LITERARY LOCATION: Mt. Tarawera, north island of New Zealand, site of an 1886 volcanic eruption that buried many Maori villages.

In November of 2015 Katherine Palmer Gordon accepted an offer to return to New Zealand to participate as Crown Chief Negotiator for the government of New Zealand on the Treaty Of Waitangi settlement negotiations with Maori, helping bring to a close some of the long-standing Treaty grievances. During negotiations she was taken to the peak of Mt. Tarawera, a volcano of special significance to the Ngati Rangitihi people with whom she is negotiating.

Since 1995, Katherine Gordon has worked in Aboriginal treaty negotiations, first in New Zealand and then from Victoria, B.C., before she moved to Gabriola Island in 2003. Gordon was one of the three Chief Negotiators for the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement, a tri-partite treaty between Canada, British Columbia, and Tsawwassen First Nation that legalized a transfer of land and self-government jurisdiction to Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN), effective as of April 3, 2009, enabling TFN to once more become a self-governing First Nation. Tsawwassen First Nation was the first in B.C. to achieve a treaty under the BC treaty process.

Katherine Gordon was awarded the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize for her book, Made to Measure: A History of Land Surveying in British Columbia, at the BC Book Prizes in 2007. Made to Measure (Sono Nis, 2006) provides an overview of mapmakers and land surveyors and their roles in British Columbia history, from David Thompson onwards, including Joseph Despard Pemberton, the first surveyor at Fort Victoria.

The Slocan: A Portrait of a Valley (Sono Nis, 2004) was shortlisted for the 2005 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Award. It was followed by That Garden That You Are (Sono Nis, 2007), a study of eight gardeners within a square mile of each other in the Slocan Valley. Gordon has also contributed to Nobody's Mother: Life Without Kids (Touchwood, 2006), also shortlisted for the 2007 BC Book Prizes, and to Sense of Place (Anvil, 2008), a collection of essays by BC authors about their sense of connection to a part of the province. A feature article she wrote about climate change, "A Sinking Feeling," published in BC Business Magazine in July 2005, earned National Magazine Award recognition. She has written for Canadian Geographic, the Globe and Mail, Canadian Homes and Cottages, NZ Geographic, Focus Magazine, British Columbia magazine, North & South, Action Asia, BC Business and other publications.

Born as Katherine Palmer in England in 1963, Katherine Gordon has been described as a globe-trotting half-French, half-English expatriate Kiwi and a former lawyer and Aboriginal land claims negotiator. She began travelling the world at the age of three months with her civil-engineer father and the rest of her family. Settling for a time in New Zealand, she completed a law degree at Canterbury University. She worked in commercial law for several years before travelling again, including a stint in volunteer community development work in Costa Rica.

In her fifth book, We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us, Gordon makes use of the dozens of interviews she's held over the years with various First Nations to compile a collection of sixteen stories. [See extensive review of the book BELOW.]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Slocan: Portrait of a Valley
We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us: Lives and Stories of First Nations People in British Columbia


A Curious Life: The Biography of Princess Peggy Abkhazi (Sono Nis, 2002).

The Slocan: A Portrait of a Valley (Sono Nis, 2004).

Made to Measure: A History of Land Surveying in British Columbia (Sono Nis, 2006).

The Garden That You Are (Sono Nis, 2007). Photography by Rod Currie and Quinton Gordon.

We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us: Lives and Stories of First Nations People in British Columbia (Harbour, 2013) $24.95 978-1-55017-618-6

[Photo Credit: Carolyn Davey]

[BCBW 2016] "Local History"