Gift Giving, Reciprocity and Community Survival among Central Alaskan Indigenous Peoples†
Reviewer 1 Report
I find the article informative and interesting. I would like to see more about the specific communities agreement or disagreement with the methodology and conclusions being given. The "gift giving" discussions seems rather over-arching. It may be the nature of what is being written, but clarification that "gift giving" is not a single or essentialist construct would be helpful for readers. Understanding that there are different reasons, rituals, and protocols for different "gift giving" would allow the reader to understand the complexities involved. Additionally, it needs to be made clear whether this is referencing specific communities. At times it reads as more expansive and again community protocols differ as do reasons for "gift giving". With more clarification and community approval, I think this could be an important work.
I’m not sure how to respond to reviewer no. 1. I would have loved to go back to several communities to get feedback and more precise information, but as I stated, it was not possible for me to do so because of the Covid pandemic, even though a senior member of a Fairbanks Indigenous organisation to whom I spoke the day before my departure from Fairbanks was willing to introduce me to various local organisations on the occasion of a planned return trip. This unfortunately never happened. I based my paper on several conversations with people I met on landing strips (when I helped unload boxes of food and load boxes meant for another community on the milk run), on talking to airport staff who (who were shipping said boxes), and on a discussion with a senior staff person of the Fairbanks Indigenous organisation. I did not mention this latter conversation in the paper because I wanted to protect the person’s anonymity, as I am aware that it is always complex when an Indigenous person in a senior political or administrative position talks to a White man – are they speaking off the cuff or for the organisation? Usually, in my experience, it’s a bit of both, since the Indigenous person is highly committed to the Indigenous organisation. The person told me of food being shipped from community to community, though they did not use the word ‘shared’. Much of the paper I submitted therefore was not based on a classical field research scenario, with a well-built up hypothesis. This all came later, after my departure 24 hours after the conversation. My original hypothesis was quite different. I had suggested (in my grant application and to the ethics committee) that there could be a major difference on how Dene elders interpreted the past in the USA and in Canada, since the two countries have major differences in how they treat Native claims for autonomy and agency. Canada ‘grants’ Native people the ‘right’ to cultural autonomy – schools, native language programmes, Native community police for certain legal domains, public acknowledgement that Native land was not ceded, etc. However, Canada has never since the 1970 Trudeau (dad) White paper acknowledged Native sovereignty over land, nor will they ever. The USA, with ANCSA, it seemed to me put in place a leveling mechanism (albeit far from perfect) that gave Alaskan Dene a fair degree of control over resources on their land. This was completely different from the Canadian situation, where the government has never ceded such control in over 50 years of negotiation (despite some instances of compensation; I was party to one such rare instance). This, I argued, for Elders who had lived through an initial pre-1970 condition that was basically similar in both countries, would create different historical narratives. I was in Fairbanks on the first leg of my journey, to be followed up by a trip to Fort Ware, British Columbia, where I had received community permission for a visit; this was cancelled, as I said, due to Covid. In any case, once I got back home, I realised that my hypothesis, while interesting and possibly politically important, was moot since the information I had received in my trip to Fairbanks and environs sparked the idea that led to the paper. I sis not immediately write it, since it took several months to congeal and I had not yet abandoned hope of a follow up visit with more time spent in Tanana communities, but just two months later Covid broke out and that was that.
Apologies for the long-winded response, but I hope this explains the context of the paper and why I cannot address directly the reviewer’s comments. I saw and see the paper as a valid proposal and as an outline for a new perspective on Indigenous forms of agency and claims of autonomy, and, theoretically, as a contribution that shows who so-called tradition is not merely a political pawn in a game of Native claims and White appropriation under the guise of ‘respect’. Tradition up to now has often been seen as a residual category or as a special domain where Indigenous communities are allowed to express their identity as long as they don’t threaten the dominant power relations. I hope this addresses the reviewer’s points, which I think are certainly valid. Hopefully, I will be able to follow up with more fieldwork and community involvement, but even with post-Covid restrictions lifted, my health has been severely compromised and I am not sure I when I will be able to follow through with more comprehensive and complete data from Doyon communities.
Reviewer 2 Report
The article is well organized and original, based on a research conducted by the author in Alaska (although it started, as the text suggests, in 2019, and during the pandemic year 2020 it did not continue; it is not clear, though, if and how it continued after that, it would be interesting to mention this).
The text is coherent, divided in relevant subchapters, and has a good and convincing argument, as well as a good knowledge of the relevant bibliography.
The only puzzle I had when reading the text was the reference to "Martin" in two places, with no bibliographical reference at all, or any explanation who Martin would be (see lines 478-484). Is he a main informant? Is he an author that was not mentioned in bibliography? Is he a fellow researcher? It is not clear who he is, and why is he important to be mentioned with the two findings he made.
Also, a conclusion would be good to be added, the text ends with Discussion only.
‘Martin’ is a reference I forgot to include in the bibliography. Since I can no longer find the reference in my notes, I have removed the paragraph with the Martin reference. It was not crucial to my argument, and was only speculative in the conclusion.
‘Discussion’ was my conclusion. I have relabeled it as ‘Conclusion’. I just got tired to the standard word ‘conclusion’ at the end of an article and decided to use ‘discussion’ instead, just for a change. The Discussion is the conclusion.