At the Bridge chronicles the little-known story of James Teit, a prolific ethnographer who, from 1884 to 1922, worked with and advocated for the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia and the northwestern United States. From his base at Spences Bridge, BC, Teit forged a participant-based anthropology that was far ahead of its time. Whereas his contemporaries, including famed anthropologist Franz Boas, studied Indigenous peoples as members of “dying cultures,” Teit worked with them as members of living cultures resisting colonial influence over their lives and lands. Whether recording stories, mapping place-names, or participating in the chiefs’ fight for fair treatment, he made their objectives his own. With his allies, he produced copious, meticulous records; an army of anthropologists could not have achieved a fraction of what he achieved in his short life. Wickwire’s beautifully crafted narrative accords Teit the status he deserves, consolidating his place as a leading and innovative anthropologist in his own right.
Wendy Wickwire is professor emerita in the Department of History at the University of Victoria. Her publications include Stein: The Way of the River (with Michael M’Gonigle), which won the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award at the BC Book Awards; Nature Power: In the Spirit of an Okanagan Storyteller (with Harry Robinson), which won the Roderick Haig-Brown Prize for best regional book at the BC Book Awards; Write It On Your Heart: The Epic World of an Okanagan Storyteller (with Harry Robinson), which was shortlisted for the Roderick Haig-Brown Prize; and Living by Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory (with Harry Robinson). For more information, visit www.wendywickwire.com.
It is an exceptional book about a remarkable man who never received the recognition he deserved for his major input to what was then the new science of anthropology.
It is a remarkable book about a remarkable man and deserves a place on the bookshelf of everyone who understands that knowing where we’ve come from is essential to navigating our course to somewhere else and to somewhere that we hope to make better rather than worse.
Wickwire has done B.C. scholars and Indigenous peoples an essential service in deftly peeling back the layers of personality, family, and life circumstances of one of Canada’s unsung heroes ... [her] work is not only highly recommended, but a definite must-read for anyone concerned with the unresolved Indigenous “land question” that continues to haunt the province to this day.
When Wickwire talks about Teit, there is an obvious excitement at the chance to highlight such an interesting character. That excitement comes across on the pages of the book as lively, solid reportage with a healthy dash of deserved reverence. At the Bridge is dense without being dry.
Wendy Wickwire’s groundbreaking historical investigation places James Teit as a key figure in early North American anthropology, but also as central to historical Indigenous rights activism in British Columbia.