Friday, March 30, 2012

Papers, Glaciers, and Listenings

You should be continuing to work on your final projects this week and weekend. I'd like you to bring an updated abstract, draft, outline, or whatever scribblings you have toward your final papers to class on Monday night.

Additionally, you should take some time to savor this final formal reading assignment for the semester. My hope is that Cruikshank's book brings together not only the themes we've been discussing all semester, but that it might help you think about your own projects in new ways as well.

After you've read the introduction, and worked through the chapters of your choosing from each section, please post your questions and answers here, per the usual routine.

Looking forward to reconnecting with you, and hearing about how your projects are coming along.

Happy weekending,



  1. It is fascinating how multiple accounts at a local level can give a timeline of geological events. The effects of the Little Ice Age which I studied as they effected Europe were just as serious in the Pacific Northwest. The speed at which the glaciers had to move and change during this period is astounding and different than what I learned about glaciation in school twenty years ago.

    The stories in Cruikshank's book give a look into another time and another way of seeing that is beautiful. The storytellers had a personal connection to the land and to the people. There is a great deal of knowledge here that was not scientifically acquired, but is knowledge nonetheless on a greater scale than what was brought to them by explorers.

    I did find it amusing that the Tlingit man "discovered" the Athapaskans on the other side of the ridge. It is all a matter of perspective.

  2. I had heard the term "glacial highway" before, but I had not realized that it was a literal phrase. Three glaciers in particular in the region were used as trading highways between the peoples on either side of the glacier. Coastal goods were traded for inland goods on a regular bases, just as Europeans used the silk road before the Ottomans cut them off from China, spurring the Age of Exploration.

  3. Kahle Ess

    I really enjoyed my reading from Cruikshank’s book over the weekend. Going through the chapter titles I chose the sections I wanted to read and found so much more within each section than I thought. What I especially liked about the text overall is that it focused on First Nations people from the Canadian north, where most of our readings and my personal idea of the north for our class has solely been Alaska.

    Many questions come to mind after finishing the book, but I’m not sure how to answer them. Cruikshank talks about the dualisms presented between tons of things throughout the book- often between scientists and explorers compared to Tlingit and Athapaskan peoples. Where would she classify her book within the ideas that she presents throughout her book? It may be a review of the past and present dealings with these issues, but it is still an opinion of ideas representing issues in the north. She retells stories and make conclusions of their importance, but is far removed from the issues that she touches on regarding others who write about the region. Her book to me is a collection of anthropology and history-which resembles positions in her book. I read the chapter on John Muir, and it made me think about the relationship that Cruikshank has with the Canadian north. She describes talking with the 3 First Nation women in Chapter 2, but doesn’t really go into her personal experience. Because she removes herself from most of the book I guess I want to understand more what she thinks instead of laying the issues and ideas out and merely discussing them. I loved the link between glaciers the idea of motion and inevitable change. The three main sections really opened my eyes up to issues in the north with tangible connections and concepts, but I wanted more from the author. So where does this piece belong, and how would it fit in to someone writing about the same topic years to come?

  4. Part 3, Chapter 8 talks about linked themes that run throughout the book and through Environmental Criticism: environmental change in the past and the present, human stories before and after the beginning of colonialism, and local knowledge being seen in new ways. Environmental justice also comes up in a discussion of First Nation, government and scientists working together to learn as much as they can from new discoveries emerging from the melting ice of the Saint Elias glaciers.

  5. Sammy Becker

    Does this book offer a new way to approach environmental change in specific locations?

    What I really found interesting about this book it it’s way to somewhat lighten the idea of environmental change i.e. melting glaciers, and turn it into a opportunity to explore the cultural and local knowledge of the area. I think people in general only associate environmental change as a negative thing that they wish they were able to control or stop in order to preserve the beautiful places we have set aside such as National Parks, and Heritage sites. And I think the creation of those spaces was a direct result of the concern for environmental change. However this book does two things to help restore a positive outlook on change, it returns the human history to the geographic location which I would argue recreates the human history through local stories allowing people to perhaps feel less guilt or angst towards having a presence in a protected/changing space, and it also conveys all of the knowledge that can come from paying attention to and asking questions about a changing landscape. I think that the geographic location of the North with it’s beautiful mountains, and thousands of glaciers provides a perfect space in which to find and share the memories that have existed upon the landscape for thousands of years. I think these memories are vital in understanding how the place is able to contribute to the sense of being for individuals, which I would argue is the most important element in the creation of an environmental ethic. I think when we look at environmental change through different lenses, we are able to harness an entirely different idea of what it means, and how it effects more than just the landscape, but the people who are apart of it. I think this book helps recreate a connection between humans and natural spaces, which I believe is the most important step in the creation of an environmental ethic.

