Helen Meilleur's A Pour of Rain is a well-respected history of the Port Simpson area south of the Nass River, inhabited largely by Nisga'a. Derived largely from Hudson's Bay Company Journals, it provides details of the earliest North Coast settlement by non-natives. Published by Sono Nis in 1980, it was a runner-up for Eaton's Book Award and was re-issued in 2002 by Raincoast Books's Polestar imprint. By the time Helen Meilleur was born there in 1910, Fort Simpson had become Port Simpson. She lived here for her first five years on the Tsimshian Reservation and spent the rest of her childhood in the adjoining "white village" that occupied the Hudson's Bay Company fort site. The fort had burned down in 1914. It had been one of the earliest coast forts, predating Victoria by nearly a decade. "Its atmosphere outlived the flames," Meilleur wrote. She first learned about the original Hudson's Bay Company journals pertaining to Port Simpson from her father. In the 1930s she tried to track them down and learned they had been sent to London, England. In 1973 she learned they were part of the Hudson's Bay Company archives in Winnipeg.

Meilleur attended high school in Vancouver when Kitsilano High School was a temporary building surrounded by bush and she attended UBC "when it was in its second muddy year on the Point Grey campus." She gained her teaching certificate from Normal School "many years before the advent of Faculties of Education at the universities." She taught in northern B.C. in two Indian schools "that have grown and flourished" and at two white schools "that have crumbled into dust in abandoned communities". In 1936 she left teaching and worked in business in Powell River. She reared five children. After her husband's early death and children grew up, she turned to writing and won the Indiana University Writers' Conference award for non-fiction in 1967. Her first and only book was published when she was 70. She "stubbornly survives" in North Vancouver.

(As regards the Prince Rupert area, the Prince Rupert Daily News also published 100 Years of Progress in 1971. Hancock House published Walter Wicks' Memoirs of the Skeena in 1976. Gray's Publishing re-released Rev. R.G. Large's The Skeena, River of Destiny in 1981 and the Port Authority issued W.B.M. Hick's Hay's Orphan: The Story of the Port of Prince Rupert, in 2003. Fiction by Joan Skogan, Genni Gunn, Jean Rysstad and Hubert's Evan's The Mist on the River also pertain to Prince Rupert. See also Phyllis Bowman and Michael Turner.)

BOOKS:

Meilleur, Helen. A Pour of Rain: Stories From a West Coast Fort (Sono Nis, 1980; Polestar Press, 2002).

[BCBW 2004] "Local History" "First Nations" "Classic" "Forts and Fur"