BRODY, Hugh (1943- )




Author Tags: Anthropology, Essentials 2010, First Nations

"The accumulation of knowledge about colonial or tribal populations is often a facet of control and exploitation even when the researchers firmly believe otherwise." – Hugh Brody

QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:

Following his groundbreaking study Indians on Skid Row (1971), Hugh Brody spent 18 months with Beaver Indians in northeastern B.C. in response to proposals for an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. Fluent in French, German and Hebrew, Brody learned two Inuktitut dialects and concluded language is the key to understanding cultures.
Collecting anecdotes, maps and research data, he wrote his best-known work, Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier (1981). He later wrote a clear explanation of what four million square miles of Canadian Arctic means to the Inuit, Déné, Cree, Naskapi, Innu and Métis in Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North (1987), in conjunction with the British Museum and Indigenous Survival International.

Brody’s work as a social scientist contradicts the stereotypes which imply that aboriginals never had, or sadly have lost, a sustainable economic life. “The W.A.C. Bennett Hydroelectric Dam,” he writes, “illustrates the kind of disregard for the Indian interest that has accompanied northern development. The Bennett Dam created Williston Lake, the largest body of fresh water in British Columbia, over 250 miles in length, covering a total of 640 square miles. The flooded valleys were the principal hunting, trapping and fishing territories of several Sekani Indian bands. Their reserves were destroyed; they were dispossessed of the entire area of their traditional homeland, expected to move along, make do, or somehow disappear. And silently they did, withdrawing to higher ground, where they have lived ever since at the edge of other bands, in dire poverty and some social distress.”


FULL ENTRY:

Following his groundbreaking study Indians on Skid Row (Ottawa: Northern Science Research Group, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1971), anthropologist Hugh Brody, born in 1943, spent 18 months with a group of Beaver Indians in northeastern British Columbia, as a researcher hired by the federal government, in response to proposals for an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline in 1978. Already fluent in French, German and Hebrew, Brody learned two Inuktitut dialects and concluded language is the key to understanding cultures. ‘Colonialism constitutes them [Aboriginal peoples] as ignoramuses – vessels to be filled with the truth. But if you ask them to teach you their language you give them a chance to reverse this – you are the one who doesn't know anything. Instead of saying 'seal' you say 'penis' and they all laugh at you.” Collecting anecdotes, maps and research data, he produced his best-known work, Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier (D&M, 1981). As a follow-up, he produced a straightforward explanation of what four million square miles of Canadian Arctic means to the Inuit, Déné, Cree, Naskapi, Innu and Métis in Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North (Douglas & McIntyre, 1987), published in conjunction with the British Museum and Indigenous Survival International. His work of fiction is Means of Escape (Douglas & McIntyre, 1991) and his films include Time Immemorial and Nineteen Nineteen, plus many documentaries on Inuit and Indian cultures.

Brody’s work as a social scientist contradicts the convenient stereotypes which imply that Indians never had, or sadly have lost, a real way of economic life. "The W.A.C. Bennett Hydroelectric Dam,” he writes, “illustrates the kind of disregard for the Indian interest that has accompanied northern development. The Bennett Dam created Williston Lake, the largest body of fresh water in British Columbia over 250 miles. In length, covering a total of 640 square miles. The flooded valleys were the principal hunting, trapping and fishing territories of several Sekani Indian bands. Their reserves were destroyed; they were dispossessed of the entire area of their traditional homeland, expected to move along, make do, or somehow disappear. And silently they did, withdrawing to higher ground, where they have lived ever since at the edge of other bands, in dire poverty and some social distress."

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Maps and Dreams

BOOKS:

Brody, Hugh & F.H.A. Aalen. Gola: Life and Last Days of an Island Community (1969).

Brody, Hugh. Indians on Skid Row (Ottawa: Northern Science Research Group, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1971).

Brody, Hugh. The People's Land: Eskimos and Whites in the Eastern Arctic (Penguin, 1975).

Brody, Hugh. Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier (Douglas & McIntyre, 1981, 2004).

Brody, Hugh & Michael Ignatieff. Nineteen Nineteen (London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1985).

Brody, Hugh. Inishkillane: Change and Decline in the West of Ireland (London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1986).

Brody, Hugh. Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North (D&M, 1987).

Brody, Hugh. Means of Escape: A Set of Stories (Douglas & McIntyre, 1991).

Brody, Hugh. The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers and the Shaping of the World (North Point Press, 2001).

[BCBW 2010]