Dr. John Lutz - Associate Professor of History, University of Victoria, Discussing contact between Europeans and First Nations peoples
One of the things I am most interested in is the early contact – the first contact – between Europeans and aboriginal people on the Northwest Coast of America and how they communicated with each other when they didn't have a common language and their cultures were so totally different and so I have been looking for aboriginal accounts of their first meetings with Europeans and European accounts of these first meetings and trying to see what the commonalities were and what the huge gaps and differences are. Native people usually thought these explorers came from the supernatural world somehow, that they were perhaps people returning from the dead because they were all wrapped up like corpses in tight clothes like they wrapped up the corpses in blankets or maybe sometimes they were described as supernatural beings like the raven because they thought the sails looked like wings sometimes. So native people processed Europeans through their spiritual world view and Europeans are coming with this Christian world view that sees themselves as superior to indigenous people and they're processing people through their spiritual world view that somehow they were superior and indigenous people didn't quite understand the scientific rational behind these voyages. So, I am really interested in that kind of miscommunication and also the way that people communicated by pantomime and acting and performance – in effect what we have is people performing for each other. Indigenous people and Europeans both performing for each other.