"No British Columbia Indian delegation to Ottawa seemed complete without the Reverend Dr. Kelly at its head."; - Alan Morley

Alan Morley's fawning biography of Reverend Peter Reginald Kelly, Roar of the Breakers (1967), was commissioned by Kelly's wife Gertrude and the United Church Archives Committee of B.C. to commemorate the life and times of the much-admired Haida missionary who made many trips to Ottawa to speak on behalf of Aboriginal people. For 16 years Kelly and wife also plied the coast in the M.V. Thomas Crosby III. Kelly became president of the United Church in British Columbia in 1957. Kelly was successful because he was able to operate in two worlds. When Princess Margaret visited British Columbia in 1957 and she was the guest of a Native Brotherhood potlatch, it was Peter Kelly, a lifelong teetotaller, who served as her official host. He supported the governmental ban of the potlatch, lived 'off-reserve' and received a Coronation Medal in 1953 from the Queen's representative, Indian Commissioner W.S. Arneil. The federal Conservative Party in Comox-Alberni nominated Kelly as a candidate in 1953 but he declined to run for health reasons. Kelly ultimately split from his longtime ally in the struggle to improve Aboriginal rights and living conditions, Andrew Paull, chastizing Paull by saying, "The progress [we] Indians have made we owe to our white brothers, and that is a historical fact... Indians lack backbone.";

Born on April 21, 1885 in Skidegate, Kelly was the son of Methodist parents who sent him to the the Coqualeetza Institute in Sardis after less than a year of continuous schooling at Skidegate. In 1900, at age 15, Kelly and a companion were the first two boys from the Queen Charlotte Islands to attend the Methodist-run school. At 18 he returned to Skidegate where he taught at the mission school for five years. In 1910 he was posted to Hartley Bay on the northwest side of Douglas Channel. In 1911 Kelly was one of the leaders of a delegation of more than 100 Aboriginal leaders who met in Victoria to discuss their grievances with the provincial government. Kelly, as one of the youngest delegates, urged his fellow Aboriginals to speak for themselves and no longer rely on Protestant or Catholic missionaries as intermediaries. The Victoria Indian Conference of 1911 agreed to follow Kelly's lead and have him convey their new-found self-assertiveness to Premier Sir Richard McBride. Kelly put politics aside briefly when he was invited to become the first Aboriginal to attend Columbian College in New Westminster from 1913 to 1916. He served as an ordained minister in Nanaimo and Bella Coola, then took charge of the mission boat Thomas Crosby III. Having helped to create the Allied Indian Tribes of B.C., Kelly was very active in the Native Brotherhood of B.C. "He made us work together," said his friend Jimmy Sewid of Alert Bay. "No one else could have done it." Peter Kelly took charge of churches at Union Bay and Cumberland in 1949, then he was reassigned to Nanaimo and Parksville in 1952. He retired in Nanaimo in 1962. After suffering as stroke in February, he died in Nanaimo hospital on March 2, 1966. Morley's entirely flattering portrait takes its title from one of Kelly's Aboriginal names, La-ging-quo-na, meaning Roar of the Breakers.

Born in Vancouver's West End in 1905, Alan Palmer Morley moved to the Okanagan with his family in 1917. After he graduated from Penticton High School, he worked as a miner in the Kettle Valley. Following one year at UBC, he spent another ten itinerant years as a ranch hand, miner, railway brakeman, logger, hand-line fisherman and construction worker. Morley was proud of his abilities to survive during the Depression. "Like many others," he wrote, "I had been born and bred with the same idea as the Indians: that a man who was a man could and must make his living from the land." With the blessings of his father, Morley headed north to Desolation Sound from Vancouver with a rifle, a fishing line, a cross-cut saw, an axe and enough cheese, flour, bacon and other supplies to make up a 600-pound load in a 17-foot rowboat. He described himself as one of a generation of British Columbians who "were more like the Indians than the growing city proletariat." Morley returned to university to study history and English. He eventually became a veteran Vancouver newspaperman and columnist who frequently wrote about books for The Vancouver Sun. Alan Morley also wrote The Romance of Vancouver in 1940, followed by a very serviceable history Vancouver: From Milltown to Metropolis (Mitchell Press, 1961). The latter was reissued in a third edition in 1974. It has been praised by Chuck Davis--unquestionably the person who knows more about Vancouver than anyone else--as the history of Vancouver that is most pleasantly suffused with the author's love for his subject.


The Romance of Vancouver (1940)

Vancouver: From Milltown to Metropolis (Mitchell Press, 1961; revised 1969)

Roar of the Breakers: A Biography of Peter Kelly (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967)

[BCBW 2004]