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published: May 2020
ISBN:9781771603379

Stories from the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid

by Cecil Paul, as told by Briony Penn

0 of 5
0 ratings
rated!
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list price: $25.00
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
published: May 2020
ISBN:9781771603379
Description

A remarkable and profound collection of reflections by one of North America’s most important Indigenous leaders.

My name is Wa’xaid, given to me by my people. ‘Wa’ is ‘the river’, ‘Xaid’ is ‘good’ – good river. Sometimes the river is not good. I am a Xenaksiala, I am from the Killer Whale Clan. I would like to walk with you in Xenaksiala lands. Where I will take you is the place of my birth. They call it the Kitlope. It is called Xesdu’wäxw (Huschduwaschdu) for ‘blue, milky, glacial water’. Our destination is what I would like to talk about, and a boat – I call it my magic canoe. It is a magical canoe because there is room for everyone who wants to come into it to paddle together. The currents against it are very strong but I believe we can reach that destination and this is the reason for our survival. —Cecil Paul

Who better to tell the narrative of our times about the restoration of land and culture than Wa’xaid (the good river), or Cecil Paul, a Xenaksiala elder who pursued both in his ancestral home, the Kitlope — now the largest protected unlogged temperate rainforest left on the planet. Paul’s cultural teachings are more relevant today than ever in the face of environmental threats, climate change and social unrest, while his personal stories of loss from residential schools, industrialization and theft of cultural property (the world-renowned Gps’golox pole) put a human face to the survivors of this particular brand of genocide.

Told in Cecil Paul’s singular, vernacular voice, Stories from the Magic Canoe spans a lifetime of experience, suffering and survival. This beautifully produced volume is in Cecil’s own words, as told to Briony Penn and other friends, and has been meticulously transcribed. Along with Penn’s forthcoming biography of Cecil Paul, Following the Good River (Fall 2019), Stories from the Magic Canoe provides a valuable documented history of a generation that continues to deal with the impacts of brutal colonization and environmental change at the hands of politicians, industrialists and those who willingly ignore the power of ancestral lands and traditional knowledge.

About the Authors

Cecil Paul, also known by his Xenaksiala name, Wa’xaid, is a respected elder, activist and orator, and one of the last fluent speakers of his people’s language. Cecil was born in 1931 in the Kitlope and raised on fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. At the age of 10 he was torn from his family and placed in a residential school run by the United Church of Canada at Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. For years, Cecil suffered from the pain of the abuse inflicted there. After three decades of prolonged alcohol abuse, he finally returned to the Kitlope and the positive influence of his people’s knowledge and ways. Once Cecil’s healing journey began, he eventually became an outspoken leader against the industrialization of his people’s land and traditional territory, working tirelessly to protect the Kitlope, the largest intact temperate rainforest watershed in the world. Now in his late 80s, Cecil still lives in his ancestors' traditional territory, and his work protecting the Kitlope continues to this day.

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Briony Penn is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction books as well as a contributor to many anthologies and chapter books. She has been a feature writer and columnist for decades, with over five hundred articles on environmental issues and natural history in newspapers, magazines, government publications, online news sources and peer-reviewed journals. She has also written numerous environmental guides and educational handbooks for teachers in British Columbia. Her first book with RMB, The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, was the winner of the 2015 BC Book Prize. Her work with Cecil Paul will continue with the publication of a comprehensive and collaborative biography, Following the Good River: Stories from the Magic Canoe of Cecil Paul, which will be published by RMB in the autumn of 2019. Briony lives on Salt Spring Island, BC.

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Editorial Reviews

"Paul’s reflections are candid and straightforward and offer new insights into environmental history and the daily grind and pleasure of activism."- Book Island


"...the most important exploration, the passage of discovery we all need to take, isn’t to new lands. It’s the idea that the journey to understand ourselves and our place and purpose in the world, ends where it begins — at home. That’s where the Magic Canoe took Cecil Paul. And for all of us...it’s the idea that it’s never too late to join the Magic Canoe, no matter where it is in the world that you call home." - The Tyee


"This book is a small beautiful inspiration, containing photographs and endpaper maps, and with detailed endnotes by Briony Penn that set the story into cultural and historical context. If you teach Eden Robinson’s work, you should read this book." - Canadian Literature

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