Author Tags: Essentials 2010, Haida Gwaii, History, Missionaries, Poetry
"History is endless in this country, and boundless, but no one really cares deeply." -- Charles Lillard, in a letter to Alan Twigg
QUICK REFERENCE ENTRY:
After twenty books, bibliophile Charles Lillard is remembered for his passionate devotion to B.C. literature in general. “He was one of the people who wrote about the Northwest Coast in a way that gave it a mythology,” said Susan Musgrave, “and in that way he’ll last.” Howard White once observed that Lillard’s literary column in the Times Colonist, “dominates the field like a leafy oasis in mid-Sahara.” Doug Beardsley referred to him as “a beacon on this coast.”
Born in California in 1944, Charles “Red” Lillard was raised in Alaska and spent much of his childhood on his parents’ fish scow. He preferred to view the Inside Passage as a river running from Skagway to Seattle. He worked at forestry jobs as a faller, rigger, and boom man, drove a truck and taught at Ocean Falls, before entering the UBC Creative Writing Department. He published his first poetry collection, Cultus Coulee (1971), and became a Canadian citizen the following year. In 1977, he met his partner and fellow poet Rhonda Batchelor.
Important Lillard titles include his history of Vancouver Island, Seven Shillings a Year (1986), which received the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing; Circling North (1988), which won the first Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize; and Just East of Sundown (1995), his history of Haida Gwaii. Shadow Weather (1996) was nominated for a Governor General’s Award. With Michael Gregson he compiled a coffee table book on post-war B.C. icons, Land of Destiny (1991); and with Ron MacIsaac and Don Clark he co-wrote a study of the 1920s religious cult leader Edward Arthur Wilson, The Brother XII, B.C. Magus (1989). Lillard’s enthusiasm for B.C. and Alaskan literature resulted in the reprinting of several West Coast classics. He also edited the Malahat Review and some Sound Heritage titles. In addition, he co-founded Reference West and he edited a gathering of writings about Haida Gwaii, The Ghostland People (1989), to “allow the actors in our history to give their own speeches.”
Lillard could be somewhat erratic in his writing, selective in his scholarship and highly opinionated in his judgments, but his enduring enthusiasm for Pacific Northwest literary culture made his presence necessary and constructive. After Charles Lillard died in 1997, a memorial service was held at the home of Robin and Sylvia Skelton. “Perhaps people in this country think of him mainly as a poet—which he was, of course, a fine poet,” said Marlyn Horsdal, one of Lillard’s publishers, “but he was also an extraordinary repository of information on the literature of the coast and coastal history; he loved collecting it and talking about it.” Charles Lillard also had a deeply melancholy streak. “History is endless in this country. It is boundless,” he wrote in a personal letter to Alan Twigg, “but no one really cares deeply.”
Charles Lillard was one of B.C.’s most knowledgeable bibliophiles and prolific authors. Fellow Victoria writer Doug Beardsley referred to him once as "a beacon on this coast." Raincoast Chronicles publisher and poet Howard White once wrote, "For regional culture addicts still mourning the loss of Alan Morley and Arthur Mayse, his column dominates the field like a leafy oasis in mid-Sahara." Widely read for many years as a literary columnist in the Times Colonist and as a contributor to B.C. BookWorld, Lillard amassed a deeply-felt knowledge of B.C. writing, publishing and culture. He was most closely associated with Sono Nis Press.
Born in Long Beach, California in 1944, Charles 'Red' Lillard was raised and educated in Alaska. He spent much of his childhood on his parents' fish scow. He first visited B.C. in 1961 and preferred to view the Inside Passage as a river running from Skagway to Seattle, 'the Great North River'. After travels in Canada and Europe in 1965, he worked at several forestry jobs (faller, rigger, boom man), drove a truck and taught at Ocean Falls, and entered the UBC Creative Writing Department where he received the Brissenden Award in 1970. He published his first poetry collection, Cultus Coulee, in 1971. In 1972, when he became a Canadian citizen, his play The Crossing was produced at the Freddy Wood Theater at UBC. He received his M.F.A. and won the MacMillan Prize in 1973. In 1976 he edited an issue of Canadian Fiction Magazine. In 1977 he met his partner Rhonda Batchelor.
