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Social Science Native American Studies

Myth and Memory

Stories of Indigenous-European Contact

edited by John Sutton Lutz

UBC Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2011
Native American Studies, Native American, General, Pre-Confederation (to 1867)
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2011
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  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2008
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2007
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The moment of contact between two peoples, two alien societies, marks the opening of an epoch and the joining of histories. What if it had happened differently?


The stories that indigenous peoples and Europeans tell about their first encounters with one another are enormously valuable historical records, but their relevance extends beyond the past. Settler populations and indigenous peoples the world over are engaged in negotiations over legitimacy, power, and rights. These struggles cannot be dissociated from written and oral accounts of “contact” moments, which not only shape our collective sense of history but also guide our understanding of current events.


For all their importance, contact stories have not been systematically or critically evaluated as a genre. Myth and Memory explores the narratives of indigenous and newcomer populations from New Zealand and across North America, from the Lost Colony of Roanoke on the Atlantic seaboard of the United States to the Pacific Northwest and as far as Sitka, Alaska. It illustrates how indigenous and explorer accounts of the same meetings reflect fundamentally different systems of thought, and focuses on the cultural misunderstandings embedded in these stories. The contributors discuss the contemporary relevance, production, and performance of Aboriginal and European contact narratives, and introduce new tools for interpreting the genre. They argue that we are still in the contact zone, striving to understand the meaning of contact and the relationship between indigenous and settler populations.

About the author

John Sutton Lutz is associate professor, history, University of Victoria.Barbara Neis is professor, sociology, Memorial University.

John Sutton Lutz's profile page

Editorial Reviews

The essays provide a fascinating surf of “first contacts” from New Zealand, England, southern Africa, and the Pacific Northwest, from the eighteenth century to today […]. A plentiful range of new approaches to the genre of the contact narrative distinguishes this impressively interdisciplinary collection, with contributions from historians, anthropologists, linguists, and literary critics.

Canadian Literature, No.197

Myth & Memory injects an interesting and crucial “new” narrative into the historical record.

The Northern Mariner, Vol.XIX, No.1

This convincing and solid collection encourages assessment and reassessment of contact narratives. … Ten scholars from various fields, including history, anthropology, linguistics, and literature, engage in this informative work. …Edited by University of Victoria historian John Sutton Lutz, the chapters in Myth and Memory integrate a number of global indigenous perspectives. Lutz’s extensive insight regarding native and newcomer relations provides a solid basis for editorial expertise of this compendium.


Librarian Reviews

Myth & Memory: Stories of Indigenous-European Contact

Nine essays make up this collection of writings on Indigenous European contact. In these stories the authors speak of the “contact zone”, commonly called First Contact. Indigenous cultures from around the world are considered, from New Zealand, North America and Africa. The majority of the stories deal with the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. This book is a re-analysis of both European and indigenous contact narratives, all containing well-chosen primary source information. The power structures, not only of today, but those that influenced the past, are considered. Lutz believes “rethinking contact narratives means rethinking the relationship between history and myth”.

Lutz co-edited Situating Race and Racism in Time, Space and Theory.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2008-2009.

Other titles by John Sutton Lutz