Life Lived Like a Story


405 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0413-0
DDC 917.9'1004972





Reviewed by Edith Fowke

Edith Fowke is a professor emeritus at York University and author of the
recently published Canadian Folklore: Perspectives on Canadian Culture.


Cruikshank, an anthropology professor at the University of British
Columbia, has previously published the stories of Angela Sidney,
probably the best-known storyteller of the Yukon, and a volume of other
Indian narratives she collected. Now she has collaborated with Sidney
and two other storytellers, Kitty Smith and Annie Ned, to present their
autobiographies, which are liberally interspersed with their stories and
songs. Sidney and Ned both received the Order of Canada.

This is an important volume for anthropologists, but unlike most
anthropology texts, it is very readable, and should be of as much
interest to the general reader as to scholars. It gives a vivid picture
of life in the Yukon Territory for most of the past century. All three
women were in their nineties when they told their stories (Sidney and
Smith have since died).

The women begin by describing their parents’ lives and the history of
their clans, which is traditional in their society. They go on to
describe, clearly and often with ironic humor, their childhoods,
experiences, and relations with the early white settlers and the
missionaries. Their stories also depict historical events like the
Klondike gold rush, the epidemics of 1898, and the building of the
Alaskan Highway. They record from personal experience Indian customs
relating to menstruation, marriage, and the potlatches.

The stories include creation myths, animal legends, and stories of
transformation. They seem to interpret events metaphorically, and the
flavor of the book is suggested by the titles of each woman’s
narrative: “My Stories Are My Wealth,” “My Roots Grow in Jackpine
Roots,” and “Old-Style Words Are Just Like School.”


Cruikshank, Julie., “Life Lived Like a Story,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,