Skip to information regarding the Indigenous Authors Map

Alan Twigg and Yosef Wosk

These Literary Maps of B.C. are meant to be fun and we have erred on the side of content.

[If you are as math-averse, skip this next paragraph]

Built for and about just a few of the 12,400 B.C. authors on our companion ABCBookWorld reference site, our first Literary Map of B.C. site contains approximately 700,000 words of original text, roughly the equivalent of ten books if all the photos were to be included. Clearly life is unfair. Obviously our “Map #1” celebrates only a tiny percentage of them. But at least they are representative rather than an egregious “best of” collection. We haven’t done a word count for the second map for and about 200 Indigenous authors—but anyone who wishes to complain about why we have 200 entries for B.C.’s 250 Indigenous authors and only 200 entries for approximately 12,500 non-Indigenous authors is welcome to send a scathing letter of rebuke.

The 200 authors in the original Literary Map of B.C. and the 200 authors in the Indigenous Map represent a cross-section in terms of genres, ages and geography. Some are famous; most are not. Some are dead and some are living. “In my life,” John Lennon sang, “I love them all.” Anyone is welcome to make a different site by taking thirty years of mostly unpaid research and rejigging it as their own. Not all the sites listed on these literary maps are easily visited, to say the least. On Map#1, just for fun, you can ‘scroll out’ and get a Google world view. If you take this planetary vision, you’ll find we’ve pinpointed a dozen-or-so locations around the globe—in Mongolia, Iceland, Peru, etc.

For the initial construction of the first iteration of the Indigenous Map, I remain grateful for the encouragement and support of authors Jeannette Armstrong, Garry Gottfriedson, Joanne Arnott, Maurice Latash-Nahanee and the late (great) Neil Sterritt. I made a documentary about Jeannette back in 1995, I think it was. This second Indigenous Map is now a testament to how the realm for Indigenous literature (I don’t count rock paintings; others are free to do so) has radically expanded in the past few decades. Ideally, some communities around the province might want to emulate the City of Vancouver wherein more than 40 literary markers have been erected to correspond to the Vancouver Public Library’s own literary map for which I provided the original entries.

For these two digital maps, some literary sites have great historical significance for British Columbia and therefore I have highlighted a literary work that resonates with that significance. Other times I’ve pinpointed a location from within a literary work, or else the residence of a particular author, of simply the community with which they are associated.

I am most indebted to chief librarian Lynn Copeland of Simon Fraser University Library for initially agreeing to host the ABCBookWorld site many moons ago, around the turn-of-the-century. If Lynn had not given the green light for the ABC initiative, with zero hassle and an open mind, I doubt I would have proceeded with its various on-line offspring. These two literary maps could not exist with any depth of purpose without their linkages back to the ABC site. Our partnership with SFU continued happily and smoothly (via chief librarian Gwen Bird) until SFU technicians terminated the partnership; they did so for technical reasons and fears that remain baffling to me. Ever since those SFU technicians determined this public service game was not worth the candle and set us adrift, we have been beset by technological hurdles. As a two-person operation, we are now obliged to host the integral ABC site privately, without the ongoing support and protection of Western Canada’s (otherwise) best university.

Gwen Bird, SFU Library

The main webmaster who has worked with me to design and build these two literary maps is Sharon Jackson who lives in Duncan on Vancouver Island. Beverly Cramp (now publisher of BC BookWorld) and the indispensable David Lester have been essential supporters (David since 1988). Ken Lapp now resolves most or our ongoing technical problems for the ABC and BCBookLook sites. These two maps are accessible from the latter, or reachable via any search engine.

A grant from Creative BC was essential for the first site. I’ve also appreciated the partnership of Vancouver Public Library, particularly Chief Librarian Sandra Singh, who gave the green light in 2014 for a local initiative, sponsored by poet and philosopher Yosef Wosk, to increase public awareness of B.C. authors. Yosef remains inspirational as the Lone Ranger of Literary Funding in B.C. For the Indigenous site, we are most grateful for the recent partnership of Canada Book Fund, giving rise to the second iteration of the Indigenous Map.  There is no comparable site in Canada. Nor can there be. Shoot me or throw me in jail for saying it, but there’s absolutely no way any other province, on a per capita basis, can match the literary output of British Columbia with its stalwart band of reputable book publishers.

As for the Indigenous Map in particular, if you were to take all the other Canadian provinces combined, they likely could not be able to match the total of 200 Indigenous Authors presented herein.

I’ll say a bit more about that below….

— Alan Twigg

Information about The Indigenous BC Authors Map

Second batch of 100 authors added by Sharon Jackson in 2022.
Compiled and written by Alan Twigg
Sponsors: Canada Book Fund and Yosef Wosk

In The Beginning, Governor James Douglas’s multi-talented daughter Martha Douglas Harris published History and Folklore of the Cowichan Indians in 1901. Her grandmother was Cree. Ten years later Pauline Johnson published Legends of Vancouver, a collection of indigenous stories that, by contemporary standards, should have been co-credited to Mary Capilano (Lixwelut) and Chief Joe Capilano (Su-a-pu-luck).

For the next five decades, until George Clutesi’s Son of Raven, Son of Deer: Fables of the Tse-shaht People (Sidney: Gray’s Publishing, 1967), literature about Indigenous people in British Columbia evolved in the hands of non-Indigenous sympathizers. Most importantly, the WW I trench warfare veteran-turned-Quaker Hubert Evans lived with his wife in the Kispiox, exclusively within an Indigenous community, and consequently wrote Mist on the River (1954), a monumental achievement in Canadian literature because it is the first novel in Canada to realistically depict Indigenous men and woman as its central characters.

George Ryga’s landmark play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, which premiered in 1967, was matched by Alan Fry’s unpopular but crucial perspective as a federal Indian agent in the B.C. interior when he blew the whistle on the grim conditions on First Nations reserves in How A People Die in 1971. Although Margaret Craven’s knowledge of Indigenous life was superficial for her 1967 novel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, set in remote Kingcombe Inlet, the story resonated as a breakthrough movie of the same name in 1973. (Based on a true story, a missionary chooses to die in Kingcombe Village where he increasingly realizes the sophistication of Kwakwaka’wakw society during its fragmentation due mainly to liquor and residential schools.)

Realistic depictions of life within First Nations communities were eventually provided by breakthrough Indigenous novelists Lee Maracle, with Bobbi Lee, Indian Rebel (1975), and Jeannette Armstrong, with Slash (1983), marking the dawn of Indigenous authors in B.C. for generations to come. I documented the subsequent first wave of Indigenous literature in British Columbia in a book called Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2005). At the time, the word Indian was deemed inappropriate and First Nations activists had opted (briefly) for the term Aboriginal. Regardless of evolving terminology, there is no other  book in Canada solely devoted the Indigenous authors of one province. Many of the writers included in Aboriginality were featured in the initial version of the Indigenous Literary Map of B.C., created in 2018. This project contained in-depth information on 100 Indigenous authors of B.C. Now a second wave is well underway.

Arguably, a relative of Jeannette Armstrong named Mourning Dove deserves to be touted as the great pioneer of Indigenous B.C. literature if you want to discount Pauline Johnson (who only lived here for three years before she died) or the even lesser-known Martha Douglas Harris. The first “trade published” author was George Clutesi (Emily Carr bequeathed her paint brushes to him).  The likes of Clutesi, Chief Dan George and Chief Sepass all had non-Indigenous co-writers. You are free to wade through the mix and find your own favourites, and draw your own conclusions. I am merely trying to let the world know what exists.

— Alan Twigg, builder