Books

Every once in a while, an important historical figure makes an appearance, makes a difference, and then disappears from the public record. James Teit (1864–1922) was such a figure. A prolific ethnographer and tireless Indian rights activist, Teit spent four decades helping British Columbia’s Indigenous peoples in their challenge of the settler-colonial assault on their lives and territories. Yet his story is little known.

At the Bridge chronicles Teit’s fascinating story. From his base at Spences Bridge, British Columbia, Teit practised a participant- and place-based anthropology – an anthropology of belonging – that covered much of BC and northern Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Montana. Whereas his contemporaries, including famed anthropologist Franz Boas, studied Indigenous peoples as the last survivors of “dying cultures” in need of preservation in metropolitan museums, Teit worked with them as members of living cultures actively asserting jurisdiction over their lives and lands. Whether recording stories and songs, mapping place-names, or participating in the chiefs’ fight for fair treatment, he made their objectives his own. With his allies, he produced copious, meticulous records; an army of anthropologists could not have achieved a fraction of what Teit achieved in his short life.

Wendy Wickwire’s beautifully crafted narrative accords Teit the status he deserves. At the Bridge serves as a long-overdue corrective, consolidating Teit’s place as a leading and innovative anthropologist in his own right.

This book will appeal to those interested in the history of anthropology, settler-Indigenous relations in the Pacific Northwest, and Indigenous political resistance in the early twentieth century. Scholars of law, treaties, and politics in British Columbia will find invaluable information in this book.

Read the first chapter here.

Harry Robinson: Write it on Your Heart, the Epic World of an Okanagan Storyteller

Write It on Your Heart is a celebration of the late Harry Robinson, one of the great storytellers of the Interior Salish people of North America.

Collected over a ten-year period, the stories selected for this volume tell from a First Nations point of view about the origin of the world; the time of the animal people; the time before the coming of the white man; the stories of power; the prophet cult and its predictions of profound cultural and economic change; and the post-contact world. The collection ends with Robinson’s own version of “Puss in Boots,” true in every psychological detail to the European story, but set in the ranching country of the Similkameen Valley.

Harry Robinson:
Nature Power, in the Spirit of an Okanagan Storyteller

Many of the stories in Harry Robinson’s second collection feature the shoo-MISH, or “nature helpers” that assist humans and sometimes provide them with special powers. Some tell of individuals who use these powers to heal themselves; others tell of Indian doctors who have been given the power to heal others. Still others tell of power encounters: a woman “comes alive” after death; a boy meets a singing squirrel; a voice from nowhere predicts the future.

Harry Robinson: Living by Stories, a journey of Landscape and Memory

Living by Stories includes a number of classic stories set in the “mythological age” about the trickster/transformer, Coyote, and his efforts to rid the world of bad people— spatla or “monsters,” but this new volume is more important for its presentation of historical narratives set in the more recent past. As with the mythological accounts, there is much chaos and conflict in these stories, mainly due to the arrival of new quasi-monsters—“SHAmas” (Whites)—who dispossess “Indians” of their lands and rights, impose new political and legal systems, and erect roads, rail lines, mines, farms, ranches and towns on the landscape.

Stein: the way of the river

by Michael M’Gonigle and Wendy Wickwire

This book is currently out of print.

Book Contributions

“Afterword,” in Bev Sellars, They Called Me Number One (Vancouver; Talonbooks, 2013), 192-199.

“James A. Teit,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 1921-1930 (University of Toronto Press, 2005), pp. 998-1001.

“Prophecy at Lytton,” in Brian Swann (editor), Voices From Four Directions: Contemporary Translations of the Native Literatures of North America (University of Nebraska Press, 2004), pp. 134-170.