MARTIN, Ed




Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors


From the website of the Thistalalh Memorial Library of Bella Bella. The unfunded, independent community library was destroyed by fire in 2013:

Edward Martin was a Heiltsuk elder and hemas (hereditary chief) who held the traditional name Thistalalh among his chief's names. A man of profound wisdom and deep connectedness to his culture, he was a prominent figure in the cultural reawakening of the Heiltsuk people. Perhaps most of all, Ed was known as a great storyteller.

We invite you to spend a moment learning about a great man, whose love of words and whose storytelling ability have made him a legend today.

Ed Martin - storyteller
Edward Martin was born November 1st, 1930, in Bella Bella, British Columbia.

His strength and resilience were marked very early in his life. He was taken at a young age to residential school, where for eight years he was subject to the era's institutionalized "education" that has long since become synonymous with vicious negligence, ill-treatment and uttermost cruelty. In spite of this, Ed retained a curiosity and love of books that remained unquenched throughout his lifetime. When he returned home he passionately shared his love of learning with others in his community.

Ed's formative years were also marked by a strong connection to Heiltsuk cultural values and traditions. Joann Green, Ed's daughter, recalls:

"From a very early age, Dad and his brother Don were brought to the family's traditional territory (at Hoyet camp) by his grandmother, who taught him strong Heiltsuk values. Pops told stories of how they would row down to the summer camp with his grandmother where he learned about food gathering methods. He often talked about how his grandmother taught him about working hard, and that if there was nothing to do, then find something to do!"

And so Ed worked a variety of jobs in his life, many of them intimately connected with the ocean. After working at the famous cannery in Namu, Ed fished commercially for BC Packers until he purchased his own gill netter. He fished for salmon and halibut until about 1975, when he retired from his successful career on the water. He also worked at times as a handlogger, at the mill in Ocean Falls, as a trapper, and with local construction and plumbing. He was incredibly inventive, creating many amazing gadgets that astonished his family and friends.


Residential school was effective in erasing the Heiltsuk language from Ed's early life, and he did not use it again until the 1970's. Yet somehow he retained his remarkable fluency. As he revived Heiltsuk as a part of his daily life, Ed acquired an unrivalled passion for teaching it to youth and other community members. This, paired with his love of traditional storytelling and his endless quiet patience, made him an ideal role model for youth participating in the newly-formed Koeye Camps run by Qqs Projects Society.

The remote Koeye (pronounced "Kway") River, located 30 nautical miles south of Bella Bella, gave campers the opportunity to learn Heiltsuk culture and traditional stewardship by building a relationship with the land and water. Ed, known to community youth as "Pops", gave great strength to the Koeye Camp program through his role as Camp Elder. He would spend two months each summer living in the Koeye watershed, stockpiling devil's club and alder bark, lending his fishing expertise to the children's traditional food-gathering, and beginning each day by bathing in the frigid river. Few of the young campers could match his stamina, but all were in awe of him.

He sparked great passion in the youth participants, whether he was guiding them through the gathering and preparation of medicinal plants, teaching them the importance of bighouse protocol, or regaling them with traditional stories from the rich canon of Heiltsuk mythology and oral history.

He was a friend, a mentor and a grandfather to staff and campers alike, and his kindness and wisdom were the foundation of a legacy that is still strong in our youth today.

In 2005, Pops passed away at the age of 75. Our sense of loss was profound.

[BCBW 2013]