So, How Long Have You Been Native?
Life as an Alaska Native Tour Guide
Alexis C. Bunten
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9780803269774
So, How Long Have You Been Native? is Alexis C. Bunten's firsthand
account of what it is like to work in the Alaska cultural tourism
industry. An Alaska Native and anthropologist, she spent two
seasons working for a tribally owned tourism business that markets
the Tlingit culture in Sitka. Bunten's narrative takes readers
through the summer tour season as she is hired and trained and
eventually becomes a guide. A multibillion-dollar worldwide
industry, cultural tourism provides one of the most ubiquitous
face-to-face interactions between peoples of different cultures and
is arguably one of the primary means by which knowledge about other
cultures is disseminated. Bunten goes beyond debates about who owns
Native culture and has the right to "sell" it to tourists. Through
a series of anecdotes, she examines issues such as how and why
Natives choose to sell their culture, the cutthroat politics of
business in a small town, how the cruise industry maintains its
bottom line, the impact of colonization on contemporary Native
peoples, the ways that traditional cultural values play a role in
everyday life for contemporary Alaska Natives, and how Indigenous
peoples are engaging in global enterprises on their own terms.
Bunten's bottom-up approach provides a fascinating and informative
look at the cultural tourism industry in Alaska.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexis C. Bunten is a project ethnographer at Simon Fraser University and a senior researcher at the FrameWorks Institute. Her articles have appeared in American Indian Quarterly, Journal of Museum Education, and American Ethnologist.
“With tremendous empathy, warm humor, and trained insight, Native scholar and ethnographer Alexis Bunten embedded herself for a summer season in her own [Alaska Native] people’s cultural tourism industry. After working as a tourist guide, she produced this absolutely original, insider’s journal on the difficult choices and behind-the-scenes debates over how to enlighten outsiders with limited attention spans while protecting the vulnerable, deep-seated beliefs and ritual practices and ever-evolving lifestyles of the local indigenous community. A case study of what small-scale, traditional societies are experiencing all around the world, this is a groundbreaking work and a riveting read.”—Peter Nabokov, author of Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places