So, How Long Have You Been Native? Life as an Alaska Native Tour Guide

Alexis C. Bunten. Univ. of Nebraska, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8032-3462-8
Ethnographer Bunten’s debut is an insightful though sometimes laborious look at the cultural-tourism industry in the coastal town of Sitka, Alaska. Required to conduct fieldwork in order to complete her graduate studies in anthropology, Bunten, a Native Alaskan, chose to work outside of her tribe, with a tourism company. She found employment as a guide for Tribal Tours, a Native-owned company run by the Tlingit tribe. The passages about Bunten’s early days on the job are some of the book’s strongest, filled with vivid snapshots of her coworkers and—true to her anthropology background—intriguing details about the tribe and what goes into working in cultural tourism. Moreover, she doesn’t shrink from discussing the difficult and often offensive tourists she dealt with at work. Readers will also learn about the competition that exists between tour companies on Sitka’s shores, the intricacies of Tlingit cultural practices, and the history of Alaskan tourism (considered by scholars to have started in 1874). Bunten has created an enjoyable mix of ethnographic study and personal memoir in this account of navigating the cultural contradictions and tensions of being a Native Alaskan tour guide and anthropologist. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/12/2015
Release date: 03/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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