ARNETT, Chris




Author Tags: First Nations

Chris Arnett, a fourth-generation British Columbian and a member of the Ngai Tahu, a New Zealand Maori tribe, has had a life-long interest in the history of B.C. and New Zealand. Arnett has researched the archeology of the Stein River Valley for the ‘Nlaka’pamux Nation Development Corporation and worked for the Sooke Region Museum and Archives on a historical survey of logging on Vancouver Island’s Southwest Coast. He has also taught First Nations studies at Malaspina College. He wrote The Terror of the Coast, a reconstruction of events surrounding the 1863 attack on Kuper Island Indian village by the British naval gunboat Forward. The book chronicles how the battle influenced Colonial government policies and later eroded Native jurisdiction.

Arnett has also edited the stories collected by Mildred Cryer for for Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul'qumi'num' Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island (Talonbooks 2007). Raised in the Shawnigan area of Vancouver Island, near Chemainus, by her very English parents Mr. and Mrs. Richmond Beauchamp Halhed, Beryl Mildred Cryer was born Beryl Mildred Halhed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1889. She married local businessman William Claude Cryer and they had one child. During the Depression, at the request of the managing editor of the Daily Colonist newspaper in Victoria, she collected Coast Salish stories from Hul'q'umi'num elders such as Mary Rice and Joe and Jennie Wyse for a series of 60 articles that appeared in the Sunday Magazine supplement. Although she was not trained as a journalist or anthropologist, Cryer was careful to keep track of the sources of the narratives, enabling ethnographers who came afterwards to trace their origins and better understand their meanings. In the 1930s she also co-wrote an article with Jennie Wyse (Tstass-Aya) for the Daily Colonist about a battle between the Snunéymuxw of Gabriola Island and the Lekwiltok from a century before. In addition, she recorded memories of the Douglas Treaty from Joe Wyse [Quen-Es-Then), as interpreted by his wife Jennie Wyse, and published his account in the Victoria Colonist. Her associations with the Coast Salish led to the publication of her book slanted towards children called The Flying Canoe: Legends of the Cowichans (Victoria: J. Parker Buckle Printing, 1949). She died in Welland, Ontario, in 1980.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul'q'umi'num Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island

BOOKS:

They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever: Rock Writings of the Stein River Valley of British Columbia (Talonbooks, 1993) [Co-authored with Richard Daly and the late Annie York]
The Terror of the Coast: The 1863 Colonial War on the East Coast of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands (Talonbooks, 1999)
Beryl Mildred Cryer. Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul'qumi'num' Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island (Talonbooks 2007). Edited by Chris Arnett. 978-0-88922-555-8 $24.95

[BCBW 2008] "First Nations" "Anthropology"

The Terror of the Coast: Land Alienation and Colonial War on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands 1849-1863 (Talon $24.95)
Article



On April 20, 1863, the British naval gunboat Forward used its powerful cannons to blast a Native village on Kuper Island in Georgia Strait.

The openly unfriendly village, according to the British, was harbouring Native suspects in two allegedly murderous assaults against European transients in the Gulf Islands. During a fierce battle, with casualties, a handful of Lamalcha warriors managed to repulse the British.

This unsuccessful British attack marked a new low point in the relations between Native and non-Native residents of the B.C. coast and is the subject for Chris Arnett’s second book, The Terror of the Coast: Land Alienation and Colonial War on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands 1849-1863 (Talon $24.95).

Arnett is a fourth-generation British Columbian on his mother’s side and a member of a New Zealand Maori tribe, the Ngai Tahu, on his father’s side. In 1993 he co-authored They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever: Rock Writings of the Stein Valley of British Columbia (Talonbooks).

In The Terror of the Coast he argues that the war between the Hwulmuhw or ‘People of the Land’ and the colonial government of Vancouver Island is of utmost significance in the context of unsettled First Nations’ land claims.

After the British suffered their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Natives, British vengeance in the form of the “Colonial War” was swift and savage. It included burning, looting, interrogations under the lash, show trials (without defence counsel or adequate interpreters) and the hangings of innocent people.

