In a small Tlingit village in 1992, newly converted members of an all-native church started a bonfire of "non-Christian" items including, reportedly, native dancing regalia. The burnings recalled an earlier century in which church converts in the same village burned totem poles, and stirred long simmering tensions between native dance groups and fundamentalist Christian churches throughout the region. This book traces the years leading up to the most recent burnings and reveals the multiple strands of social tension defining Tlingit and Haida life in Southeast Alaska today.
Author Kirk Dombrowksi roots these tensions in a history of misunderstanding and exploitation of native life, including, most recently, the consequences of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. He traces the results of economic upheaval, changes in dependence on timber and commercial fishing, and differences over the meaning of contemporary native culture that lie beneath current struggles. His cogent, highly readable analysis shows how these local disputes reflect broader problems of negotiating culture and Native American identity today. Revealing in its ethnographic details, arresting in its interpretive insights, Against Culture raises important practical and theoretical implications for the understanding of indigenous cultural and political processes.