restricted access Crossing Boundaries: Homage to Frederica de Laguna
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crossing boundaries Homage to Frederica de Laguna Marie-Françoise Guédon The development of Northwest Coast studies is marked by underlying features , which may become visible when one is looking closely at individual careers, especially when those careers stand at important cross roads of our field of study. Frederica de Laguna presents us with one of these careers. She occupies a special place in the anthropology of the North Pacific Coast, having produced substantial studies of the northern Northwest Coast for more than 60 years. She also commands several of the great junctions in our field. First, her work on Prince William Sound and among the Tlingits places her at the geographic and cultural hinge between the Amerindian Northwest Coast and the Aleutian-Eskimo North Pacific area. Second, she maintained throughout her life a definition of the work of the anthropologist as an integration of archaeological, linguistic, ethnographical, and even ethnohistorical data. Furthermore, what is less well known is that she developed herself as a scholar at the junction between American and European social sciences, with strong connections with both North American cultural anthropology and French and Danish scholarship. Finally, her life of research spans more than 60 years of fieldwork on the Pacific coast, from Boas and Birket-Smith through the Second World War to the present. In every case she rose to the challenge by constructing links between different geographical and cultural areas, different disciplines, and different approaches. Culture Areas When teaching in the classic setting of a North American university, one is quickly drawn by the textbooks into a reduced definition of Northwest Coast as something that starts with the Salish and ends with the Tlingits, excluding both the Plateau and anything north or west of the Tlingits. Barring the exception, such as volume 7 of the Handbook of North American Indians, Tseng 2004.8.9 07:12 7132 Mauze / COMING TO SHORE / sheet 93 of 548 edited by Wayne Suttles (1990), it is only in archaeological studies, or linguistics , or in thework of a few ‘‘generalists,’’ such as Bill Holm,Wilson Duff, or Claude Lévi-Strauss, that our angle of vision increases and that peoples such as the Eyak, Aleuts (Unangan), Chugach (Alutiiq), or even Yupiit are brought back into the picture. Correspondingly, the northern North Pacific Coast specialists in Alaska do not as a rule foray into the southern regions, that is, south of the Tlingits.1 Much of de Laguna’s work concerns the northern regions of the Northwest Coast.There, shewent from Cook Inlet to the Eyak, then to the Chugach and the Dena’ina, and finally to the Tlingits and the Ahtna, studying and reconstructing a rich and diverse cultural environment, which she took as a whole regional complex, embedded in the still larger North Pacific Rim context (cf. Fitzhugh and Chaussonnet 1994). But she had come to the North Pacific Coast via Greenland. Greenland was not an accident. In 1929 it was a deliberate step. It demonstrated the breadth of her geographic and cultural orientations and remained in her work as a steady northern anchor (see de Laguna 1977). From this perspective the arctic regions, the Bering Strait, and the Pacific Coast are part of the same complex. This perspective resulted in a dual circumpolarand circum-Pacific reference, which Frederica de Laguna wove into her research, her teaching, and her links with her colleagues (de Laguna 1994). In the 1970s her graduate seminar on the northern cultures typically placed the Inuit first, not in the northernmost part of North America, but on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The Dorset and pre-Thule immigrants were never far from her discussions of PrinceWilliam Sound, and the Bering Strait was presented as a gateway between the two continental masses of Eurasia and America, as well as between two oceans. During the Northwest Coast Ethnology Conference Claude Lévi-Strauss (see Lévi-Strauss, this volume) asked participants to reinstate the southern part of the North Pacific Coast back into our field; Puget Sound and the Coast Salish area, he said, contribute important facts and represent a valuable component of our field of study. In many ways we hear the same kind of message coming from Frederica de Laguna, this time about the northern regions of the Pacific Coast. According to her, Prince William Sound, for instance, is a key area in the development of the Paci...