Robin Ridington began working with the Beaver Indians, or Dane-zaa, in 1964; his wife Jillian began working with the Dane-zaa in 1978. A UBC-based anthropologist, Robin Ridington studied storytelling techniques of the Dane-zaa in the subarctic Peace River area of northern British Columbia for Trail to Heaven: Knowledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Community (1988), which won the Hubert Evans B.C. Non-Fiction Prize in 1989. Based on 25 years of field research, it provides an oral history of the Dane-zaa, also known as Dunne-za, and was followed by a second Dunne-za title, Little Bit Know Something: Stories in a Language of Anthropology (1990). His first work on the Dunne-za was Swan People: A Study of the Dunne-za Prophet Dance (1978). With Jillian Ridington, he has also co-authored two educational works for young readers, People of the Trail: How the Northern Forest Indians Lived (1978) and People of the Longhouse: How the Iroquoian Tribes Lived (1982), as well as When You Sing It Now, Just Like New: First Nations Poetics, Voices and Representations (2005), a collection of essays about the Dane-zaa and First Nations' ecology, poetics and oral literature. The couple has contributed to the production of two videos in collaboration with the Dane-zaa, 'Contact The People' and 'Otter Man's Prophecy', and are working with the B.C. Museums Society to make a digital archive of audio, visual and textual material pertaining to the Dane-zaa. With Dennis Hastings, Ridington also co-authored The Sacred Pole of the Omaha Tribe (1997) which uses the conventions of oral narratives to tell the Omahas' story and the significance of their sacred pole. He was a long-time resident of Galiano Island before relocating to Victoria.

Language loss threatens to break the thread of oral history among the Dane-zaa First Nations who have lived where the Peace River flows through northeastern B.C. and northwestern Alberta for millenia. That's why the the Doig River First Nation requested anthropologists Robin and Jillian Ridington to present their history in oral stories collected over a half-century of fieldwork for Where Happiness Dwells (UBC 2013). In 1977, the former Fort St. John band split into the Doig River and Blueberry River First Nations. The Doig River was reputedly named by white people for a Scottish trapped named Fred Doig. According to the Ridington's introduction, fur traders first recorded Dane-zaa names in a North West Company journal in 1799.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Indian Healing: Shamanic Ceremonialism in the Pacific Northwest
Little Bit Know Something: Stories in a Language of Anthropology
Trail to Heaven: Knowledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Community
Where Happiness Dwells: A History of the Dane-zaa First Nations


BOOKS:

Ridington, Robin. Swan People: A Study of the Dunne-za Prophet Dance (Ottawa: Mercury Series No. 38, National Museum of Man, 1978).

Ridington, Robin & Jillian Ridington. People of the Trail: How the Northern Forest Indians Lived (Douglas & McIntyre, 1978).

Ridington, Robin & Jillian Ridington. People of the Longhouse: How the Iroquoian Tribes Lived (Douglas & McIntyre, 1982).

Ridington, Robin. Trail to Heaven: Knowledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Community (Douglas & McIntyre, 1988).

Ridington, Robin. Little Bit Know Something: Stories in a Language of Anthropology (D&M, 1990).

Ridington, Robin & Dennis Hastings. The Sacred Pole of the Omaha Tribe (University of Nebraska Press, 1997).

Ridington, Robin & Jillian Ridington. When You Sing It Now, Just Like New: First Nations Poetics, Voices and Representations (University of Nebraska Press, 2005).

Ridington, Robin & Jillian Ridington. When You Sing It Now, Just Like New (University of Nebraska Press, 2006).

Ridington, Robin. The Poets Don't Write Sonnets Anymore (Galiano Island: Plume of Cockatoo Press, 2008).

Where happiness Dwells: A History of the Dane-zaa First Nations (UBC Press, 2012) with Jillian Ridington in collaboration with Elders of the Dane-zaa First Nations. $95.00 978-0-7748-2295-4



PHOTO: Robin and Jillian Ridington

[BCBW 2012] "Anthropology" "First Nations" "Galiano"