Making history

Many will remember that in the past, first nations put great stock in what they called oral history...

Many will remember that in the past, first nations put great stock in what they called oral history in trying to establish their title to what they regarded as their traditional lands.

That was a tough concept for those of Western European culture to get their heads wrapped around because they put greater value on written history.

I have a history degree.

I got that by reading numerous books and using those written words to answer the questions that were on the exam paper.

That was what you had to do to pass.

For example, if I had been answering a question about the impact of the Great Depression on ordinary Canadians and used the stories my Mum had told me about my Grandad riding the rails into the countryside outside of Winnipeg to get eggs for the family, it would have cut no ice.

But regurgitating what I had read in books about something similar in the Great Depression would have been okay.

Written history outranked oral history.

We even had a pejorative term for oral history – hearsay.

However, as a result of various court cases, first nations’ oral history has achieved status.

And the Joint Review Panel’s community hearings on the Northern Gateway Project recognised that by holding oral evidence sessions based on what it called traditional knowledge, essentially a new term for oral history.

What I found fascinating was when presenting his evidence on how plentiful oolichan once were in the Kitimat River, hereditary chief Sammy Robinson said, “You could walk across [the river] to the other side.”

I had heard that before.

Not from Sammy Robinson, not from any Haisla, but from my Mum.

My family landed here August 14, 1952. And my Mum talks about the salmon being so numerous then that you could walk from one side of the river to other on their backs.

That is of course an overstatement, but a clear echo of Robinson’s words.

The irony here is that because Robinson’s words have been recorded in the transcripts of the JRP, they are now written history.

And, I guess, because I have recounted my mother’s words, they too are now part of the written record.

 

Malcolm Baxter

 

 

Just Posted

DFO wants sports fishers to halve daily catch limits for prawns

Sport Fishing Advisory Committee resisting changes to prawn and clam catch management on North Coast

Terrace death not considered suspicious at this time: RCMP

Body of 49-year-old man was found in wooded area near Olson Ave. March 22

Northwest mobile unit to help those at heart of mental health, addiction crisis

Province, Northern Health unveils new unit in Terrace to bridge gaps in services

Move natural gas pipeline, MP suggests

Coastal GasLink could then avoid opposition

VIDEO: 13-year-old killed in B.C. crash that involved five kids

The children range in age from six to 17.

Study says B.C.’s housing policies mean drug users can be targeted for eviction

The study involves 50 people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Homicide team called in after three killed in Surrey car crash

Investigators ask public to come forward with information, dashcam video

Stranger climbs onto B.C. family’s second-floor balcony, lights fire in barbecue

Incident in Abbotsford terrifies family with two-year-old boy

Coroner’s inquest announced for Victoria teen’s overdose death

Elliot Eurchuk was 16 years old when he died of an opioid overdose at his Oak Bay home

UPDATED: Sailings resume after BC Ferries boat hits Langdale terminal

The Queen of Surrey is stuck on the dock, causing delays to Horseshoe Bay trips

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

Vancouver Island home to B.C.’s luckiest lotto store

Five million-dollar winners have bought tickets from same Port Alberni corner store

B.C. MLAs call for no caps, no boundaries for ride hailing drivers

Minister Claire Trevena says Class 4 licence requirement will stay

Most Read