Shadow Weather was nominated for a Governor General's Award. Important Lillard titles include Seven Shillings A Year, his history of Vancouver Island, which received the Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Historical Writing; Circling North, which won the first Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize; and Just East of Sundown, his history of the Queen Charlotte Islands. With Michael Gregson he compiled a coffee table book on post-war B.C. icons, Land of Destiny; with Ron MacIsaac and Don Clark he co-wrote a study of the 1920s' religious cult leader Edward Arthur Wilson, The Brother XII; with J. Ellis he co-wrote a local history, Fernwood Files; and with Robin Skelton and Rhonda Batchelor he coordinated numerous literary events and publications from Victoria. Other poetry titles included Drunk on Wood, Jabble, Voice, My Shaman, Shadow Weather, Circling North and A Coastal Range. Lillard's enthusiasm for B.C. and Alaskan literature resulted in the reprinting of several West Coast 'classics' such as Three's a Crew. He edited many other history titles, edited The Malahat Review and co-founded Reference West. Lillard also edited some of the final issues of the Sound Heritage quarterly that was issued by the Provincial Government. Always on the lookout for new information about the West Coast from old sources, he edited a gathering of writings about the Queen Charlotte Islands, The Ghostland People, to "allow the actors in our history to give their own speeches." He was long involved in the preparation of a bibliographical project, B.C.: A Literary Geography, but it was never completed. He could be somewhat erratic in his writing, selective in his scholarship and highly opinionated in his judgements, but his enduring enthusiasm for Pacific Northwest literary culture made his presence necessary and constructive. He is missed.
Charles Lillard's work in progress was a yet-to-be released study of the Chinook language on the B.C. coast, A Voice Great Within Us. It was released posthumously with the collaboration of Terry Glavin. By 1962, the Summer Institute of Linguistics estimated that approximately 100 Chinook speakers remained in North America and by 1990 the creole language (comprised of an amalgam of aboriginal, English and French terms) was considered nearly extinct. Chinook was used in criminal trials in B.C., such as the prosecution of Chilcotin chiefs following the so-called Chilcotin War in 1864, and the prosecution of Tshuanahusset, charged with the 1868 murder of black Saltspring Island pioneer William Robinson. It was officialy used as late as 1913-1916 for the McKenna-McBride commission. Lillard occasionally used Chinook terms in his own poetry.
In the early 1990s Charles Lillard was profiled by his closest writing friend, Robin Skelton: “I think of Red (for I still call him Red) in conversation over the whisky, that sudden eager leaning forward, that gargantuan chuckle which is his laughter. I think of that battered black hat, even more curiously shaped than mine, and of the disreputable knapsack he carries to flea markets. I think of his comfortable presence, easy and undemanding, as he chats to booksellers and flea market vendors. And I think of that voice on the phone, jovial, teasing, persuasive, telling me of some new project in which I am to become inescapably involved. And I think, above all, of his enthusiasm; this is my friend, a man in love with life, a man of zest, a man of poetry, a man of honest labour: I wish there were more like him.” After Charles Lillard died on March 27, 1997, a memorial service was held at the home of Robin and Sylvia Skelton on April 12. "He was one of the people who wrote about the Northwest Coast in a way that gave it a mythology, and in that way he'll last," said Susan Musgrave. “Perhaps people in this country think of him mainly as a poet — which he was, of course, a fine poet,” says Marlyn Horsdal, one of Lillard's publishers, “but he was also an extraordinary repository of information on the literature of the coast and coastal history; he loved collecting it and talking about it... Charles was endlessly interesting, opinionated and entertaining, and a good friend.”
Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Devil of De Courcy Island: The Brother XII
The Ghostland People: A documentary history of the Queen Charlotte Islands 1859- 1906
A Voice Great Within Us: The Story of Chinook
Warriors of the North Pacific
Cultus Coulee (Sono Nis, 1971) -- poems
Drunk on Wood (Sono Nis, 1973) -- poems
Jabble (1975) -- poems
Voice, My Shaman (Sono Nis, 1976) -- poems
Mission to Nootka, 1874-1900: The Diary of Father Augustin Brabant (Sidney: Gray's Publishing, 1977) -- annotated edition, reminiscences of Father Brabant, first priest to reside on the West Coast of Vancouver Island
In the Wake of the War Canoe (Sono Nis, 1981) -- editor
Dreams of Freedom: Bella Coola, Cape Scott, Sointula (Provincial Archives Aural History Program, 1982) -- editor
A Coastal Range (1984) -- poetry
Warriors of the North Pacific: Missionary Accounts of the Northwest Coast, The Skeena and Stikine Rivers, and the Klondike, 1829-1900 (Sono Nis, 1984) -- editor
Seven Shillings a Year (Horsdal & Schubart, 1986) -- history of Vancouver Island
Nootka (1986) -- editor
Circling North (Sono Nis, 1988) -- poetry
The Ghostland People (Sono Nis, 1989) -- editor
Fernwood Files (Orca, 1989) -- history with J. Ellis
The Brother, XII, B.C. Magus: A Quest for The Brother, XII (Porcepic, 1989) -- biography, co-author with Ron MacIsaac, Don Clark
Land of Destiny (Pulp Press, 1991) -- with Michael Gregson
The Call of the Coast (Horsdal & Schubart, 1992) -- anthology editor
Just East of Sundown (Horsdal & Shubart, 1995) -- history
Shadow Weather: Poems, Selected and New (Sono Nis, 1996) -- poems
A Voice Great Within Us: The Story of Chinook (New Star, Transmontanus, 1998) --history, with Terry Glavin
A Voice Great Within Us (New Star $16)
As recently as the Sixties and early Seventies, it was not uncommon for home-grown British Columbians to pepper conversations with words such as ‘klahowya’ (hello), ‘klahanie’ (outdoors), ‘chuck’ (water) and ‘skookum’ (strong).
Most people didn’t realize they were speaking Chinook, a creole language that evolved here as a hybrid of aboriginal languages, English and French. Today few British Columbians recognize place names such as Boston Bar, Canim Lake and Illahe Mountain are Chinook-based.
With the integral partnership of co-author Terry Glavin, the late historian and poet Charles Lillard has cobbled together a discussion of the origins and legacy of Chinook—our almost lost language—in A Voice Great Within Us (New Star $16). Lillard and Glavin’s illustrated compilation provides personal reflections, a lexicon, a gazetteer of Chinook place names and examples of Chinook literature.
The authors quote claims that Chinook was once relied upon by a quarter of a million people. In British Columbia, where it was most prevalent, Chinook was sometimes used to conduct criminal trials, but by 1962 the Summer Institute of Linguistics estimated only 100 Chinook speakers remained in North America, all of whom were more than 50 years old.
“Nothing quite like Chinook occurred anywhere else in North America,” says Glavin.
Linguistic concoctions, however, were not unprecedented. A creole of Choctaw, Chickasa and French called Mobilian was once spoken around the Gulf of Mexico. Bungay was a pidgin of French, English and Cree in Manitoba. And the Red River Metis spoke the Mechouf languague. But the spread and resilience of Chinook was unparalleled and A Voice Great Within Us dispels the myth that Chinook was ‘invented’ by Father Jean-Marie Le Jeune of Kamloops, possibly Chinook’s most influential progenitor. As a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, he published a mimeographed Chinook newsletter, the Kamloops Wawa, that described itself as “the queerest newspaper in the world.”
First published on May 2, 1891, the Wawa was ‘Indian news’ printed in both the English alphabet and a bizarre form of shorthand developed in 1867 by two French clerics, the Duploye brothers. Thanks to the Wawa’s wide circulation, many Native and non-Natives in the B.C. Interior became literate as Duployan readers.
