Delehanty-Pearkes’ new book looks at West Kootenay First Nations


The second edition, by Eileen Delehanty-Pearkes, The Geography of Memory was released at the end of August.

“There was a four-month delay due to supply chain issues,” Delehanty-Pearkes said. “It was hard to be patient! So many people had pre-ordered, and some are still waiting for Amazon to ship. The real heroes are the local museum shops – they were the first to stock the book. Local booksellers also bring them in.

The Geography of Memory will be available from the Four Points Bookstore in Invermere on October 4. The book chronicles a quest for understanding, to find the story behind the First Peoples of West Kootenay; Snayackstx (Sinixt) First Nation (pronounced sin-ay-ch-kst-h). In the United States, the Sinixt were known as the Arrow Lakes Indians of the Confederate Colville Tribes and lived along the upper reaches of the Columbia River and its tributaries for thousands of years. The Canadian federal government declared the Sinixt an “extinct” First Nation in 1956, eliminating with the stroke of a pen the tribe’s ability to legally access 80% of its traditional cross-border territory. This makes Delehanty-Pearkes’ book a unique story for First Nations people in Canada.

“This is the second edition of a modest book which I first published in Nelson in 2002. This 20th anniversary edition has tripled in size and contains many new maps and images, as well as several essays written by people contemporary to Sinixt,” said Delehanty-Pearkes. “My work was originally inspired by the curious story of an ‘extinction’ of the First Nation, the Sinixt, who first inhabited the Columbia and Slocan Rivers, Arrow Lakes, West Arm and Lake Kootenay. When I moved to Nelson from BC’s Lower Mainland, I found it so curious that the Canadian government could just try to erase history. Once I discovered the truth, it was worth sharing.

Delehanty-Pearkes was born in the United States and earned her BA in English from Stanford University and her MA in English from the University of British Columbia. His work resists nationality and insists on truth. She has written five books to date. She shared that she felt honored when Rocky Mountain Books approached her in 2019 and told her they wanted to produce a second edition of The Geography of Memory. Delehanty-Pearkes has published two books with Rocky Mountain Books: The Geography of Memory: Reclaiming the Cultural, Natural and Spiritual History of the Snayackstx (Sinixt) First People and A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change.

“This new edition of The Geography of Memory reflects 20 years of research and learning, and the strong relationship I have with the people at Sinixt,” said Delehanty-Pearkes. “The border has kept them away from the region, their homeland, for far too long. They are wonderful people, and I wanted everyone who reads the book to experience what I learned. My favorite part of the new edition is the contribution of Shawn Brigman, a Sinixt/Spokane tribesman who has studied and raised awareness of Indigenous architecture. Its handcrafted canoes, fish traps and baskets are magnificent. »

Popular online chronicles of the western Canadian landscape have highlighted the need to reconcile people with the land. Not only has Delehanty-Pearkes spent two decades doing research alongside the people of Sinixt, but in 2014 she curated an extensive exhibit on the history of Canada’s upper Columbia River system for the Touchstones Nelson Museum and the Columbia Basin Trust.

Its second edition explores the landscape and the human imagination, emphasizing the history of Upper Columbia and its tributaries. It reveals the history of the First Peoples of the West Kootenays of British Columbia. Part travelogue, part cultural history, the book details the culture, place names, practices and landscape features of this lost tribe in British Columbia, through a contemporary lens that offers all readers opportunity to participate in reconciliation. A perfect reading on the way

Second official Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada.

“The Geography of Memory would be a great read for anyone who loves the outdoors, loves the beauty and power of western landscapes, and wants to learn more about the region’s Indigenous history,” Delehanty-Pearkes said. “This landscape has a history of several thousand years. Indigenous peoples are remarkably adaptable and resilient and have strong spirits. These cultural qualities are on display throughout the book. They inspire me.


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