Sometimes called Canada's most distinguished pioneer anthropologist, Diamond Jenness spent four weeks visiting Sekani settlements near the Hudson's Bay Company trading posts of Fort McLeod, on McLeod Lake, and Fort Grahame, on Finlay River, in 1924, resulting in The Sekani Indians of British Columbia (1937). He also studied the Saanich Indians of Vancouver Island during the 1930s and later published The Carrier Indians of the Bulkley River (1943).

In 1936, Diamond Jenness visited the Fraser Valley community of Katzie where he interviewed Old Pierre, a medicine man aged approximately 75 years, who shared some of the stories and legends of his people. These were transcribed in The Faith of a Coast Salish Indian (1955), edited by Wilson Duff. According to the Katzie First Nation in Pitt Meadows, Peter ("Old";) Pierre had been chosen among those of his generation to carry a variety of traditional responsibilities. "His training began at the age of three; by the time he was eight years old, he was deemed ready to begin his training in the skills of a medicine-person and in the skills necessary to maintain the oral history of the Katzie people. His education began under the guidance of three elders that his mother had hired for this purpose. By the time he was fourteen years old, Peter Pierre was already a practicing medicine person. Throughout his life, he continued in his vocation, administering to the sick among the Coast Salish tribes, as far away as Cowichan. Peter's son Simon acted as an interpreter for his father in his work."; Simon Pierre later travelled to London to serve as interpreter for a delegation of chiefs eager to resolve land rights issues and he was prominent in efforts to repeal federal laws prohibiting the potlatch. As of 1952, Simon Pierre formed an alliance with anthropologist Wayne Suttles, echoing the relationship that his father had had with Diamond Jenness, to generate a written record of Katzie traditions and beliefs. Their collaboration called Katzie Ethnographic Notes was published in conjunction with a reprint of Jenness' The Faith of a Coast Salish Indian.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, on February 10, 1886, he graduated with an M.A. from Victoria University College in Wellington in 1908, then studied anthropology at Balliol College, Oxford University, in England where he earned his Honours B.A. in 1911 and an M.A. in 1916. One of his classmates in 1910 was Marius Barbeau, who became Canada's most famous ethnologist and folklorist. Jenness first came to Canada in 1913, having previously led an Oxford expedition to New Guinea to study the d'Entrecasteaux Islanders, an adventure that resulted in The Northern D'Entrecasteaux, published from Oxford, England in 1920. In Canada Jenness joined an ill-fated Arctic expedition led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson which lost its flagship, Karluk, and resulted in the death of anthropologist Henri Bouchat. Upon learning that England and Canada were at war in 1916, Jenness immediately joined the Canadian army as a field artillery gunner. He became a Canadian citizen after the war, married Frances Bleakney and commenced his employment with the National Museum of Canada.

Diamond Jenness recorded hundreds of Inuit drum dance songs on wax cylinders during his expeditions through northern Alaska and Canada. He became chief of the anthropology division in 1926 and remained in that job until his retirement in 1948. He became president of the Society for American Archaeology in 1937 and president of the American Anthropological Association in 1939. During World War II he was Deputy Director of Intelligence for the Royal Canadian Air Force, then Chief of the Inter-Service Topographical Section of the Department of National Defence. The Smithsonian Institute published his paper on Canada's Indian Problems in 1943. Diamond Jenness received six honorary doctoral degrees and died in Ottawa on November 29, 1969. His study called The Indians of Canada (1932) has been printed at least nine times and The People of the Twilight (1928) has been reprinted at least seven times.


Jenness, Diamond. The Life of the Copper Eskimos (Ottawa: National Museum, 1922).
Jenness, Diamond. Physical Characteristics of the Copper Eskimo (Ottawa: National Museum, 1923).
Jenness, Diamon. Songs of the Copper Eskimo (Ottawa: National Museum, 1925).
Jenness, Diamond. The People of the Twilight (New York: Macmillan, 1928; University of Chicago Press, 1959, 1961, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1975).
Jenness, Diamond. Comparative Vocabulary of the Western Eskimo Dialects (1928).
Jenness, Diamond. The Indians of Canada (Ottawa: National Museum of Canada, Canadian Department of Mines, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1955, 1958, 1960, 1963, 1967; University of Toronto Press, 1977).
Jenness, Diamond (editor). The American Aborigines: Their Origin and Antiquity (University of Toronto Press, 1933).
Jenness, Diamond. The W?SÁNE? and Their Neighbours: Diamond Jenness on the Coast Salish of Vancouver Island, 1935 / Edited and with an introduction by Barnett Richling. Oakville, Ontario: Rock's Mills Press, 2017. $24.95. / 978-1-77244-036-2
Jenness, Diamond. The Sekani Indians of British Columbia (Ottawa: National Museum of Canada, Transactions of The Royal Society of Canada, 1937).
Jenness, Diamond. The Carrier Indians of the Bulkley River - Their Social & Religious Life (Smithsonian Institution, 1943). Anthropological Papers, No. 19-26.
Jenness, Diamond. Faith of a Coast Salish Indian (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum Memoirs in Anthropology Number 3, 1955). Edited by Wilson Duff.
Jenness, Diamond. The Corn Goddess and Other Tales from Indian Canada (Ottawa: 1956; National Museum of Canada, 1975).
Jenness, Diamond. Eskimo Administration: III. Labrador (Montreal: Arctic Institute of North America, 1965).
Jenness, Diamond. Eskimo Administration: V. Analysis and Reflections (Montreal: Arctic Institute of North America, 1967).
Jenness, Diamond. Eskimo Administration: IV. Greenland (Montreal: Arctic Institute of North America, 1967).


Lotz, Pat & Jim Lotz (editors). Pilot Not Commander: Essays in Memory of Diamond Jenness (Anthropologica, Special Issue. Ottawa: Canadian Research Centre for Anthropology; St. Paul University, 1971).

Jenness, Stuart E. (editor). Diamond Arctic Odyssey: The Diary of Diamond Jenness, Ethnologist with the Canadian Arctic Expedition in Northern Alaska and Canada 1913-1916 (Hull, PQ: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1991).

Reviews of the author's work by BC Studies:
Three Athapaskan Ethnographies: Diamond Jenness on the Sekani, Tsuu T'ina and Wet'suwet'en, 1921-1924

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2017] "Anthropology" "First Nations"