On performance and connection to land for indigenous and settler peoples: Selena Marie Couture, Xʷay’Xʷəy’ and Stanley Park: performing history and land, PhD Dissertation, University of British Columbia, 2015


Abstract: This dissertation demonstrates performance as a mode of knowledge transfer, cultural continuity and intercultural influence that connects people – Indigenous as well as settlers and newcomers – to land. In it I engage with performance studies theory in light of Indigenous conceptions of land, performance and place naming held within the hən’q’əmin’əm’ language, while using case studies to explicate histories based on archives and repertoires. Two of my dissertation case studies critically engage with the City of Vancouver Archives. The first deconstructs the use of reenactment to create an origin narrative of benevolent “whiteness” in settler society and the second examines possible Indigenous interventions in the archive through cultural restriction. A third study demonstrates how Aboriginal Tourism of BC’s Klahowya Village, located in Stanley Park 2010-14, presents an enterprise which asserts a connection to land while enabling some intra-nation Indigenous transfer of knowledge. In aiming to rectify the absence of Indigenous women in the archival work that I have undertaken, this dissertation also features performance responses to contemporary theatrical works written and/or performed by Indigenous women in Vancouver between 2012 and 2014. Research methodologies include semiotic and phenomenological analyses enabled by an engagement with Indigenous research methodologies supported by language learning, interviews, as well as archival and field work. This research puts forth a careful examination of the influence of Vancouver’s first archivist, James Skitt Matthews, making note of limitations of the city’s archival collection with regard to Indigenous knowledge and activities. Through analyses of the performative knowledge contained within hən’q’əmin’əm’ and colonial place names this research proposes further critical consideration of existing Vancouver place names. I also develop two terms, grounded practices and eddies of influence, which are employed to create a fuller understanding of the significance of land, language and reciprocity, as well as the strategic and tactical methods through which the Indigenous peoples of this area have used performance to contribute to cultural continuation and the maintenance of Indigenous places.

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