SAPIR, Edward




Author Tags: First Nations

The Americanization of field research in British Columbia was not an accidental phenomenom. When Ottawa was seeking to appoint someone to head its new Anthropological Division within the Geological Survey in 1910, R.W. Brock consulted Franz Boas for his opinion. “Much to my regret,” replied Boas, “I cannot think of any Canadian whose experience and knowledge would justify recommendation.” Boas recommended 26-year-old Edward Sapir at the University of Pennsylvania over the experienced Canadian Charles Hill-Tout. Brock interviewed Boas, not Sapir, and then gave the young American the job. Until his premature death in 1939, Sapir remained a Boas loyalist, discouraging the University of British Columbia from hiring Hill-Tout for the Headship of its new Department of Anthropology. Sapir briefly visited B.C. in the fall of 1910 and recorded 67 Nootka songs. He returned to Alberni in 1913-1914 to hire the Aboriginal informant Alex Thomas who continued supplying ethnological text until he died in 1971. Sapir’s two excursions to British Columbia resulted in two publications by others. His Yale assistant Morris Swadesh completed Nootka Texts (1939) and he also helped musicologist Helen H. Roberts release Songs of the Nootka Indians of Western Vancouver Island (1955).

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Whaling Indians: Legendary Hunters
The Origin of the Wolf Ritual: The Whaling Indians, West Coast Legends and Stories

BOOKS:

Sapir, Edward & Morris Swadesh. Nootka Texts, Tales and Ethnological Narratives, with Grammatical Notes and Lexical Materials (Linguistic Society of America, University of Pennsylvania, 1939; Bloomington: Indiana University, 1955).

Sapir, Edward & Helen H. Roberts & Morris Swadesh. Songs of the Nootka Indians of Western Vancouver Island (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1955).

[BCBW 2005] "First Nations"