Sunday, 6 May 2012

a few elder writers of importance to BC

Here are some of the indigenous authors of great import to BC. Just a start, a suggestion, not a thorough examination: five men and five women who took pen in hand or otherwise caused books of their words to be born, published, transmitted through the world. Encompassing the last century and ending with two contemporary authors, in order of birth date~

Ranald MacDonald: b. 1824 d. 1894; Chinook-Scottish; US, Canada; ed. Red River Academy; Deposition of Ranald McDonald regarding his imprisonment in Japan, made to Commander James Glynn, USS Preble (1850; 5 pgs); Ranald MacDonald : the narrative of his early life on the Columbia under the Hudson's Bay Company's regime, of his experiences in the Pacific whale fishery and of his great adventure to Japan : with a sketch of his later life on the western frontier, 1824-1894 (MacDonald, Ranald; Lewis, William Stanley, autobiography, 1923, 1990; 343 pgs) [both available online as free pdf downloads]

Chief William Sepass, K’HHalserten: b. 1840s d. 1941; Tcilqeuk/Tsilli-way-ukhs/Chilliwack; The Sepass Poems; The Songs of Y-Ail-Mihth (different editions & publishers, variations of title, the most recent the most complete:1949, 1958, 1963, 1974, 2009)

E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake: b. 1861, d.1913; Mohawk-English; ed. Brantford Central Collegiate; The White Wampum (poetry, 1895); In the Shadows (poetry, 1898); The Legend of the Salt-Chuck Oluk (18??); Canadian Born (poetry,1903); Flint and Feather: the complete poems (1912); The Shagganappi (stories,1913); Legends of Vancouver (stories, 1913); The Moccasin Maker (stories, 1913); Legends of Siwash Rock (1952)....

Mourning Dove, Christine Quintasket: b. 1888 d. 1936; Sinixt-Colville-Okanogan; US; Cogewea The Half-blood (novel, 1927); Coyote Stories (1933); Tales of the Okanagons (1976); Mourning Dove, A Salishan Autobiography (1990)

Mary Augusta Tappage: b. 1888 d. 1978 (??); Shushwap-Metis; Days of Augusta (Speare, Jean E., 1973, 1992); The Big Tree and the Little Tree (1986).

Chief Dan George: b. 1899 d. 1981; Tsleil Waututh; My Heart Soars (poetry, 1974); You Call Me Chief: Impressions of the Life of Chief Dan George (1981); My Spirit Soars (poetry, 1982); The Best of Chief Dan George (2004)

George Clutesi: b. 1905, d. 1988; Tseshaht;  Son of Raven, Son of Deer: Fables of the Tse-shaht People (1967); Potlatch (1969); Stand Tall, My Son (nonfiction, 1990)

George Manuel b. 1921 d.1989; Shushwap, Secwepemc; The Fourth World: An Indian Reality (history, with Michael Posluns, 1974)

Jeannette Armstrong b. 1948; Okanogan;  Slash (novel, 1985, 1990); Breath Tracks (poetry, 1991); Enwisteetkwa/Walk in Water (children’s, 1982); Neekna and Chemai (children’s, 1984,1991); The Native Creative Process: A Collaborative Discourse (with Douglas Cardinal & Greg Young-Ing, 1991); Whispering in Shadows (novel, 2000); Native Poetry in Canada: A Contemporary Anthology (edited with Lally Grauer, 2001)...

Lee Maracle b. 1950; Metis- Tsleil Waututh -Sto:lo; Bobbi Lee: Indian Rebel (nonfiction,  1975, 1990); I am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism (1988, 1996); Oratory: Coming to Theory(1990); Sojourner's Truth and Other Stories (fiction, 1990); Sundogs (fiction,  1991); Ravensong (fiction, 1993); Bent Box(poetry, 2000); Daughters are Forever ( novel, 2002); Will's Garden (novel, 2002); First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style (fiction, 2010)...

George Manuel hired Maria Campbell (b. 1940, Metis, SK) to come to BC, and lead workshops in the communities, using creativity-- writing and theatre-- for healing on community and personal levels, a fact that she shared at a recent and very interesting conversation with Jeannette Armstrong and Margo Kane (Talking Stick Festival, 2012). This was the beginning of the work that Vera Manuel (daughter of George Manuel) took up and continued for decades.

Collaborations and mutual support have been a part of the story from the beginning, with George Clutesi providing art for Chief Sepass' poetry one early example, and politics and art intrinsically interwoven, two sides of the same self-expressive push of humanity.

The long unfurling of powerhouse artists Jeannette Armstrong (grand-neice of Mourning Dove) and Lee Maracle (grand-daughter of Chief Dan George), as independent literary artists and as leaders and activists, has been an observable force in BC cultural life for decades. Jeannette and Lee and others came together to create En'Owkin Centre, which has been creating space for indigenous writers and artists to find mentorship, support, training and connections with one another, coming from and returning to all points on Turtle Island.  

Randy Fred (nephew of George Clutesi) started Theytus Publications in the early 70s, and it has carried on since, moving from the Island to Penticton and becoming associated with En'Owkin Centre, and in it's own way, creating a whole new space for indigenous writing of interest to indigenous people to see light of day.  

 George Clutesi, Chief Dan George, and E. Pauline Johnson were remembered with honour through the telling of stories about them, and public performances of their works by family members, and by the descendants of Chief Capilano, who was a friend [and story source, along with his wife Mary] of the poet Pauline Johnson/Tekahionwake. 
Hosted by Governor General’s Award nominee poet Kevin Paul, and supported at times by projected images of family and media photographs, the commemoration of these three powerful presences, artists who helped forge vital links between oral poetry traditions in Salish and all Aboriginal languages, and the text-bound English-speaking settler society, was beautiful and moving, forming ... the heart of the gathering.
~from "Strong Words," Yellow Medicine Review Spring 2011

At the Strong Words: Celebrating Aboriginal Poetry in BC conference (Vancouver, 2008), George Clutesi, Chief Dan George, and Pauline Johnson, were recognized and remembered as models for the artists of today, showing the way. Mourning Dove, Ranald MacDonald, and Chief William Sepass each have made important contributions as well, and can be recognized and revisited for their unique contributions and innovating literatures. 

Mary Augusta Tappage, speaking of school, childbirth, and the usual struggles, I found a great consoling voice. George Manuel, like Ranald MacDonald, is famous for other things-- which does not make the book of his life any less of a solid contribution to the literatures of BC and Canada. 

1 comment:

Joanne Arnott said...

i have been remiss in not circling back to this topic, to celebrate the work of Chief James Sewid, whose autobiography is titled,

"Guests Never Leave Hungry: The Autobiography of James Sewid, a Kwakiutl Indian"

more here: