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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Potlatch at Gitsegukla

William Beynon’s 1945 Field Notebooks

William Beynon was born in 1888 in Victoria to a Welsh father and a Tsimshian mother. He was an accomplished ethnographer and had a long career documenting the traditions of the Tsimshian, Nisga’a, and Gitksan. In 1945 he attended and actively participated in five days of potlatches and totem pole raisings at Gitksan village of Gitsegukla. There he compiled four notebooks containing detailed and often verbatim information about the events he witnessed. For over 50 years these notebooks have seen limited circulation among specialists, who have long recognized them as the most perceptive and complete account of potlatching ever recorded.

296 pages

Table of Contents

Foreword by Hanamuukw, Joan Ryan


Editors’ Introduction

Beynon’s Notebooks, Volumes 1-4, with Annotations

Key Events in the Gitksan Encounter with the Colonial World, prepared by James McDonald and Jennifer Joseph


1 Note on the Orthography Used by William Beynon in the Notebooks

2 Place Names in the Notebooks

3 List of Names for Each Village Clan

4 Naxnox Names and Performances

5 Other Gitksan Terms in the texts

6 Names of the Poles

7 Types of Contributions 8. Types of Events

9 Types of Songs



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