Author Tags: First Nations
Born in 1920, Dolby Bevan Turner spent teenage years at Green Point on Cowichan Bay where she befriended members of the Khenipsen. In her 80s she profiled some of the elders she knew and relayed some of their stories in When the Rains Came: And Other Legends of the Salish People (Orca, 1992), illustrated by Delmar Johnnie Seletze, a member of the Khenipsen band. Born in 1946, he grew up in Duncan and studied art at Peninsula College of Art in Los Angeles and at Malaspina College.
[BCBW 2004] "First Nations"
When the Rains Came (Orca $19.95)
IN 1906 HERBERT BEVAN BOUGHT A 400acre property on the Maple Bay Road, near Cowichan Bay, previously owned by a Hudson's Bay factor named Mr. Skinner. There he built Happy Hollow, a dream-home with a living room large enough to accommodate 100 couples. "It was well-named," says his daughter Dolby Bevan Turner in When the Rains Came (Orca $19.95), "for I spent the happiest years of my young life there. But beautiful as it may have been, it was some distance from the sea." In 1926 the Bevans rented a home at Green Point, then bought 120 acres across from Cowichan Bay, along the foot of Mt. Tzouhalem, in 1929. It's been more than 60 years since the author lived there, but her impressions seem immediate. "I can see the misty dawns and the waters of Cowichan Bay stretching away like a well-ironed sheet, a long strip of driftwood cross-stitched with seaweed embroidering the hemline close to shore, the Salmon rolling on the surface, porpoise-like, cutting a thin line through the still water, only to dive and leave no trace of their passing." Seventy-five years have passed since Dolby Bevan Turner had her first contact with, Natives on Vancouver Island. "I was about six years old at the time," she recalls, "I had smelled smoke corning from the direction of the playhouse that Dad had had built for us children back in the woods behind our home. Afraid the little house was on fire, I ran up the trail to investigate. "When I reached the clearing I saw a small cook-fire burning and, nearby, a strange, dark-skinned woman sitting on a log, a baby in her arms. Stopping in my tracks, I stared at her. Had I come face to face with a big black bear, I could not have been more terrified. "To my amazement, the woman half turned and, lifting her arm as though to ward me off, said, 'Go 'way--me scared'."
Soon the young girl's relations with the Salish people of the neighbouring Khenipsen Village grew into lasting friendships. Her collection of Salish legends, When the Rains Came, is partially dedicated to Rosalie and Johnnie Seletze; it has been illustrated by their greatgrandson Delmar Johnnie Seletze, a Salish longhouse spirit dancer. Each story is prefaced by a photo and an introduction to the people who originally told Turner the stories when she lived at Green Point as a teenager. "Rosalie and her 'old man' Johnnie lived in the last house on the bluff," she recalls, " perched high on the knoll overlooking the Cowichan River into which, at low tide, she would drop a bucket tied to a rope and haul up fresh water.
"Their one-room home was always miraculously neat and tidy... I once asked Rosalie how she managed to keep her home so uncluttered when she had so little space to put things. ‘Oh that no trouble,' she explained with a shrug, 'We don' got much.' She pointed to a row of baskets on the floor, some stacked three high. 'I keep things Indian way. There were a great variety of these lovely baskets, woven in all sizes and designs, in which were stored sheep fleece and balls of wool, carded and spun, ready to be knitted into one of her much-prized Cowichan sweaters, one of which is still worn by a member of my family... Some of the Natives used to dye their wool, but never Rosalie. She would only use the natural shades of white, grey and brown, and the hard-to-comeby black when she could get it. Tree fungi were placed here and there around the room, some of which had been painted red. When I asked her why she had them, she said,' Oh, them things. Them's good, keep all-a bad spirits away.”
In these introductions to the legends Turner has rewalked the ground she walked as a girl and talked to the ancestors of the people she's never outgrown.
Little wonder that the author received permission from the Khenipsens and other Cowichans to publish the book. Similarly Christie Harris received Haida approval for a re-issue of her 1966 coastal classic, Raven's Cry (D&M $14.95), a fictionalized retelling of the near demise of the Haida nation. The new volume offers new Haida spellings, a glossary and an introductory discussion between Haida artist Robert Davidson and Margaret Blackman. Davidson praises Harris for taking" a stab in the dark in trying to articulate Haida emotions and reactions." The text retains the original illustrations that were provided by Bill Reid. "My gratitude to Bill Reid knows no bounds," says Harris, "He gave me my first genuine appreciation of what had happened to the aboriginal population along the west coast." Rains 0-920501-87-7; Raven's Cry 1-55054-055-6
--by Charles Lillard
Charles Lillard is writing a history of the Queen Charlotte Islands for Horsdal & Schubart.
[BCBW, 1993] “First Nations”