A New Framework

Harry with Margaret Holding who taught him to read and write in English Photo taken in Omak Washington 1922

Harry with Margaret Holding who taught him to read and write in English Photo taken in Omak Washington 1922

Wendy Wickwire and Harry Robinson

Wendy Wickwire and Harry Robinson

Lesson 2.3 Assignment 2.6

4] In the last lesson I ask some of you, “what is your first response to Robinson’s story about the white and black twins in context with our course theme of investigating intersections where story and literature meet.” I asked, what do you make of this “stolen piece of paper”? Now that we have contextualized that story with some historical narratives and explored ideas about questions of authenticity and the necessity to “get the story right” – how have your insights into that story changed?

The first consideration that needs to be made, before answering this question, is determining where Harry Robinson’s story about the white and black twins, from Living by Stories: a Journey of Landscape and Memory fits into the literary canon.  When I first read the stories, I felt they neatly fell into the genre of postcolonial literature. My first reaction was that the story was influenced by colonization. This seemed to be the case, because one of the twins is white, and is sent across the water to become the forefathers of the English inhabitants. Additionally, I felt that the story itself was a parallel to the events that occurred as a result of colonization. When I first read the story, I focused more on how the Europeans used written language and laws to justify their actions both during and after colonization. However, after reading Thomas King’s analysis of First Nation’s literature from his article, “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial”, I reconsidered my original position (King).

King refuses to accept the term postcolonial as a description for Native literature, and instead provides several alternatives. Two options that more accurately describe Robinson’s genre, are polemical and interfusional literature. Polemical is “literature either in a Native language or in English … that concerns itself with the clash of Native and non-Native cultures or with the championing of Native values over non-Native values” (King 186). Interfusional is “Native literature that is a blending of oral literature and written literature” (King 186).

Before considering whether Robinson’s work is either polemical or interfusional literature, I want to examine the term, postcolonial literature. According to King, after he breaks down the assumptions that go into postcolonial literature, he concludes it is “literature produced by Native people sometime after colonization, a literature that arises in large part out of the experience that is colonization (King 184). Brians, in his article “Postcolonial Literature”: Problems with the Term, concurs, “[t]aken literally, the term “postcolonial literature’ would seem to label literature written by people living in countries formerly colonized by other nations” (Brians).  However, Brians adds to this, and once again concurs with King, when he writes, “there are many problems with this definition” (Brians). From here, Brians raises several good points. One is that literature written by peoples who have not received independence from the colonizers, should be considered “’postcolonization’ literature”.  Another important point he raises is that even using the term postcolonial, when referring to literature, is “Eurocentric”, because “it singles out the colonial experience as the most important fact about the countries involved” (Brians).  Click here to read the entire article (Brians).

King’s description of polemical is a sound depiction of Robinson’s story, and provides the proper condition to absorb Robinson’s words.  Now when I read Robinson’s stories, I look at it from a different point of view. Instead of only seeing the stolen paper as a parallel to the acts committed by the Newcomers, I can also consider the story from the point of view of the First Nations peoples. Taking into consideration Brians comment about Eurocentric, I can move my view to the centre and see the story on an level playing field.  Instead of privileging “one culture over another” (King 185), I can look at the story from the point of view that “Chapter 1 of the story”, is the same chapter of the same story for both First Nations people of Canada as well as Europeans (Asch 36). I can understand that Robinson’s story is a retelling of this first chapter, and it affects both parties. Conversely, I can see that the time of colonization was “chapter 15” for both Newcomer as well as Native (Asch 37). What this means is that both the Europeans and the Natives stories began long before colonization, and the act of colonization was for both a part of their separate and joint histories.

Schorcht writes in her article, “The Storied World of Harry: Emerging Dialogues”, that “Robinson incorporates European elements and content into his stories in ways that reflect the spirit and worldview of an Okanagan storyteller” (Schorcht 147). Her discourse supports the position that Robinson’s writing is in fact closer to King’s term of polemical than it is to the term postcolonial. Schorcht writes, “Robinson makes a clear distinction between his own stories, which have an underlying Okanagan context and history, and stories that have European sources” (156). (Click here for the full article (Schorcht).)

