Thomas Crosby and the Tsimshian: Small Shoes for Feet Too Large


164 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0430-0
DDC 306'.089'974





Reviewed by James S. Frideres

James S. Frideres is Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Social
Sciences at the University of Calgary and co-author of Prairie Builders.


This short book focuses on the Tsimshian First Nation and analyzes its
relations with Europeans as they entered and settled the area. The
central goal of the book is to provide an analysis as to how the
Tsimshian dealt with the missionary influence. Two competing theories
are examined, one of which (controlled acculturation) sees the Natives
incorporating aspects of European culture while trying to integrate
these aspects into their own changing culture. The alternative view is
that Natives were overwhelmed by European culture and were unable to
deal with it. In other words, were the Tsimshian passive receivers of
the dominant culture or were they active participants in the process?
The author concludes that the Tsimshian were the primary instigators of
social change and initially embraced the missionary efforts of Thomas
Crosby. However, after Crosby was unable to bring about the goals set
forth by the Tsimshian, his efforts were rejected. While the title
includes the name Thomas Crosby (an early Methodist missionary), the
author tells us little of Crosby or his impact on the Tsimshian people
and their culture.

The author, using aspects of anthropological theory, attempts to assess
the dynamics of cultural contact, focusing on one First Nations group,
the Tsimshian. Unfortunately, the lack of data and the vagueness of the
theories to be tested leave the question unanswered. Nevertheless, the
book provides a good descriptive history of the Tsimshian and their
contact with Europeans. The section regarding land claims is
particularly informative and strikes a discordant note when one compares
it with the recent judgment handed down by British Columbia Supreme
Court judge Allan McEachern. In summary, the author provides a
micro-study of how one First Nations group carried on sustained contact
with an invading, dominant group. The strategies for dealing with the
dominant group are revealed, and the book’s heuristic material will,
it is hoped, lead to a more detailed and thorough analysis of how social
change is effected.


Bolt, Clarence., “Thomas Crosby and the Tsimshian: Small Shoes for Feet Too Large,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,