Trail to Heaven

Knowledge and Narrative in a Northern Native Community

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317 pages, 29 photos

"In the experience of many native peoples, anthropologists come and go as fast as intellectual fads do among the anthropologists themselves. Robin Ridington offers us exceptions to both these forms of expediency…Ridington has taken risks, but the gambles have paid off: he has succeeded in the difficult task of going from the spoken to the written word, from the engaging act of speech to the disembodied world of print. In his prose, the knowledge and the stories come through with great power."—American Anthropologist

"Ridington is at his best when he tells what he has learned of Beaver worldview. His presentation of their Dreamers—those who claim to travel along the road to heaven on behalf of their community, serving as mediators between earth dwellers and ancestors, humans and animals—is especially illuminating."—American Indian Quarterly

"Robin Ridington has been studying the Dunne-za, or Beaver Indians, of British Columbia, for more than twenty years. Trail to Heaven is as much his autobiography as it is ethnography. In the jargon of the new ethnography, it is a shared discourse, in which he translates the personal narratives and traditional stories of his Dunne-za friends with as little commentary as possible, while telling of his own intellectual development in terms similar to theirs."—American Studies International

"Trail to Heaven is a truly remarkable document for several reasons. It is a vivid portrait of an indigenous people whose universe has only recently come into contact with mass society. It is a diary of sorts, in which Ridington pokes a good bit of fun of himself and the approach his own academic discipline takes to 'primitive' societies. It's also an easy read…It should be read and re-read and re-read."—Vancouver Sun

Table of contents: 

Part One. New Moccasins

1. A Beginning
2. Italian Boy Scout Vandals
3. Where Happiness Dwells
4. Sam and Jumbie
5. Need for Achievement
6. The Boy Who Knew Foxes
7. New Moccasins
8. Myth and History

Part Two. Swan People

9. Learning about Learning
10. Words of the Dreamers
11. An Audience with the Dreamer
12. Creation
13. A Boy Named Swan
14. The Name of Makenunatane Was Called
15. From Hunt Chief to Prophet

Part Three. A Conversation with Peter, June 1968

16. Telling Secrets
17. Peter's Stories

Part Four. Old Time Religion

18. Soundman
19. The Old Wagon Road
20. Mansion on the Hill
21. A Bad Miracle
22. Rescue
23. A Trail of Song
24. In Memory