King’s description of interfusional literature also works with Robinson’s story.  This story, as well as others that Robinson tells, bridges oral storytelling with written literature. Robinson’s story is a fusion, because although the story is written in English, it remains in the oral tradition through it’s “patterns, metaphors, structures as well as the themes and characters” (King 186). Robinson’s voice can be heard in the written words, and King suggests the stories work best when read aloud.

Regardless of whether or not Robinson’s story falls under the genre of polemical or interfusional, it is clear to me that postcolonial will not do. A new framework is required that will provide a platform for mutual understanding. When reading Robinson’s stories about the twins, the meaning is clearer, and easier to understand when the reader (or listener) hears the words from a point of view that takes both twin’s position into consideration.


Works Cited

Asch, Michael. “Canadian Sovereignty and Universal History.” Storied Communities: Narratives of Contact and Arrival in Constituting Political Community. Ed. Rebecca Johnson, and Jeremy Webber Hester Lessard. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 2011. 29 – 39. Print.

Brians, Paul. “Postcolonial Literature”: Problems with the Term. Washington State University. n.p. 7 Aug 1998 Web. 26 June 2016.

“Harry Robinson with Margaret Holding, who taught him to read and write in English”. 9 March 2016. Digital Image of Photo taken in Omak, Washington, 1922. BC Book Look. Web. 26 June 2016.

King, Thomas. “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial.” Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism. Peterbough, ON: Broadview, 2004. 183- 190. Handout.

Robinson, Harry. Living by Stories: a Journey of Landscape and Memory. Ed. Wendy Wickwire. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005. Print.

Schorcht, Blanca. “The Storied World of Harry: Emerging Dialogues”. BC Studies, no 135, (Autumn 2002). 145-162. Web 29 June 2016.  http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/viewFile/1640/1685

“Wendy Wickwire and Harry Robinson”. 9 March 2016. Digital Image of Photo taken in Omak, Washington, 1922. BC Book Look. Web. 26 June 2016.


The Underlying Meaning Behind the Stolen Document

Lesson 2.2 – Assignment 2.4

Question 5.

“If Europeans were not from the land of the dead, or the sky, alternative explanations which were consistent with indigenous cosmologies quickly developed” (“First Contact” 43). Robinson gives us one of those alternative explanations in his stories about how Coyote’s twin brother stole the “written document” and when he denied stealing the paper, he was “banished to a distant land across a large body of water” (9). We are going to return to this story, but for now – what is your first response to this story? In context with our course theme of investigating intersections where story and literature meet, what do you make of this stolen piece of paper? This is an open-ended question and you should feel free to explore your first thoughts.

Leaping Coyote with Shadow in the Night Sky Rendered in Northwest Coast Native StyleL

Leaping Coyote with Shadow in the Night Sky Rendered in Northwest Coast Native Style.

Robinson’s twins story is a key that can help unlock the door of understanding. When I first read Wendy Wickwire’s account of Harry Robinson’s story about first contact, I had several thoughts (Robinson 9 – 10).

First I could see the blending of two ways of thinking. This is an oral story about a written document, and as a result gives both oral and written literature equal weight. This story in effect creates an intersection between two different ways of being.

Next, I thought the story totally makes sense, because Europeans and their decedents, used the law to cheat the Native Peoples out of their land, and out of the agreements that were made with them This was done using written reports and written documents. According to the governments of Canada and the U.S., these written documents held more weight, and validated the decisions made by the conquering Europeans as well as the subsequent actions of the governments that followed. I found an interesting conference report from the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council that explores the effect of how the colonial doctrine of discovery is used to substantiate the continued subjugation of Indigenous sovereignties around the world. This report uses Harry Robertson’s story, and repeats the tale about the twins showing how the North American lands were assigned (Doctrine 16). In this report, Dr. Ignace states, “The Secwepemc word for paper, before paper, also meant rights and laws” (Doctrine 21).   (The Secwepemc People are a Nation of 17 bands, and they occupy the Shuswup area in British Columbia. Click here for more information about the Secwepemc People (“Our Story”).) This conference report echoes my first impressions about this story that colonial power puts into law the rules that gave the colonizers “a tool to strip them [Native Peoples] of their rights” (Doctrine 3).