Chinook’s use was first documented as a vocabulary in 1846 by Horatio Hale
after he travelled with the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42. A history and dictionary of Chinook was compiled for the Smithsonian Institute by George Gibbs in 1863. Gibbs’ work
was followed by a ‘manual’ of Chinook, published in London, in 1890, by Hale, then a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
“The language already has the beginning of a literature,” Hale wrote. In his bibliography of Chinookian languages published by the Smithsonian in 1893, James Constantine Pilling listed 175 documents in which Chinook jargon was used. But its origins have always remained in dispute.
“A common misconception about Chinook,” Glavin writes, “is that it was simply an argot, invented by fur traders, in order to facilitate communication with and among aboriginal trappers associated with the maritime fur traders.”
A Great Voice takes pains to rebutt this contention, one most notably voiced by historian F.W. Howay. Citing research by UVic linguist Barbara Harris, A Great Voice asserts Chinook arose prior to the influx of Europeans. Six of eleven aboriginal linguistic families in Canada were indigenous to territories within present-day B.C. Hence cultural diversity, born of the West Coast’s diverse ecological and climatic zones, likely spawned Chinook as a trading language.
One piece of evidence to support this theory is provided. In 1788, John Meares, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, recorded a chief named Callicum using the word ‘cloosh’, meaning good. In 1805 the Lewis and Clark expedition, at the mouth of the Columbia River, also recorded use of the word ‘cloosh’, meaning good. The dual use of the same Chinook word indicates cross-fertilization of languages didn’t require the interventions of explorers, traders and missionaries.
Growing up on his parents’ fish scow in Alaska, Charles ‘Red’ Lillard had an abiding fascination for Chinook. Throughout his life he monitored its flexibility and power of expression, initially incorporating its influence into his first poetry collection, Cultus Coulee.
In his teens, Terry Glavin encounted Cultus Coulee; then decades later as the editor of New Star’s Transmontanus series, he took the initiative to contact Lillard and suggest a book. Following Lillard’s death on February 24, 1997 at 53, Glavin completed their Chinook volume as a joint project. 0-921586-56-6
[BCBW WINTER 1998]
The Brother, XII, B.C. Magus: A Quest for The Brother, XII (Porcepic Books $12.95)
Edward Arthur Wilson, alias The Brother, XII, was easily the most enigmatic and possibly the most frightening religious presence B.C. has ever known. Born in Birmingham, England in 1878, The Brother, XII (not Brother Twelve or even Brother XII) was a former sea captain who came to B.C. to establish an occult society and utopian community called The Aquarian Foundation in 1927. The Aquarian Foundation was originally based at Cedar-by-the-Sea outside Nanaimo, then on De Courcy and Valdes Islands in a new settlement called The City of Refuge. As the twelfth master in a brotherhood that guided the evolution of the human race, The Brother, XII promised to shelter his disciples from Armageddon. With over 2,000 members at its peak, the Foundation flourished, attracting numerous wealthy supporters, until its leader was accused of misusing funds. The Brother, XII and his reputedly sadistic mistress known as “Madame Z” attempted to turn followers into slaves, while also attempting to murder their enemies with black magic. When the courts ordered The Brother, XII to reimburse his followers, he reputedly escaped with a fortune. He may or may not have died in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
Charles Lillard, Seattle-based Don Clark and Vancouver Island lawyer Ron MacIsaac have now collaborated on The Brother, XII, B.C. Magus: A Quest for The Brother, XII (Porcepic Books $12.95) in an attempt to reach beyond the apocryphal legends that have shrouded The Brother, XII in mystery. “I first heard of The Brother, XII in the summer of 1968,” says Lillard, “while working on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The man telling me the stories thought he’d seen The Brother, XII as late as 1940…”
Since Englishman Christmas Humphreys first wrote about The Brother, XII in the 1920s most writers have embellished the lurid reputation of Edward Arthur Wilson as an authoritarian and exploiting charlatan. Typically Herbert Emmerson Wilson’s sensationalized biography, Canada’s False Prophet, The Notorious Brother Twelve (Simon & Schuster, 1967) led Pierre Berton to comment in Mysterious Canada (M&S): “California and British Columbia are hotbeds of off-beat religions… Of these, there are none so kooky, none so bizarre, none so preposterous – none so downright evil – as the Aquarian Foundation, set up in 1927 on Vancouver Island by the man who called himself The Brother, XII.” Jack Hodgins’ first novel, The Invention of the World, set in and around Nanaimo, presented a comic reflection of The Brother, XII character. “Part One of our book,” says Lillard, retells the versions of the story as created by writers such as B.A. McKelvie, Berton, Howard O’Hagan and Jack Hodgins,” says Lillard, “plus about a dozen or more unremembered hacks who got hold of a good story. Part Two examines the evidence. The story that emerges is far stranger and more important than all the kooky fiction thus far written about a saintly and religious man.”
