so that, overall, the adjacent chapters reinforce each other. The self-possessed, traditional behavior of Brody's Indian acquaintances on hunting trips, their guarded manner in town, and their observant, noncommittal stance with whites both explain and belie the longstanding stereotypes of Indian culture; and their subtle, indirect, nonverbal mode of communication (""planning is so muted as to seem nonexistent,"" notes Brody in connection with a proposal to go hunting) makes clear how much of their motives and methods would go unrecognized by the whites who deal with them. But, says Brody, despite the dismissal of the Indian economy by European trappers and settlers, despite the further disruption brought about by larger farms, logging companies, energy interests, and sports hunters (who kill in two months more than four times the Indians' annual total of moose), the adaptable Athapaskans' hunting and trapping economy survives and can be accommodated. Readers may draw little hope of accommodation from Brody's eloquent, climactic account of the official hearing--at which impatient whites talked of numbers and sections and rights-ofways and the Indians served their stews, testified to their dependence on their trap lines (""There is no way you can make paper moccasins,"" said one woman), and gravely unrolled an ancient dream map setting forth the route to heaven. But thanks to the general and immediate picture Brody has provided, we do witness that occasion with a fuller understanding and respect for both the Indians' approach to negotiating and the urgency and ultimate realism of their position on the pipeline.

Pub Date: March 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1982