Next, I wondered how this story fit in with other contact stories. One story I found was the oral story from Haida Gwaii of Raven and the first men; click here to see a video of the telling of this story (Gibb). In this story Raven encounters supernatural beings. However, when the first men appear, there is no mention of anyone other than the Haida. This fits right into what Lutz said in his article: “When we look at a large number of these accounts, [contact stories] we see a wide variety of stories, not surprising given the amazing diversity of indigenous cultures on the west coast. But … [e]uropeans are shown as associated with the spirit world” (“First” 36).  Robinson’s story is similar in many ways to the Haida version, yet it is also different. Robinson’s version delves into the spiritual, because it explains the beginnings of both First Nations as well as Europeans. His story connects each group to the other, and shows where each culture places value. “Indian’s power was located in their hearts and heads; for whites, it was located on paper” (Robinson 16).  This statement fits in with European traditions of literature, because what is written is given value. This follows into how Western society functions, because value is given to the printed words and written laws.

Finally, I wondered if I was even entitled to hear this story. While I was reading Harry Robinson’s story about first contact (Robinson 9-10), I thought about David Peat’s book, Blackfoot Physics. In Peat’s book, I recalled reading: “[s]ome Elders teach that the [origin] stories are sacred and must never be passed on to outsiders” (Peat 87). I also found this quote from First nations Pedagogy Online, “[s]tories can vary from the sacred to the historical”, and “[s]ome are ‘owned’ by certain clans or families and can only be told by a member of that group” (“Storytelling”).  As a result, I felt almost guilty reading Robinson’s story. However, Robinson wanted his stories to be passed on, and had created “English versions of his stories to audio tape so that they could carry on without him” (Robinson 29 -30). Robinson knew, as Peat wrote in his book that the Elders had acknowledged, “the time has come to speak openly and share their knowledge” (Peat 87).  Robinson wanted Wickwire’s assistance in transmuting his oral stories into written form, and “was very pleased with the book” once the first book was completed (Robinson 21). Living by stories was important to Robinson, and he knew with his death, his stories would die too, unless they were reproduced in written English. Like the story of the twins that melds together European and First Nations culture, Robinson’s stories in print form, also melds together these two cultures.

I felt that Robinson’s story about the twins is important, because it speaks directly to the history of contact between Europeans and Native Americans. The story helps explain the period of conquest and exploitation. Robinson’s story turns the table on the European beliefs and their propaganda, and shows the truth of what actually occurred. The many native peoples of North America have been told (by the Europeans invaders) that they have no real history, because it has not been recorded anywhere, therefore, it does not exist. Instead the Europeans maintained that the natives were savages, because they did not have a written history, and as such are not a distinct people; therefore, they have no rights under the law. The Europeans maintained, that these oral stories, which were told by the Elders, were from memory, and were simply myth and fantasy. Robinson’s story turns this around, and instead validates the Native position, and invalidates the conquerors. The use of twins, sets up the potential for the use of dichotomies, including two different ways of life.


Works Cited

Doctrine of Discovery. Shuswap Nation. 30 Nov. 2012. Shuswapnation.org. Web. 16 June 2016.

Gibbs, Jeffrey. “Raven and the First Men”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 25 Jan. 2011. Web. 16 June 2016.

Lutz, John. “Contact Over and Over Again.” Myth and Memory: Rethinking Stories of Indignenous- European Contact. Ed. Lutz. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 2007. 1-15. Print.

“First Contact as a Spiritual Performance: Aboriginal — Non-Aboriginal Encounters on the North American West Coast.” Myth and Memory: Rethinking Stories of Indigenous-European Contact. Ed. Lutz. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 2007. 30-45. Print.

“Our Story”. Secwepemc Cultural Education Society. n.d. Secwepemc.org. Web. 16 June 2016.

Peat, David. Blackfoot Physics. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books, 2002. Print.

Robinson, Harry. Living by Stories: a Journey of Landscape and Memory. Compiled and edited by Wendy Wickwire. Vancouver: Talon Books2005. (1-30)

“Storytelling”. First nations Pedagogy Online. Firstnationspedagony.com. n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

Thompson, Jeffrey. Leaping Coyote with shadow in the night sky rendered in Northwest Coast Native Style. n.d. Vector. 123rf.com Web. 15 June 2016.



Stories of Home

Lesson 2.1 – Assignment 2.3



The stories of home, written by my fellow students, were illuminating. As I wrote my story, and then read through each of my classmate’s stories, I noticed there were many similarities. I also found that each story was unique. We all travel our own journey through life, and every one of us has a different experience. The stories we shared are as similar, and as different, as Whistler is to Vancouver.


