“WE LET THEM BE OUR EXTENDED FAMILY”: DISENTANGLING STÓ:LÕ FAMILIES FROM THE COLONIAL PAST
This thesis seeks to problematize current historiographic approaches to family, generally, and Indigenous families, specifically. Contrary to much of the scholarship on this topic, Indigenous families like the Stó:lõ have found ways to accommodate changes resulting from colonial interference, allowing them to retain an impressive degree of cultural continuity even as they adapt. The methodology for this study combines ethnohistorical approaches with discourse analysis, placing community-based research and interviews alongside archival documents and historical records to show that families are actively defined and constructed in response to both external and internal change. As this thesis argues, Stó:lõ families are individually and uniquely connected to their cultural traditions in ways that are flexible and innovative, and their responses to change have been facilitated by this flexibility. The first chapter analyses recorded oral histories and myth-age stories of the Stó:lõ to expand understandings of the ways families were defined, maintained, and experienced prior to contact. Chapter two places these perspectives alongside fur trade records, missionary reports, Department of Indian Affairs reports, and documented personal accounts to assert that Stó:lõ families were not simply passive receptors or archives of historical change, but were historical agents actively negotiating this change. The final chapter overlaps historical documents and secondary sources with recent interviews with Stó:lõ community members to show that internal systems to facilitate changes to families remain, but have shifted to become more inclusive—partially in response to colonial restrictions, and partially as a way to expand family networks and the social obligations that accompany families. Although this study draws on examples of Indigenous families, it also points out some of the broader benefits of approaching the family as a set of multiple and dynamic social relationships that contain and exert power within a culturally defined historical continuum. Families provide us with another way of thinking about how local knowledge, tradition, and innovation are defined and applied. While changes did occur within and among Coast Salish families, they were largely filtered through local Indigenous knowledge and expectations. As the example of the Stó:lõ asserts, there is not a singular or normative definition of families. Rather, the expansive approaches to Stó:lõ families are shaped by precedent and culturally normative assumptions, allowing them to remain meaningful as they change over time.
Stó:lõ, Indigenous, families, community based research, tradition, child welfare, adoption, fostering, First Nations, Aboriginal, decolonization, Coast Salish
Master of Arts (M.A.)