With the emergence of the Canadian policy of land claims in the 1970s and 1980s, the early contact phase of aboriginal history became a prime factor determining recognition. First Nations historiography has, as a result, become polarized and politicized in particular ways. This article is an attempt to illuminate the question of the sociopolitical standing of the Tsilhqut'in of west central British Columbia in the early contact period in what has become a frankly political environment. Key sources are identified, prevailing approaches are critically evaluated, and a new line of interpretation is developed by drawing on the ethnosymbolic approach of John Armstrong and Anthony D. Smith.

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