Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors, Local History
“And with the coming of the men whose skins are white like the peeled willow stick there have come many new modes of life.” – Walter Wright
Medeek is the Tsimshian word for grizzly bear. The grizzly bear is a crest that belongs to the Gitselasu Killer Whale clan family that includes the lineage of Walter Wright, who learned the history of Medeek from his grandfather, Neas Hiwas. “In the Native tongue,” Walter Wright wrote, “it takes eight hours to tell. So, several times each year, I sat at his feet and listened to our records. I drank in the words. In time I became word perfect. I knew all the story. I could repeat it without missing any of its parts.”
In 1935 and 1936, Chief Walter Wright, at age 65, narrated the tribal history and laws of the Kitselas band in the land of Ksan to Will Robinson, a local amateur ethnologist, for transcription into two proposed books, Men of Medeek (1962) and The Wars of Medeek (unpublished). Robinson had come to Terrace in 1928. He once described his collaborator Walter Wright as “a man of marked intelligence—and shrewdness. He was willing to give information—up to a certain point. I sensed he wished to know me better before he spoke more freely.” Their ethnology partnership began in September of 1935 when Wright came to Robinson’s home and told him the story of the Goat Feast for two-and-a-half hours.
Wright died in 1941. Will Robinson died in 1953, having been unable to find a publisher. Robinson’s wife continued to search for a publication outlet until Stan Rough heard about the manuscript from some friends in Terrace in 1960 and asked Mrs. Barry Blix and Gordon Robinson, the author of Tales of Kitamaat, to confirm its merit. Satisfied, Rough sought a publisher but again the project was perceived to have limited sales potential. Ultimately Stan Rough approached the editor of the Kitimat Northern Sentinel newspaper, Pixie Meldrum, who arranged for Men of Medeek to be printed in Kitimat. Financed by a number of private donors, it contains a good deal of description of inter-tribal warfare.
In October of 2003, Barry Robinson, grandson of the non-Aboriginal co-author Will Robinson, presented the Kitselas First Nation with the original manuscripts versions of The Men of Medeek and The Wars of Medeek.
Wright, Walter. Men of Medeek (Kitimat: Northern Sentinel Press, 1962).