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Rezension / Review


Blackfoot Gallery Committee. Nitsitapiisinni: The Story of the Blackfoot People. Toronto: Key Porter Books Limited, 2001. paperback, 96 pages, over 200 color and black and white illustrations, glossary of Blackfoot terms,
index, ISBN 1-55297-583-5, $15.95

Rezensiert von 
Michelle Hamilton, Department of History, University of Western Ontario, London / Canada
E-Mail: mahamilt@uwo.ca

Nitsitapiisinni: The Story of the Blackfoot People was published in conjunction with the Nitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life exhibit which recently opened in November of 2001 at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. It combines gallery text with archival photographs, stunning artifacts and beautiful landscape shots of traditional Blackfoot territory. It is, however, much more than a souvenir guide or exhibit catalogue as it can be considered a stand-alone book. In fact, it is currently being considered as a school textbook in southern Alberta.

The content of the gallery and the publication was determined by the collaborative curatorial team of Glenbow staff and Blackfoot community leaders and elders. This is their story, from their point of view, one which makes considerable use of oral tradition and asserts its accuracy. A version of the gallery text, the book discusses themes such as connection to the land, spirituality, traditional values and the importance of family and community.

They are presented as both part of the past but still important and enduring in the present. The post-contact period deals with sensitive issues, such as the liquor trade, loss of territory and residential schools, but is not bitter or blaming in tone. In fact, the overall voice of Nitsitapiisinni is one of cultural strength and co-existence with non-Natives. The conclusion “We Are Meant to be Ni-tsi-ta-pi-ksi” is a powerful and emotional assertion of these principles.

The style and format of the book reflects its accessibility. The level of language is suitable for the average reader, and Blackfoot words incorporated into the text are explained simply. A glossary at the back reinforces these definitions. Sidebar quotes from the Blackfoot team members quickly suggest important themes found in the text. Use of first-person narrative and the inclusion of storytelling, an important tradition and learning tool for the Blackfoot, also makes the text appealing to the public.

While it can be considered a book for the generalist, Nitsitapiisinni also makes a strong contribution to the academic post-modern literature published after the1992 joint Assembly of First Nations/ Canadian Museums Association report, which established the ethical guidelines for Native/museum relations. As such, readers may include students and professors of the museological and anthropological disciplines, although the book is imperfect as a research tool. Archival and artifact photos are not accompanied by their reference or catalogue numbers. Surprisingly, there are few artifact photos included, although this was a unique opportunity to showcase Glenbow’s collection. A short list of works on Blackfoot history and culture used or approved by the curatorial team also would be useful. These, however, are not major flaws.

Nitsitapiisinni: The Story of the Blackfoot People is the admirable result of a long-term and collaborative relationship between Native communities and a museum which has benefitted both sides and the general public. It is relevant, purposeful and accessible, and demonstrates what can be done in the spirit of the Assembly of First Nations/Canadian Museums Association task force.

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Dokument erstellt am 2.10.2002