Wow – the book tour for First Nations of the Pacific Northwest: Change and Tradition is all over. June is not the ideal month to head out on book tour – those long warm summer evenings are pretty hard to resist – but if I didn’t go for June, I’d have had to wait til summer is over and people are settled inside again, i.e. October.
And, all in all, it went really well – the crowds were not huge, but people were just so interested in this. I had hoped that Joe Martin and other members of his family would be able to travel around with me but, because of work commitments and an illness in the family, they were only able to make the Tofino and Ucluelet launches. So, instead, Joe and I made a little video of him speaking, so he was able to attend and speak at the launches virtually. Listen to Joe Martin on my June video blog.
Several of my writing buddies from my online writers’ group the Page Turners showed up to help at the Vancouver and Victoria events, which was just wonderful. I was a little bit nervous about presenting the book in Port Alberni – which is Nuu-chah-nulth territory,
but not the Nuu-chah-nulth tribes that I know personally (I live in the western part of their territory, on Tla-o-qui-aht land). So I was thrilled that many Nuu-chah-nulth-aht came out for my launch at the Port Alberni Visitors Centre, including Ha’wilth (hereditary chiefs) from both Huupachesaht and Huu-ay-aht (and many thanks to Denny Durocher, from the Huu-ay-aht newspaper Uyaqhmis, for sending me these photos).
My Tofino launch was especially moving – it was the biggest crowd of any of them, with over 40 people present, and also with many of my Nuu-chah-nulth friends attending. Levi Martin said an opening prayer chant, then Joe and I did the main presentation together. When the formal presentation was over, I invited my Nuu-chah-nulth friends to speak. It was just one of those amazing nights, of incredible communication and goodwill and understanding – the whole thing went on for over two hours, and nobody left early. It was one of those special evenings that no one who was present will ever forget.
It was especially meaningful to me that Billy Keitlah and Annie George attended. Billy is a former hereditary chief from Ahousaht – he has now passed his chieftainship on to his son. Billy suffered terrible sexual and physical abuse for years when he was a little boy at residential school. Back in 2004-2005, when I was doing the interviews for this book, he was still drinking heavily and struggling with his memories. He was not in any state to speak to me about his experiences – although Annie did. Her interview in this book explains how her husband’s experiences have scarred their whole family.
Two years later, however, Billy had given up drinking and had come a long way towards acknowledging what happened to him in residential school. He wanted to talk to me – and he and I worked together on an article that I did for The Tyee newspaper in 2007 about residential school abuse and the struggle to get financial compensation. Billy spoke eloquently at my Tofino launch last week, and it moved me so much to see how far he has come in the five or so years that I have known him. His journey is far from over, but his strength and his desire to keep moving forward is just so inspiring.
I am really appreciative of the attention that this book has received so far – both from people who have attended the launches and spoken to me personally, as well as from the media. Some of the media coverage about this book (with links wherever possible) includes:
Article in Victoria’s newspaper Monday Mag
Article in the Alberni Valley Times (reprinted in Tofino/Ucluelet’s Westerly newspaper, the Harbour City Star, and the Ottawa Citizen)
Article in the Nanaimo Bulletin
Article in the Cowichan Valley Citizen
Article in the Nanaimo Daily News
Article in TofinoTime magazine
Radio interview by Stephen Quinn on CBC Vancouver’s On the Coast (June 10th)
Radio interview with Joe Martin by Geoff Johnson of Tofino-Long Beach Radio’s CHMZ (June 16th, runs 6:44)