WALLAS, James




Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors

"Today you get in your car and go to the store -- it was canoe in them days." -- Chief James Wallas

Born at Bear Cove, the original site of Port Hardy, on March 15, 1907, Chief James Wallas was also known as “J.J.” or Jimmy Jumbo, like his father, who was from the Quatsino tribe on Quatsino Sound. His mother, Jeanny Jumbo, was from Hope Island, where James Wallas spent his summers. At age 19, Wallas married Annie Charlie from Village Harbour and soon began working on fishing boats, eventually becoming the skipper of a seine boat. During World War II he was a foreman at the Port Alice pulp mill, in charge of 32 men. Wallas also fished for halibut and completed an Indian Education Teachers’ Training program in Campbell River to teach Indian Studies. He taught Indian Studies at Coal Harbour after the people from his old village at Quatsino had moved there to be closer to schools and medical services.

Growing up mainly on Quatsino Sound, Wallas learned traditional stories from elders, mostly from his father’s brother, for Kwakiutl Legends (1981), as told to Pamela Whitaker. “Usually four families would share a longhouse,” he recalled, “one in each corner, each having their own fire. If only two families were in a dwelling they would often share a fire.” One of his stories concerns the trickster-like character of the Mink, lewd and handsome, who must go through a succession of wives (Kelp, Frog, Boulder and Cloud) before he’s finally content with Lizard. Another story concerns Mink’s efforts to come to terms with manhood. In Kwak’wala, Mink can be translated as “Made-Like-The-Sun” because Mink believes he is the son of the Sun. Wallas' collection of Kwakiutl origin stories, animal stories and recollections of whaling are complemented by “prayers” taken from Franz Boas' ethnological work The Religion of the Kwakiutl Indians as well as a brief appendix prepared by linguist Peter J. Wilson who was involved in the initial efforts to introduce Kwak'wala language programs on Vancouver Island.

[BCBW 2005]