The three blogs that resonated the most with me were: Cam Bullen Janine Flemings, and Julia Ullrich. Some commonalities that I found included: Feeling safe, blending in, belonging, speaking a common language, labels that are placed on us, and the stories we are told.



Home is where we feel safe. That includes both our physical safety, as well as the safety to express our true selves. In order to have the room for each of us to grow as individuals, we need to be able to experience who we are. In that way we can truly learn and grow. But first we need to be in an environment where we are safe. Cam has noticed, after living in numerous different countries and environments, that security is an intrical component in what constitutes home. If fear exists, then it is not home.

Often we feel we need to blend in, or else we will not fit in. However, if you capitulate on who you really are, just to fit in, then you are sacrificing your soul. You are not being true to yourself. Home is where you do not need to blend in, because you are accepted, with your faults and with your gifts.  It is harmful when we try to be something we are not. Home is where we do not need to be ashamed, because we are celebrated. Janine shared her story about the hostile environment she experienced when she moved to New Fairfield, Connecticut. When there, she was told she did not belong, and after awhile she started to believe it, because (as she noted) this happens when we hear the same story again and again. This comment resonated with me, because I too have experienced this – as I believe all of us have in one form or another. Janine makes an important and relevant connection between the stories that we are told about ourselves, and the impact they have on our lives. There is also a scientific reason that this is true. In this article from Frontiers in Psychology, the authors discourse centres around a study that was done (Horst). The study shows how repetition is tied in directly to learning. Although the article focuses on language development, the key point is valid. When a child, or a person, hears the same thing over and over, they encode what is heard.

Belonging is important. When we belong to a family or a community, we feel connected, because we are included. Belonging also creates a feeling of safety. When we belong, we know the people around us care for us, and will protect us. As we would for them.  When we are in situations where we are excluded, and treated as an outsider, then we feel alone and isolated – because we are alone and isolated. In Julie’s story, she felt home was where she was loved, and where she belonged. For her, home is in her parent’s house in White Rock where the walls themselves breath out love and call her name.

Speaking a common language is important. Each of us needs to be heard, but first we need to be understood. This can only happen when the person that we are communicating with is open to hearing what we are saying. Speaking a common language is not the language you use, it is the willingness for each side to really hear what the other is saying. 

The labels that are put on us influence and mould us. Brenna Hicks in her website the Kid Counselor, discusses the dangers of using labels,  “[c]hildren develop and define their sense of self by processing what others tell them about who they are” (Hicks). We carry those labels with us where ever we go, and those labels create our stories. Stories that are told to us, or stories that we tell our selves. When you are told the same story over and over, you start to believe it. We live our stories, and if we change our stories we change our lives.

For me, all of these factors are part of what creates the environment of home.  Home is not necessarily a place, but instead is a place of mind. Home is where you connect with the ones you love.


Works Cited:

Hicks, Brenna. “The Problem with Labelling.” The Kid Counselor. 30 Jan. 2008. Web. 10 June 2016.

Horst, Jessica S., Kelly L. Parsons, and Natasha M. Bryan. “Get the Story Straight: Contextual Repetition Promotes Word Learning from Storybooks.”Frontiers in Psychology 2 (2011): 17. PMC. Web. 10 June 2016.

Mcneilly Purcell, Linda. “Vancouver”. 15 Sept. 2015. Digital Image.

— “Whistler”. 01 June 2016. Digital Image.


Home is Where Your Heart Is



Lesson 2.1 – Assignment 2:2

Home is where my loved ones live. Home is where I, and my loved ones, feel safe. But where does the idea of home come from?

The words of the Nigerian story teller Ben Okri, as quoted by Thomas King in The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative: “One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted – knowingly or unknowingly – in ourselves.  We live stories that either give our lives meaning our negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives” (153).

For me this sums up the story of our lives. Each of us has a story, and for each of us, our stories are created from a number of different influences. But most importantly, it is the stories we live by that make our lives and create our sense of home.

I feel that my story has been compiled by a number of influences. First and foremost there is the impact my family  had on me as I grew up, but other factors helped to form me, and helped me determine what home means to me. These include the books that I read, the TV shows and movies that I watched growing up, as well as the family I created once I married and had children of my own, my community, and my spiritual centre.

