WALK WITH ME: CHAPTERS IN THE LIFE OF STÓ:LŌ ELDER ARCHIE CHARLES (1922-2010) AND REFLECTIONS ON COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH
This dissertation is both an analytical life history of Stó:lō Elder Archie Charles (1922-2010) as well as an academic reflection on the process of collaborating to record and write this told-to narrative. Grand Chief Archie Charles left a profound social, political and cultural legacy within the Stó:lō community. He is broadly acknowledged as one of the community’s most respected modern leaders. My examination of the way Archie strategically accepted and rejected elements of the teachings of his ancestors and the lessons learned from newcomers serves to enrich a growing body of post-colonial scholarship that challenges long-standing assumptions about what it means to be Aboriginal. The agency revealed through his life experience alerts us to the dynamic way in which Archie and certain others of his generation balanced innovation with tradition. This study of Archie’s life therefore, contributes to an emerging scholarship that challenges still lingering racist myths and faulty dualisms that position Native people as either “assimilated” or “resisting”. Through Archie’s story, I reveal the way in which he applied knowledge and skills he gained via the acculturation process (and his lifelong reflections on this process) to foster particular cultural continuities within areas of Stó:lō life. Archie successfully did this by enacting his own personal ethos of “protection through inclusion and education”. This research chronicles and interprets the genesis and evolution of his leadership strategy by tracing it back to his adaptive interpretations of his ancestral and familial teachings and highlighting key times in Archie’s life history when he worked to find a balance between innovation and tradition. Thus it foregrounds his formative experience with Xwelítem (newcomers) and Stó:lō society and cosmology, particularly his adoption, time spent attending Kamloops Indian Residential School, and involvement as a soldier and veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. It highlights how he derived meaning out of these experiences, which in turn guided his actions in the public sphere and shaped his policies as a community leader –in particular as elected Chief of his community of Seabird Island British Columbia and as a Sia:teleq (a hereditary caretaker) of his family fishcamp in the Fraser Canyon. This research draws upon my own sustained dialogue with Archie Charles and his immediate family, secondary and primary sources, and previous oral history interviews conducted with Archie and his family members. It explicates Archie’s role as a man who was known more for his actions than his words and the ways in which silence may be interpreted and made meaningful in the told-to genre. In terms that reflect the subtleties of collaborative dynamics that play out in told-to narratives, it likewise examines his role as narrator and authority of his life experience and my role as chronicler, then interpreter. As such, it provides glimpses into specific time periods and aspects of Archie’s life, but does not seek to be fully chronologic and comprehensive. As a result, I seek to contribute to collaborative historiography by sharing the way in which my collaboration with Archie shifted from a dialogue, particularly following his death in 2010, to a “polylogue”: an engagement of multiple voices of family and extended community members to support this telling of his life narrative. Moving from hearing to a more engaged form of “listening” as we did – the kind which allows for silences to exist – reinforced for me that knowledge, expressed through words, gestures, actions as well as silences are not things we can go into a community or individual’s life and “get”. Rather, they are shared as gifts, and as such come with obligations of reciprocity. This dissertation aspires to reciprocate the sharing that Archie did with me by providing his community and my scholarly community with not only an account of his life, but with an assessment of what his life reveals about pertinent issues in Aboriginal and Native-Newcomer history – and through this process to hopefully contribute to the ongoing efforts at building reconciliation between settler and Indigenous societies.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorCarlson, Keith; Gingell, Susan; Miller, J.R.; Handy, Jim; Khanenko-Friesen, Natalia
Copyright DateOctober 2015