  6. Can a scientific approach also respect the land in which it measures?

    On page 143 there is a passage that explains a concept that has been coming up frequently, but Cruikshank explains the concept much more eloquently than others. "Industrialists... were not about to stand for objects that act wilfully, for how could manufacturing proceed under such circumstances." This convergence of the scientific world and the sentient world has led to the complete takeover by the scientific. The scientific world is quantifying the places in which it measures. This quantification robs the land of its quality and unique nature. In addition, measurement of a land also results in the fragmentation Kollin discussed. Connection with a landscape cannot be achieved scientifically.

  7. When reading the John Muir chapter, a few observations came to mind. The first was when Cruikshank brought up the fact that Fort Wrangell was already established as a supply hub by the time that Muir came to Alaska. I found this almost contradictory to the popular believe of Muir’s Alaskan Adventures- he came to an isolated place settled only by native peoples. It sort of ruined my image of Muir’s expeditions, even though deep down I knew that his tales are hyperboles of what probably happened. The image of the North has been perpetuated by Muir’s writings as a pristine, untouched natural wonder. When I read on page 155 the comment of Fort Wrangell being a thriving port, it tarnished that pristine image as steamboats billowing thick, black plumes of nasty smoke, carrying thousands of people and lives slowly meandered their through the inside passage. I don’t want to think of all the pollution those steamboats brought with them, I would rather believe that Muir just magically “Apparated” to Alaska to explore, bypassing the transportation methods of the time.

    Another observation of this chapter was that the Tlingits though that Muir’s enthusiasm was “witchcraft”. Why did they think it was witchcraft? Wouldn’t they enjoy the fact that an outsider appreciated and revered the land as much as they did? Or was it because he was white? I don’t have an answer to these questions, but it made me pause and kind think “huh, I wonder what that was about”.

    The last observation I had was that Muir was given a Tlingit name, Ancoutahan. If Tlingits thought he was an odd duck, why would they give him a name, which is sacred thing to Tlingit culture? Again, I don’t really have an answer to this question, but I think this adds fuel to the Muir criticism that he exploits Natives.

  8. Jen Smith

    I found Cruikshank's desire to shed a new light upon oral traditions completely fascinating. Far too often traditional stories are thought of as a piece of anachronistic history, something frozen in the past that become thought of as inapplicable to our modern lifestyles. Cruikshank repeatedly dismisses this thought, positing that oral traditions provide "rich imaginative possibilities…for thinking about historical continuity and social change" (52). In her chapter "Constructing Life Stories: Glaciers as Social Spaces", her placement of scholars Harold Innis, Mikhail Bakhtin and Walter Benjamin as contemporaries to Angela Sidney, Kitty Smith and Annie Ned is brilliant, in that these unrelated people from different corners of the planet, all living under differing social pressures, came to a similar conclusion--"the act of storytelling provides one crucial way of engaging directly with the contemporary world" (61). Cruikshank furthers this idea, stating that oral narratives are not only crucial forms of modern conversation, adding to the conversation of Innis and Bakhtin, that they also have the capacity to subvert powers that be. Can oral narratives function as a form of resistance?

  9. Brittney Seavey

    I also read the chapter about John Muir and had similar questions as Liz about why he was given a Tlingit name. At first, I was thinking about the missionary work in villages and how barbaric it was and so I associated that with the work of Samuel Hall Young who traveled with Muir into Glacier Bay. I thought to myself, “how could they give such high honor to a man who is traveling with a missionary?” But then I remembered reading about Muir’s “glacier gospel.” This gave me a different perspective on Muir’s intentions and the way he must have perceived himself to the Tlingit people. “A lapsed Calvinist, he nevertheless came to interpret the North American landscape as shaped both by glacial action and by God’s master plan-a source of religious revelation” (161).
    By reading that simple explanation of the way Muir felt about the land around him and to read further about how he acted around the Tlingit people while knowing their respect for the land, it makes more sense to me now why they would honor him with the name Ancoutahan.

  10. I found it exciting how some of the chapters connected with each other to tell the bigger story. On page 182 Cruikshank relates the stories told in chapter 3 to the biography of Edward Glave in chapter 6 by asking if traditional oral narratives like those told by Kitty Smith and Annie Ned can help illuminate the observations of Glave, whom the chapter is about. It was also very interesting how Cruikshank portrayed Glave as a “Victorian traveler with postmodern sensibilities” (183), in that he believed in the importance of preserving place names and getting to know the personalities and names of the indigenous people he met, unlike his companions, who complained and renamed throughout the entire trip. It was also fascinating to read chapter 7, about how different landscapes can provide physical and social boundaries and how the remapping by Euro-American travelers altered these relationships between different people and environments that had existed for centuries before contact in unique ways. The author posses some interesting questions and answers them using a wide variety of resources which is kind of refreshing compared to Kollin’s writing in Nature’s State for example.

