Daughter of James Sewid, Daisy Sewid-Smith is an expert on the history of her Kwakwaka'wakw people. As a linguist teaching for the University of Victoria in Campbell River, she translated the memoirs of her grandmother Agnes Alfred (c.1890-1992), a non-literate storyteller and historian, for Paddling to Where I Stand: Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman (2004), the first biographical portrayal of a Kwakwaka'wakw matriarch.

She also wrote Prosecution or Persecution (1979) to document the enforcement of the law forbidding the potlatch as of 1884. In particular she records the actions of Indian agent William Halliday who confiscated Kwakiutl property and charged offenders from 1913 to 1932. Halliday has been maligned in retrospect for describing the potlatch as 'evil' but others view him as a civil servant who was merely accepting the responsibilities assigned to him.

Halliday once wrote, "The law against the potlatch has been passed because it has been seen that where the potlatch exists there has been no progress and the Government wants to see the Indians advance so that they are on the same footing as the white men, and this can not be as long as the potlatch continues.";
Asked to do a booklet pertaining to the imprisonments and the confiscation of masks and coppers, in conjuction with the opening of the Cape Mudge Museum on Quadra Island, Sewid-Smith realized the need to produce Prosecution or Persecution.

"For many years I have had in my possession tape recordings of the imprisonments and other historical data,"; she wrote. "It was with this information and other information acquired through research that the booklet was started. We soon realized that a booklet would not be sufficient to tell our history and it had to be told in order to show why our Ba-sah (potlatch) was outlawed. This book therefore, is just a memorial to those who gave so much of themselves in preserving our history before the coming of the white man and what happened after their arrival.";

Daisy Sewid-Smith lives in Campbell River.


Sewid-Smith, Daisy. Prosecution or Persecution (Cape Mudge, British Columbia, Nu-yum-balees Society, 1979).
Sewid-Smith, Daisy. Paddling to Where I Stand: Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman (UBC Press, 2004).

[BCBW 2005]