CHARLES LILLARD 1989 #2
by Charles Lillard
IN THE EARLY 1970'S VARIOUS VANCOUVER/ Victoria- based writers began moving to the Queen Charlotte Islands. This made one of the remotest areas in British Columbia part of literary Canada. It was also a shot-in-the-arm for the Island's fabled mystique, something which was about to die of an overdose of isolation and exploitation. To live in the Charlottes in those days was to live inside a mystery. No one knew a great deal about the area, and what they did know was often wrong part of the great mosaic of coastal folklore. It didn't do one much good to consult the nearest public library because Island literature was mostly unknown.
About the only source book readily available was Kathleen E. Dalzell's The Queen Charlotte Islands 1774-1966 (reprinted by Queen Charlotte Islands book dealer Bill Ellis, now available from Harbour Publishing). Dalzell's second and more interesting volume on the Islands, The Queen Charlotte Islands, Of Places and Names, was self-published in 1973 and not widely distributed at the time (it's now available from Harbour Publishing). In some ways little has changed since the early 1970's. Except in university libraries there are no adequate gatherings of Island material.
In putting together a mental picture of the islands, the best starting place is Dalzell's work. Next, and in no particular order of merit, comes Anthony Carter's This is Haida (Indian Heritage Series, 1968); my editions of early missionary accounts, In the Wake of the War Canoe (Sono Nis) and Warriors of the North Pacific (Sono Nis) and Emily Carr's Klee Wyck (Irwin).
There's also a brief but important account by Ed Rickett's (he's "Doc" in Steinbeck's Cannery Row) of a visit to the Charlottes in 1945. It was published in a book called The Outer Shores: Part One, Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck Explore the Pacific Coast (Mad River Press, California 1978).
But these titles don't give the reader a taste of what it was like on the Islands in the early 1800's, Although William Henry Collison's accounting In the Wake of the War Canoe begins in 1876, the Hudson's Bay Company already had a Charlottes post by then, and the maritime fur traders had been visiting the area annually, and in large numbers, since the 1780's.
The Charlotte Islands were the first landfalls made by European explorers along the coast of what is now British Columbia. It was also the first area to be explored and charted. (Nootka Sound was to prove more important, but the Islands are first in any West Coast chronology.) But there is unfortunately no one-volume account of this earlier and important period.
One pleasant introduction to this maritime period is John Frazier Henry's Early Maritime Artists (D&M 1984); it's a sight to please both eye and ear. Soft Gold (Oregon Historical Society) with its ethnological annotations by Bill Holm, and an historical introduction and annotation by Thomas Vaughan, is not to be bypassed either.
Two important hard-to-locate studies that put the islands into the context of Northwest Coast exploration and fur trade exploitation are Warren L. Cook's Flood Tide of Empire: Spain and the Pacific Northwest, 1953-1819 (Yale University Press) and that classic of 19thcentury West Coast history, Hubert Howe Bancroft's two-volume Northwest
Coast (volumes 27 and 28 in Bancroft's Works, out-of-print). While this latter work is dated, it remains the best self-contained work on the subject. John Boit's Log of the Union (recently published in Oregon), William Beresford's A Voyage Around the World: The Journal of Fray Tomas de la Pena, (published in California at the turn of the century, out-of-print) and The Journal of John Work (out-of-print) are among the firsthand accounts of island exploration and trading that repay the reader who searches them out. But these accounts are outsiders' versions. The Haida, had anyone asked them before the smallpox and related epidemics of the 1860's began to decimate the people, could have given us a true history of Island exploration and settlement.
