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Life Lived Like a Story: Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders

Julie Cruikshank

1991 Canada

Storytelling is a universal activity and may well be the oldest of the arts. It has always provided a vehicle for the expression of ideas, particularly in societies relying on oral tradition. Yet investigation of what contemporary storytellers actually communicate to their listeners occupies a restricted place in anthropology. The growing literature on small-scale hunting societies pays careful attention to their subsistence strategies but less to ideas that seem peripheral to their economic activities. A gap remains in our knowledge about the contribution of expressive forms like storytelling to strategies for adapting to social, cultural, and economic change.

The life stories appearing in this volume come from communities where storytelling provides a customary framework for discussing the past. Angela Sidney, Kitty Smith and Annie Ned are three remarkable and gifted women of Athapaskan and Tlingit ancestry who were born in the southern Yukon Territory around the turn of the century. Their life stories tell us as much about the present as about the past, as much about ideas of community as about individual experience; they call our attention to the diverse ways humans formulate such linkages.

Introduction: Life History and Life Stories

Part I: My Stories Are My Wealth / Angela Sidney

Part II: My Roots Grow in Jackpine Roots / Kitty Smith

Part III: Old-Style Words Are Just Like School / Annie Ned

Cultural Constructions of Individual Experience