Apprenticing with Elder Charles Solomon, Medicine Man: honouring the ceremony of ethnographic practise
Evelyn Plaice (University of New Brunswick)
Paper short abstract:
I explore apprenticing as an ethnographic practise that brings its own challenges to the ‘traditional’ Malinowskian concept of anthropological fieldwork
Paper long abstract:
Apprenticing as a practise in learning has declined over the past few decades. Yet it remains a preferred practise in certain areas of society. In a recent project involving Indigenous mother-tongue speakers of an endangered language, my graduate students and I worked closely with several key Elders. Luke, in particular, began working with Elder Charles Solomon about ten years ago and became one of a group of apprentices of Elder Charles's environmental knowledge. Luke was already working with Elder Charles when he began his graduate degree in anthropology. Luke’s apprenticeship, then, has at its core the two fundamental relationships: apprentice/Elder, and student/mentor-supervisor. This nexus of relationships bear directly on another emergent feature of ethnographic practise: Indigenous methodologies, were long term, mutual, commensurate and respectful relationships based upon accountability are key. The example of Luke’s apprenticeship argues against the trend towards managed and monitored ‘part-time’ ethnography. But it also introduces changes in the way we practise and teach ethnography which are equally remote from the traditional ‘Malinoskian’ practises of the past century. How do we prepare our students for ethnographic research that is about forming and honouring mutual and accountable relationships where the role of the ‘informant’ has become the role of respected mentor, where the outcomes are both shared and highly visible, and where the award of a degree is only a minor part of the transaction?
Teaching ethnography as method: legacies and future practices [TAN]