Be of Good Mind: Essays on the Coast Salish.


324 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-7748-1323-5
DDC 971.1004'9794





Edited by Bruce Gransville Miller
Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan A. Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and
ethnohistorian in British Columbia.


According to the editor of this collection of articles, the Coast Salish have been overlooked by scholars of the Northwest Coast because of their early culture contact and the pressures of assimilation by Euro-American settler populations. This is reflected in the “salvage ethnographic” approach taken by early ethnographers and has contributed to a perception of studies of the Coast Salish as a “scholarly backwater.” Part of the reason for this neglect of the Coast Salish is geography: the U.S.–Canadian boundary bisects the cultural area occupied by the Coast Salish, which has not only disconnected Coast Salish social networks but its scholarship. Although there is representation from various Coast Salish groups from both sides of the border, the Stü:lô who occupied parts of the Fraser River clearly dominate the book.


The contributors include anthropologists, archaeologists, cultural representatives of the Aboriginal perspective, and a linguist. Despite an excellent introduction on the subject of the history of ethnographic work of the Coast Salish, many of the chapters repeat the same subject. Most of the chapters are focused on some variant of ethnography, although there is some representation from archeological, linguistic and historical sources. The subject areas include: a detailed overview of the scholarship of the Coast Salish, the importance of warfare; the extensiveness of social kinship networks; the role of litigation and scholarship; the cultural importance of place names; the role of migrations and epidemics on cultural identity; the difficulties establishing cultural identity for treaty purposes; the current state of language education; and the limitations of the ethnographic record to describe the precontact period. Some contributors use the word “ethnohistory” in a way that is substantially different to that understood by scholars from other parts of Canada. Some contributors do not appear to understand that ethnohistory is a method which includes and integrates perspectives from archaeology, ethnography, and history in reconstructing the past.


Although it has been twenty years since a publication of essays on the Coast Salish, this book is a welcome attempt to bring new issues and topics to students and scholars of the Coast Salish.


“Be of Good Mind: Essays on the Coast Salish.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,