  11. Through this class, we have been seen the deep connections between Alaska native people and animals, but we haven't seen any connection between them and glaciers. It is very interesting that Alaska native people thought Glaciers as living thing such as giant worms, and they have many stories about glaciers. Glaciers are very special about both Alaska native people and western people, because it is very unique landscape which can be seen only certain places in the world, and also we witnesses the dramatical retreat of glaciers every year. I really like this book because the author talks about both Alaska native people's traditional knowledge and western people's way of researching and understanding about glacier.

    My question from this book is, why author put the title of this book as "Do glacier listen?" Glacier listens what? voice of Alaska Native people or western people? or both? What messages the author trying to say from this title?

    My another question is, what western people learned about glaciers after they researched, mapped, and also listened native people's ecological knowledge and stories? and how these connect to the title of this book?

  12. Kristie LivingstonApril 2, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    How does cultural studies build knowledge?

    Reading Cruikshank’s book reminded me of the value of cultural studies because of the insight on differing knowledge’s. It is easy to forget, as we have been exploring, that there are other ways of knowing/thinking/doing than our own and that the way we do something is not necessarily the best way. In fact, I think it often times is not. Our culture provides the paradigm we use in which to interpret the world around us, and it is important to remember how much of the story can be lost when we are restrained by one cultural paradigm. Cruikshank’s focus on stories made me think about how native and western culture translates to the methods of recording stories. The western focus on recording or writing information down, whether personal histories or stories, boundaries, scientific data, etc., can be seen in the idea of the natural world being inanimate and controllable. The native focus on story telling and oral histories, which are never precisely recreated because of the variability in encounter, perception, and presentation by the speaker and are therefore fluid which can be seen translated to the natural world as also being fluid, living, dynamic, and demanding respect-to be heard. Cruikshanks focus on glaciers is a perfect framework to investigate this cultural paradox, making it easier for the reader to digest these complex themes.

  13. I understand that many of the early explorers were searching for a water route into or through North America but how could they have thought that Lituya Bay could turn out to be such a find?

    The La Pérouse expedition had several scientists on board and there was an emphasis on gathering measurements and conducting scientific study. It seems strange that they would mistake Lituya Bay as a possible entrance to an inside passage. If anything I would imagine it would be a surprise that the head of the bay turned the corners and lead to a short fjord. Upon entering the bay they experienced a seemingly unintentional immersion in the Tlingit summer camp. The interactions were reported as somewhat peaceful with the exceptions of the misunderstanding of theft of scientific documents by curious Natives. The history of Lituya Bay has been told from different perspectives. It has glacial origins and a definite glacial history but in modern times it is most noted as the site of the largest tidal wave ever observed or recorded in geologic history. It is noted in Cruikshank’s book that the physical markers of cultural history were erased in the bay as they were in other sites where glaciers (instead of tidal waves) wiped the beaches and hillsides clean. This reminds me of Muir and his re-mapping of Glacier Bay. I did not read the section on Muir this time but I would like to compare this to Muir’s own writings. In his own writings he gives himself credit for discovering Glacier Bay after the glaciers receded and he was guided up bay by the Tlingit men. From their own writings Muir and La Pérouse interacted with the Tlingit people in a friendly manner (without killing or enslaving them anyway). It must have been apparent that the native population had figured out how to live comfortably in this rugged region. It is unfortunate that they could not learn more from their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Was it a matter of translation or did they disregard the native people as un educated and therefore un-knowing?

  14. Cruikshank’s paper will become vital for a presentation aimed at comparing and contrasting two differing epistemologies. In her work she likewise compares and discusses two epistemologies, namely Western thought in the tradition of Francis Bacon and Plato, and generational based thought as exemplified by the Athapaskan, Tlingit and Eyak. Cruikshank pushes an ideology that is similar, though maybe less passionate, to ideals found in postcolonial thought, in which fluidity and non-hierarchical interaction become the terms for sociality. These traits are crucial for one of Cruikshank’s many thesis-type statements, that the interaction between two differing societies led to a change in each culture’s hermeneutical style, namely in reference to how we perceive nature and specifically for Cruikshank, glaciers. Without assigning value we are able to view the interaction of societies as a sort of hermeneutical loop in which the participant’s relation to the empirical world or sociality is changed, if not irrevocably altered. How than have the effects of these interactions been undermined or altered in the face of imperialism and domination?