“During My Time” A Haida Woman – Margaret B. Blackman

Margaret Blackman composes a remarkable life history of Florence Davidson on the book ‘During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson’. Davidson is an indigenous Haida woman from the village Masset that is now formally known as Queen Charlotte Islands that is located in the Northwest coast of Canada. As the book During My Time emphases the Haida villages during the late 19th century, Blackman interviewed Davidson in the confined of Davidson’s kitchen and front room that Blackman taped 45 hours during the time of 1977 of the “life cycle, economics and division of labour, ceremonial activities and specialist roles” (Stearns, 1985), as the two build their friendship. The well-respected native woman was born in 1896, raised from in the big family whereas she was the ninth child born; her father was a famous woodcarver Charles Edenshaw.

The ethnography is written in an indigenous female view of the life of Florence Davidson and those that influence her throughout her time, it also touches on topics such as acculturation throughout the book.   The book review by Stearns mentions that, “The book is not life history, but hagiography” (195) which I agree is that a biography of a leader. As Davidson goes by the name “Nani” or grandmother to her community as showing respect towards the elderly woman, as she admits her concerned about the Haida women as they do not get acknowledged in the past her fear is to see that cycle to continue for the future Haida females.

The narrative structure of the ethnography was from chapters one through nine to grasp the overview of the book, as chapter one is the introduction of the life history project where Blackman provides the key knowledge to the importance of the Haida traditions. Chapter two—Haida woman briefly discusses about the sex roles, values within a “cultural position of traditional Haida woman”(Blackman, 1982). To Florence, “Her speculations about the effects of acculturation on the status of women contains errors and misinterpretation and reveals her unfamiliarity with recent literature on the Haida” (Stearns, 1985). Chapter three—Biographical Sketch provides family history, as she kept records of the major events that influenced her being as a Haida woman by the traditional values and customs that were inherited. The next few chapters divided into years of Davidson life as “Those Before Me (1896-1897), “I am Yet a Girl (1897-1909), “I Become a Woman and Marry (1909-1911), “I Become a Mother and Have Lots of Children (1912-1938), “I Quit Having Babies; My years later (1939-1979), As we begin to read the history from the first person perspective from Davidson, she approaches topics to her personal level as she mentions her family members, her upbringing of her childhood, the affects of small pox epidemic, menstruation cycle, her marriage as she married at the age of fourteen, child birth, the acculturation from the Indian Residential school and her career as a community leader in Masset, and the life of living as aboriginal person. The last chapter’s goes back into the perspective of Blackman as she discussed some issues through the ethnography.

This ethnography had good intentions from the many characteristics that it offered from the representation of the native point of view from the inside view from native perspective, sections of the book as it focused of Florence’s’ everyday life situations as for an indigenous person Davidson had to overcome the challenges of the European society and the Haida society. Also the proficiency in language whereas the ethnographers have to deal with language especially the native concepts so everyone will have the same concept because of the translations does not define properly. The ethnographic characteristics shown as the data collected within the fieldwork, to have sociocultural knowledge and have evidence of detailed observations. In the book the theme that carried out was culture change the examples was from the Indian Residential School as the purpose was to colonize the indigenous children into the settler society which is also be cultural genocide.

The appropriate audience and readership for this ethnography is suitable for the general readership where it can be practice as a critical thinking for the reader but specifically the Haifa youth especially the young women from the Haida culture to influence them to a greater future. I would recommend the ethnography to university anthropology students that are interested in understanding the issues and challenges of the indigenous peoples that are learning about colonization, racism/discrimination. Although that the ethnography is a straight forward and easy read, the sections I also found lacking within this ethnography was that Blackman does not explain when the writing style gets shifted to the first person to the third person perspective, as I had to look it over a few times to fully understand it, another lack was the critical analysis issues, Blackman took the best part of what Blackman got out of the interview as it will be shifted it out of the hand of the indigenous voice.

The two academic book reviews from Maria Tippett—University Of British Columbia from the BC studies 1983 and Mary Lee Stearns – Simon Fraser University source Ethnohistory 1985, they have both been critical to the ethnographer Blackman where Stearns states “But Blackman, preoccupied with her role of “granddaughter” and committed to the proposition that Haida women are domestically isolated, does not question or analyze her data. She does not even claim the objectivity necessary to produce a balanced portrait of a dominant personality” (Stearns, 1983). As for Maria Tippett she mentions “Since we see little of this and much of Blackman’s interest in Haida ceremonial life, what do we have in the end: the life of a Haida woman or an account of what the ethnologist wants to know about? This points to an additional question: what did Blackman choose to leave out of the edited version? “ (Tippett, 1985). As all of these sources are all dated in the 1980’s, the time today will be shifted differently. I also had thoughts with the other Haida women and what will be benefited for them.


Blackman, Margaret B., and Davidson, Florence Edenshaw. During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, a Haida Woman. Seattle: Vancouver: University of Washington Press; Douglas & McIntyre, 1982.

Stearns, Mary Lee. “During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, A Haida Woman (Book Review).” Ethnohistory 32, no. 2 (1985): 193-95.

Tippett, Maria. “During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, A Haida Woman (Book Review).” BC Studies 59, Autumn (1983): 67-69


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