Writers of every cast of mind have done their best to recreate the Haida world. Perhaps the primer for anyone beginning to dig into this almost-lost period is John and Carolyn Smyly's Those Born at Koona (Hancock). Another point of departure might well be Margaret Blackman's During My Time: Florence Edenshaw Davidson, A Haida Woman (D&M), a rich account of a noble Haida woman's life.
Whether or not one considers Marius Barbeau to be the Robert Graves of West Coast studies, his Haida Carvers in Argillite (National Museum of Canada 1957), Haida Myths Illustrated in Argillite Carvings (out-of-print) and the two volume Totem Poles (out-of-print) should not be ignored. The biggest problem for a reader in British Columbia will be finding Bareau's books.
Two of the many excellent studies on Haida culture are George F. MacDonald's Ninstints: Haida World Heritage Site (UBC Press) and Marjorie M. Halpin's Totem Poles: An Illustrated Guide (UBC Press).
Surprisingly, considering the many literary types who've spent time in the Queen Charlotte Islands, there is not much literature set on the Islands. D.E. Hatt's Sitka Spruce,Songs of The Queen Charlotte Islands may be the first book of poetry to emerge from the area. The Arrow-Maker's Daughter and Songs of the Western Islands were' two attempts by Hermia Harris Fraser to make Haida mythology a useable history. Sean Virgo's Deathwatch at Skidegate Narrows (Sono Nis) is a more recent attempt to come to terms with a Haida past.
Lurline Bowles Mayors The Big Canoe was a similar experiment in fiction. Trevor Ferguson's High Water Chants and Susan Musgrave's The Charcoal Burners place man against the elements and himself. Call the Beast Thy Brother (Berkley Medallion) is a Queen Charlotte Islands western.
A.M. Stephen's The Kingdom of the Sun (out-of-print 1927) explores the theme that won't die: the earliest possible European contact with the Haida. A gentleman adventurer named Richard Anson, who sailed aboard Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind, is cast away among Haida where he falls in love with Auria, an ethereal Haida princess.
Norman Newton's Fire in the Raven's Nest (New Press 1973), Gary Snyder's He Who Hunted Birds in His Father's Village (Grey Fox, California 1979) and various poems by Susan Musgrave like all the best work about the Charlottes further lead the reader willingly or not into the mystique of those islands west of west. Charles Lillard has included the first up-to-date bibliography of the Queen Charlotte Islands in his new book, The Ghostland People.
[Summer/BCBW 1989] “QCI”
University of Victoria Special Collections Charles Lillard holdings
SC253 Lillard, Charles (Red), 1944-1996 Lillard, Charles (Red), 1944-1996 Charles Lillard fonds 1965-1998 2.5 m of textual records --36 audio cassettes Charles Lillard was a poet, dramatist, historian, writer, bibliographer, critic, editor and publisher specializing in the Northwest Coast. . He was born in California and grew up in Alaska. He taught English at both UBC and UVIC. He had several volumes of poetry published, including "Drunk on Wood" (1972). He also worked as a columnist for several papers and contributed fiction and non-fiction to magazines. In addition, he edited and re-published several out of print historical works. Together with Robin Skelton and Rhonda Batchelor, he founded Reference West. He died in Victoria, B.C. The fonds consists of: 1) correspondence - mainly with fellow writers including Patrick Lane, Susan Musgrave, George Payerle, Robin Skelton, and George Woodcock and with publishers; 2) manuscripts - mainly of his own poetry, drama, and prose, including a BC Bibliography of Literature; 3) notebooks - in which appear ideas, diary entries, drafts of work, etc.; and 4) audio cassettes (not yet listed).