Tuesday, 8 March 2011

International Women's Day: In the Arms of the River

The cluster of islands collectively known as Richmond BC have been international gathering places for thousands of years, perhaps in particular Lulu Island, named for an American actress (Lulu Sweet). Musqueam people had named houses at many of the locations that are central to contemporary Richmond life-- including Garry Point, pictured below (bottom) in cannery days-- and people of many nations gathered at what is now Woodward's Landing, to share work, talk, and party.

The most famous poem making note of this place was written by Tekahionwake, E. Pauline Johnson, who was a popular performer at the Steveston Opera House, back in the day. Drawing on Salish oral stories, much as Lee Maracle does today, she wrote:

Tekahionwake, courtesy of Chiefswood Museum

THERE are fires on Lulu Island, and the sky is opalescent
With the pearl and purple tinting from the smouldering of peat.
And the Dream Hills lift their summits in a sweeping, hazy crescent,
With the Capilano cañon at their feet.

There are fires on Lulu Island, and the smoke, uplifting, lingers
In a faded scarf of fragrance as it creeps across the day,
And the Inlet and the Narrows blur beneath its silent fingers,
And the cañon is enfolded in its grey.

from The Ballad of Yaada ~ A Legend of the Pacific Coast
~E. Pauline Johnson~ Tekahionwake~

An excellent first person account of Salish women's lives in the last century is shared by Agnes Alfred, in the book Paddling to Where I Stand, Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman (UBC Press, 2004). Visiting the islands and the village of Steveston in dug outs and other boats, or settling here, fishers, harvesters, cannery workers, raising families, living with men of all nations (with varying degrees of freedom and enjoyment), the stories in this work from oral history are essential reading for any who wish to understand women's history and BC/Canadian history.

Paddling to Where I Stand is available for borrowing as an e-book, for those with ebrary access via BC libraries.

For a contemporary story about the life of a Salish woman of Richmond, see the wide-ranging and touching interview with Roberta Price, made as part of the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study.

This is the 100th year that international Women's Day has been celebrated.

In the Arms of the River

On Friday, March 11, 2011, Richmond Writers Group is celebrating life on the islands of Richmond, with historical and contemporary poetry, prose, and song by a variety of performing & contributing writers:

Opening & Coast Salish welcome, Roberta Price
MC, Devina Bahaadoorsingh

Alan Girling
Alan Hill
Laurel Beauprie
Gunargie O’Sullivan
Theo Campbell
Bill Marles
Joanne Arnott
Claudette Sakamoto
David Varnes

E. Pauline Johnson
Thomas Kidd
Maud McCubbin

11 March 2011
Richmond Cultural Centre, 7 pm
7700 Minoru Gate, Richmond, BC
Richmond Writers Group

With thanks to Larry Grant, Susan Point, and Terry Point for sharing oral history of Richmond from a Musqueam perspective, at various gatherings and meetings over the years, & to the City of Richmond for support of In the Arms of the River, presented as a part of our Winter Festival.

Native fishermen at Garry Point cannery 1890

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