Nicolson, Deanna

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University of Victoria


This project is about archival reconstruction. It focuses on records pertaining to the Kwakwaka’wakw people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of British Columbia. Specifically, this project focuses on digitizing and converting a collection of ‘Personal Names of the Kwakiutl’ recorded by George Hunt nearly a century ago for anthropologist Franz Boas. The vast amount of information was recorded using an outdated orthography crafted by Boas that can hardly be read nor can it be replicated on a standard computer keyboard today. By first digitizing and then converting this data into a more recently developed and widely accepted writing system this will increase accessibility and comprehensibility for Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw members. In a sense, this project is also a repatriation project–the return of the almost one hundred year old material from a cross-continental institution. This work can potentially serve as a foundation for indigenous education curriculum in the areas of language and culture as Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw personal names are embedded with an abundance of cultural information. Each name reveals a rich rendition of Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw history and genealogy. In addition, these traditional names are constructed in a particular way that combines (oftentimes) several word parts that each carry meaning and when strung together construct a beautifully crafted ‘name’. In all actuality, the name is only the tip of the iceberg of a complex cultural history.