– Brian Thom, Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria

Lkū´men [Lekwungen/Songhees] Carved House Posts

Reviews of The W̱SÁNEĆ and their Neighbours

​It is my distinct pleasure to have read The Saanich and their Neighbours: Coast Salish Peoples of Vancouver Island, by Diamond Jenness, edited by Barnett Richling.  This classic ethnography – based on Jenness’ fieldwork on Vancouver Island in 1935-6 – is a rich and complex narrative of the lifeways, values, and stories remembered by knowledgeable Elders from the WSÁNEC (Saanich), Cowichan, Halalt, and Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo) communities who shared deeply with him.  This time in the 1930s was an important moment in the cultural lives of Coast Salish communities – where Elders who were experiencing dramatic changes wrought by decades of Indian Act policies (from residential schools to the potlatch ban) – were reflecting on their life experiences and cultural knowledge with a person genuinely interested in documenting the details and minutia of their traditional knowledge and experience.  From this collaboration Jenness crafted a picture of SENĆOŦEN and Hul’qumi’num-speaking communities’ cultural practices, from the use of land and resources, to the nature of family and village political and economic relations, to an account of life from birth to death. These Coast Salish people shared with Jenness numerous oral narratives – from the mythic cannon to legends and historic accounts – which provide real insight into indigenous epistemology and ontology.  There is no one better to bring Jenness’s manuscript and notes together than Jenness’ biographer Barnett Richling.  Richling’s careful editing and, useful contextual notes enrich the reading of this 80 year-old text.  ​


The light editing approach taken by Richling allows us to enter the world of the WSANEC as Jenness encountered it, providing a rich and historically-situated read that is useful for ethnographers, historians, archaeologists, and indeed anyone fascinated by the deep and engaging history of the Coast Salish peoples. Each chapter is full of useful and interesting observations and descriptions, which have not been readily accessible until now. This work will undoubtedly stand as a core source text for Coast Salish studies.

 – Colin Grier, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University