A collection of historical stories about the early indigenous people, settlers, trappers, and adventurers of BC's Cariboo Chilcotin. A compilation of stories that meld both culture and bloodlines, Chilcotin Chronicles by Sage Birchwater is set in the wild and untamed country of central British Columbia's Chilcotin Plateau. West of the Fraser River, this high country is contained by an arc of impenetrable mountain ranges that separates it from the Pacific Coast. The first inhabitants of this region were fiercely independent, molded by the land itself. Those who came later were drawn to this landscape with its mysterious aura of freedom, where time stood still and where a person could find solace in the wilderness and never be found.
Birchwater reaches back to first European contact in British Columbia when the indigenous population spoke forty of Canada's fifty-four languages and seventy of Canada's one hundred dialects. The land known today as the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast was already an entity when Alexander Mackenzie arrived in 1793. Bonds of friendship, mutual support and family ties had long been established between the Dakelh, Tsilhqot'in and Nuxalk, giving cohesiveness to the region. Chilcotin Chronicles is about the men and women caught in the interface of cultures and the changing landscape. Indigenous inhabitants and white newcomers brought together by the fur brigades, then later by the gold rush, forged a path together, uncharted and unpredictable. Birchwater discovers that their stories, seemingly disconnected, are intrinsically linked together to create a human eco-system with very deep roots. The lives of these early inhabitants give substance to the landscape. They give meaning to the people who live there today.
About the author
Sage Birchwater has been a resident of the Cariboo Chilcotin Central Coast region since 1973. Originally from Victoria, he has led a varied life as a back-to-the-lander, trapper, ranch hand, educator, cultural researcher, community activist, newspaper reporter and freelance journalist. He has authored/co-authored/edited 13 books. His most recent book Chilcotin Chronicles (Caitlin Press 2017) was third on the 2017 BC Bestsellers list.
Sage has lived communally in the Cariboo, spent ten years on a remote Chilcotin trapline, raised two sons "born in the bush" and is the grandfather of seven. He currently makes his home in Williams Lake with his companion Caterina.
"Wow, I loved this book. With an eye toward both the indigenous and the Euro-Canadian cultures, Sage Birchwater brings us stories of lived experience that span one hundred and fifty years and connect past with present, telling the sorry tale, through the voices of those who were there, of the colonization of one of the last places on Earth to suffer this harsh interface."
--Judith Plant, author of Culture Gap: Towards a New World in the Yalakom Valley (New Star Books)
"Sage Birchwater deserves a medal, maybe the Order of Canada. Nobody else in BC has so dauntlessly served the people of a particular region—in this case the Cariboo-Chilcotin—with such avid, social serving, literary loyalty, helping so many people tell their stories, or telling their stories for them."
--Alan Twigg, BC Bookworld
"No one is more familiar with the social history of wild Chilcotin than Sage Birchwater. Combining facts and the story teller's art, Chilcotin Chronicles promises to find itself alongside Chiwid (New Star Books) as another regional classic."
--Van Andruss, publisher of Lived Experience Literary Journal
"... Birchwater is a master of popular history ... [he] has my gratitude for taking good care of so many stories over the years."
--Lorraine Weir, The Ormsby Review
"Structured into discrete chapters, each of which stands on its own, Birchwater skilfully draws a portrait of vibrant, diverse communities peopled by the heroic and villainous, the flamboyant and demure ..."
--Jo-Anne Fiske, BC Studies