On a recent sunny November day, my children’s school visited the En’owkin Centre.
While one of the elders was drumming and telling the children a story, a parent leaned over and whispered to me: “How can he talk about caring for each other and lifting each other up when they get so many government handouts?”
I wish I could have simply handed over Katherine Palmer Gordon’s new book: We are Born with the Songs Inside Us: Lives and Stories of First Nations People in British Columbia by Harbour Publishing.
This is one of the most notable books of the year, and one that I wish every British Columbian could read.
Not only does it contain a compelling answer to the parent’s question, it explains why cultural heritage is important to First Nations’ well-being, and why the rest of society should share in that exploration of cultural heritage.
Born with the Songs Inside Us is a collection of stories profiling prominent First Nations people living in B.C.
The features are full of hope and inspiration, and detail the great contributions each has made to our province. The broad range of profiles includes hockey player Gino Odjick, actor and medical doctor Evan Touchie, and treaty negotiator, Kim Baird. Also included in the book is Penticton’s District Principal of Aboriginal Education, Anne Tenning:
“It was a real honour to be included in this compilation. It meant a lot to me,” she said.
Tenning was impressed by the diversity of profiles, and by Gordon’s ability to reach deeply into each person’s story.
“She is a very talented writer who has a very genuine way of representing individuals and telling their complex stories,” said Tenning.
“I wish I had this book when I was teaching students about treaty negotiation,” she continues. “These stories bring a personalized element to a complex issue, and give understanding in a very unique way.”
Gordon will be visiting Penticton to speak to First Peoples English classes at Princess Margaret High School, and at a separate event will speak to the School District’s Aboriginal Book Club.
In addition, the public is invited to hear Gordon read from her new book at Hooked on Books on Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.
Heather Allen is a writer and reader living in Penticton.