According to incidents outlined in The Terror of the Coast, the so-called ‘Colonial War’ launched in reprisal from Victorian England was in reality nothing more than brutal suppression of B.C. coastal Natives. It has therefore been an uncomfortable and largely ignored subject for Natives or non-Natives alike.

Arnett is not loathe to describe a much less ‘civilized’ time—it was an era when inter-tribal raids and warfare were still prevalent; when some Native peoples were still practising a form of slavery (which gave slave-holders the power of life and death); and when, to further their own ends, some Natives helped white people subjugate with deceit, destruction, division, torture, intimidation and judicial murder.

While degradations and brutality on both sides are recalled in fascinating detail, he also emphasizes that Native jurisdiction was rapidly eroded after the war of 1863 and aboriginal land was extensively ‘alienated’.

In the Colony of Vancouver Island, land acquisition agreements were often deliberately made with small groups of Native peoples while the rest of their tribe was away for seasonal food harvesting. Promises of compensation made to Natives were frequently broken by Governor James Douglas.

At the time Vancouver Island was still its own colony, with its own Governor, and white settlement was spreading up the coast in patches as far north as Comox. The colonial authorities had to reassure white settlers that the coast was ‘safe’ to take.

In the wake of what happened, and given the historical setting of the incident, it is hardly surprising that the naval “bloody nose” received by the British, and the nasty series of events surrounding it, are not taught in our schools or widely discussed in media.

In B.C., as in much of the rest of the world, the history of the European conquest and colonization of aboriginal peoples has been written almost exclusively by observers of mostly European origin, with their own in-built cultural biases. Most Native peoples who were colonized did not maintain written records.

While consulting a wide range of sources—such as newspaper editorials, letters, articles, government and police correspondence, naval ships’ logs and ‘Letters of Proceedings’—Arnett also sought out and interviewed some descendants of the Native people involved in the events. As well, some contemporary writings were critical of the British government and have been overlooked by other writers. Arnett brings these back into circulation to provide a valuable alternate perspective.

The Terror of the Coast is a lengthy and well-referenced book that adds an important chapter to B.C. history. It’s not an easy read--an index would have enhanced its value as a reference book and made it easier to follow--but it does convincingly show the ‘Colonial War’ of 1863 was one more disgraceful event in the still-evolving colonization of what was later to become British Columbia.

Colonization where we live wasn’t as benign and bloodless as many historians have led us to believe. 0-88922-318-1

[Quentin Dodd / BCBW 2000]


Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul’q’umi’num’ Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island
Article



Raised in the Shawnigan area of Vancouver Island, at Chemainus, by her very English parents Mr. and Mrs. Richmond Beauchamp Halhed, Beryl Mildred Cryer was born Beryl Mildred Halhed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1889.

Having arrived at Shawnigan Lake in 1892, she later maintained the area received its name from a hybrid word commemorating two early Anglo settlers, Shaw and Finnegan. She married local businessman William Claude Cryer and they had one child.

During the Depression, at the request of the managing editor of the Daily Colonist newspaper in Victoria, she collected Coast Salish stories from Hul’q’umi’num’ elders, mainly her next door neighbour Mary Rice from Kuper Island, as well as Joe and Jennie Wyse, for a series of 60 articles that appeared in the Sunday Magazine supplement.

For instance, also co-wrote an article with Jennie Wyse (Tstass-Aya) for the Daily Colonist about a battle between the Snunéymuxw of Gabriola Island and the Lekwiltok from a century before.

Although she was not trained as a journalist or anthropologist, Cryer was careful to keep track of the sources of the narratives, enabling ethnographers who came afterwards to trace their origins and better understand their meanings.
Her associations with the Coast Salish led to the publication of her book slanted towards children called The Flying Canoe: Legends of the Cowichans (Victoria: J. Parker Buckle Printing, 1949). She died in Welland, Ontario, in 1980.

Cryer’s contributions to coastal ethnology were subsequently edited by Chris Arnett for Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul’q’umi’num’ Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island (Talonbooks $24.95).

978-0-88922-555-8

[BCBW 2008]