Politicizing Aboriginal Cultural Tourism: The Discourse of Primitivism in the Tourist Encounter

Authors


  • *The authors would like to thank the respondents at the various Southern Alberta sites for their interest and co-operation in this research. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments. Names Mary, Richard, Karl, Susanne and Otto are fictitious but those of all sites are real. This manuscript was first submitted in December 2001 and accepted in August 2002.

Abstract

Le tourisme cultural amérindien est un secteur de L'industrie touristique canadienne potentiellement en forte croissance, qui connaît un vif succès auprès des visiteurs européens, surtout les Allemands. Le présent article recourt à L'analyse du discours pour examiner les rencontres touristiques qui se déroulent dans les différents lieux touristiques amérindiens du sud de L'Alberta. Il analyse la construction de L'«indianite» et de la culture amérindienne par les guides amérindiens et les visiteurs étrangers. Il appert que ces constructions sont façonnées par le discours primitiviste qui, ironiquement, renforce la notion de «noble sauvage» héritée des Lumières. Nous discutons L'idée selon laquelle le discours primitiviste, malgré ses aspects colonialistes et essentialistes, peut représenter une stratégie de résistance envers un système social perçu comme une source d'oppression par plusieurs Premières Nations.

Aboriginal cultural tourism is a potentially high-growth segment of the Canadian tourism industry that is currently enjoying widespread demand among Europeans, especially German visitors. This paper uses a discourse analysis approach to examine the tourist encounter at various Aboriginal tourist sites in southern Alberta. It analyses the negotiation of “Indianness” and Indian culture by both Native interpreters and foreign visitors. These negotiations are shown to be informed by the primitivist discourse that, ironically, reinforces the Enlightenment notion of the “noble savage.” We argue that, despite its colonialist and essentialist aspects, the primitivist discourse can nevertheless function as a strategy of resistance to a social system viewed by many First Nations as politically oppressive.

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