I grew up in a family where my mom wore rose coloured glasses, and only saw what she wanted to see. As a result she always looked on the positive side of life. She was a good person. My mom’s mother passed from leukemia when my mom was 16 years old, but to this day my mom says she feels the presence of her mother at her side watching over her and her loved ones. My mom taught me right from wrong. She instilled in me the Golden Rule; I learned at an early age to be compassionate towards to other people, and to live my life always with the view of treating other people how I wanted to be treated. In return, when I raised my own three boys, I taught them this same way of experiencing life. But first my grandmother had taught these same principles to my mom.

My dad was a truck driver, and when he wasn’t driving, he was in the bar drinking with his friends. He came from a large family, and had 11 siblings. His father committed suicide when my dad was 5 years old. His mother had a difficult time trying to raise 12 children on her own, and ended up putting my dad into foster care when he was 8 years old. While in foster care, he was treated more like a servant than a child, and was often beaten with a rubber hose. When my dad was 12 years old he ran away, and lived on the streets. I remember him saying, “The only nutrients I received came from the fruit in the candy bars I ate.” When he was 14 he joined the Navy, and as he always said, “It saved my life.”  My dad was a hard worker. I always had a roof over my head, and food to eat. I had two older brothers, and I had to fight for the right to be heard inside this male dominated family.

No one in my family had graduated from high-school, never mind college. So if my brothers or I wanted to go to post-secondary school, it was up to us to figure out how. I never believed I could go to university and get a degree. Instead I worked towards my Certified General Accountant certification. At the time it was not a requirement to have a degree, and the CGA designation was obtained by taking one course per semester while working full time. After working as an accountant for many years, and after starting, growing, and selling a software company (with my husband) called Top Producer Systems, I felt it was time for a change. Because my passion is books, and I love reading and writing about books, I started a book review blog, under the pen name of Linda Wright, called Books-TreasureorTrash.com. After reviewing numerous books, I decided to return to school and study literature analysis. At first I took only one course, at Langara College, but I had an encouraging and supportive teacher, and now I am in the process of completing the fourth year of my Bachelors of Arts degree with a Major in English Literature and a Minor in Creative Writing.

While I was growing up, religion was a dirty word in my family, and I never stepped inside a church until I was in my mid-twenties. A few months after I met the man I would eventually marry, and who would be the father of my three boys, he took me to Unity Spiritual Centre on Oak Street. I was blown away. I did not think it was possible for a church to be open and non-dogmatic. I did not think it was possible for a church to actually teach what I intrinsically believed. Although I had never gone to church, I always believed in a higher power, and I always felt a connection to the infinite. Now I had found my spiritual home, and a spiritual partner to share my life.

As Thomas King says in his book, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are” (92).

After reading this article about Indian Posse co-founder Richard Wolfe, who spent half of his life in prison, and much of it ‘in the hole’, I can’t help but wonder if he had had a different view of home, and if his stories growing up had been more positive, that his life might have turned out better (Friesen).

In this video between Stu McNish and Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, the Chief discusses the benefits Canada will reap when the gap in education, opportunity, and living standards of indigenous peoples is closed. The issues that Chief Bellegrade raises ties in directly to the influence the community has on our stories. By closing the gap, the community accepts and includes First Nations individuals, and in the process lives change for the better.

My story, Richard Wolfe’s story, and the numerous stories shared by Chief Bellegarde all reinforce how each person’s journey is impacted by their home environment. There are many different cultures, and each places a different value on what is considered home. But I believe that for all of us, home is where you connect with the ones you love.



Works Cited

Evans, Blanche. “What Top Producer Brings to Homestore’s Party”. Realtytimes.com. 10 Sept. Web. 06 June 2016. 2000

Friesen, Joe. “Dispatches from an indefinite period in isolation.” The Globe and Mail. TheGlobeandMail.com. 05 June 2016. Web. 05 June 2016.

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2003. Print.

McNeilly Purcell, Linda. “Love.” 2010. Digital Image.

McNish, Stu. “Bellegarde urges Canada to close the gap for First Nations.” Conversations That Matter. The Vancouver Sun. 23 March 2016. Web. 06 June 2016.

Wright, Linda. Books-TreasureorTrash.com. 24 Feb. 2010. Web 06 June 2016. http:books-treasureortrash.com/