DELEHANTY PEARKES, Eileen




Author Tags: First Nations, Geography, Health, Natural History

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes of Nelson explores landscape and the human imagination, with a focus on the history of the upper Columbia River and its tributaries.

The Upper Columbia River's indigenous people, the Sinixt, or Arrow Lakes Indians, are the focus of The Geography of Memory (Kutenai House Press, 2002) by fifth-generation Californian Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, a resident of Canada since 1985. Re-released as The Geography of Memory: Recovering Stories of a Landscape's First People (Sono Nis, 2005), this personalized account explains why the Sinixt First Nation were once declared "extinct" by the Canadian government in 1956. Decimated by disease and displaced by encroaching settlers, the Sinixt were devastated by dams that flooded their village and burial sites, eliminating salmon from their food supply.

With K. Linda Kivi as a co-author, Eileen Delehanty Pearkes examined the fourth-largest watershed in North America in The Inner Green (Nelson: Maa Press, 2005), a natural history of the Columbia Mountains region that discusses threatened Woodland Caribou, geology, the role of fire in ecosystems and the former presence of ocean salmon in the food chain.

In response to her mother's terminal illness, Pearkes wrote a deeply personal spring-to-winter narrative, The Glass Seed: The Fragile Beauty of the Heart, Mind and Body (Timeless Books, 2007), that examines the politics of womanhood and social issues germane to compassion. Influenced by yoga, this reflective work also explores the nature of memory and healing.

Some of the Columbia River Treaty’s provisions are set to change in 2024, and with termination of the treaty requiring a 10-year notice period, the question of whether or not to renew, renegotiate or terminate this water agreement is now being actively discussed by governments and policy makers. A River Captured (Rocky Mountain Books 2016) by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes explores the controversial history of the Columbia River Treaty and its impact on the ecosystems, indigenous peoples, contemporary culture, provincial politics and recent history of southeastern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. At the heart of this survey of the Treaty and its impacts is the lack of consultation with local people. A little-known aspect of the Treaty’s history is the 1956 “extinction” of the Arrow Lakes Indians, or Sinixt, whose transboundary traditional territory once stretched from Washington State to the mountains above Revelstoke, B.C. Several thousand Sinixt today living south of the border have no rights or status in Canada, despite their inherent aboriginal rights to land that was given over by the Treaty to hydroelectric production and agricultural flood control.

Born in the United States, educated at Stanford University (B.A., English) and the University of British Columbia (M.A., English), Eileen Delehanty Pearkes has been a resident of Canada since 1985. She writes two popular columns on Canadian landscape history for The North Columbia Monthly and the online news website The Nelson Daily. Because of her personal experiences, education and academic interests, her perspective on landscape, water and culture is binational. In 2014 she curated an extensive exhibit on the history of the Upper Columbia River system in Canada for the Touchstones Nelson museum and the Columbia Basin Trust, with specific reference to dramatic ecological changes both before and after the Columbia River Treaty (1961–64), as well as a history of the government policy that shaped this international water treaty. The exhibition won an award of excellence from the Canadian Museum Association.

BOOKS:

Delehanty Pearkes, Eileen. The Geography of Memory: Recovering Stories of a Landscape's First People (Kutenai House Press, 2002; Sono Nis, 2005).

Delehanty Pearkes, Eileen & K. Linda Kivi. The Inner Green (Maa Press, 2005).

The Glass Seed: The Fragile Beauty of the Heart, Mind and Body (Timeless Books, 2007) 978-1-932018-18-9

A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change 9781771601788 $20 288 pages

[BCBW 2016]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies :
A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change