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HUMANITIES 477 comes to teach here should have to sit a compulsory examination on it three months after entry. For the very richness of the folk-stuff of Canada is staggering, and we are all ignorant of it to our peril. Folklorists have a difficult time defining their discipline; Edith Fowke admits as much in her introduction (which would have been even better had it been longer). She might not insist that it is a 'discipline'; she does admit it may be best defined by making lists and gives us the 'listy' definition of Marius Barbeau, the late folklorist from Quebec who is known throughout the world. But for me, the whole connotation of 'folklore' blazes out in all directions the unclassifiability of living human behaviour; people will do what they do because it pleases them to do it; when we say of someone 'She's really a character!' we are grappling not only with individual personality but with the incomprehensible variety of what makes people so strikingly people. And folklorists try to do this for entire communities. Fowke tries to do it for all of Canada. She classifies her enormous .subject into four parts (a fine, indigenous division of things - the sacred number of native North Americans is four) : 1. The Native People; 2 . Canadiens; 3. Anglo-Canadians; 4. Canadian Mosaic. In each part she includes essays and collections gathered by both experts and untrained but observant human beings; her brief introductions to these essays are always enlightening and concise. One may quarrel with individual contributions (for example, I would say Richard Hardisty'S essay 'The Last Sun Dance' is good personal memoir but too romanticized in a braggy twentieth-century 'oh-I-remember-when-I-was-a-boy-long-ago' kind of way to be really accurate; Robert Jefferson in 'Fifty Years on the Saskatchewan' is both calmer and more precise), and her 'Canadian Mosaic' section is extremely skimpy - five brief essays when it might have had twenty - but a book of this size can merely provide a tasty introduction to an enormous subject. It should be read for that, and appreciated. Professor Fowke, born in Saskatchewan and now living in Ontario, is known primarily for her expertise in folk song. She has produced seven long-playing records, prepared hundreds of folk music programmes for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and published fourteen books, nine of which deal with Canadian folk songs. If she continues her energetic and intelligent efforts in the broader field that this book implies , we may soon have to begin talking about the 'Fowke-lore' of Canada. Long may she flourish. (RUDY WIEBE) George Woodcock. Peoples of the Coast: The Indians of the PacificNorthwest Hurtig. 22}, illus. $17.95 In his latest book the many-faceted George Woodcock has tackled yet 478 LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 another large and specialized subject: the culture and art of Canada's West Coast tribes. No other aspect of Canadiana with the possible exception of Inuit art has inspired so many books, and one's first reaction is to question whether another is needed. From specialists in Indian lore that reaction is apt to be stronger: annoyance that a non-specialist should presume to write on this subject. In my opinion neither reaction is justified. There are indeed too many books about the West Coast Indians , but most of them are detailed anthropological treatises or superficial popularizations. Few, if any, combine careful research and firsthand observation with the ability to describe the Indian peoples in human terms. Woodcock's interest and approach shine through his stated purpose: to describe the people who 'evolved a vital culture homogeneous in spirit yet marvellously varied in its detailed manifestations, which produced elaborate dramatic ceremonials related to religious beliefs and social prestige systems, and an art more rich than any that flourished in preEuropean America north of the valley of Mexico' (p 8). He notes also: 'I do not propose to enter the more recondite disputes between anthropologists ; in the rare cases where different opinions seem important in affecting the larger pattern of interpretation I shall state the varying points of view and shall argue from the viewpoint which my own observation of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 477-479
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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