Briony Penn & Cecelia Reekie
Stories from the Magic Canoe
Who better to tell the narrative of our times about the restoration of land and culture than Wa’xaid (the good river), or Cecil Paul, a Xenaksiala elder who pursued both in his ancestral home, the Kitlope – now the largest protected unlogged temperate rainforest left on the planet.
Paul’s cultural teachings are more relevant today than ever in the face of environmental threats, climate change and social unrest, while his personal stories of loss from residential schools, industrialization and theft of cultural property (the world-renowned Gps’golox pole) put a human face to the survivors of this particular brand of genocide.
Join Wa’xaid’s daughter Cecelia Reekie and author and annotator Briony Penn who meticulously transcribes Wa’xaid’s stories and teachings in her book – Stories from the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid.
Cecelia and Briony will discuss what reconciliation looks like in all aspects of our lives; whether it is writing and publishing books, making films. Climbing mountains, protecting nature, tackling climate change and industrial destruction, educating children or curating festivals. Cecil’s story of the mountain is a metaphor for this time of crisis; and the need to get into the magic canoe together is our best course of action.
Briony Penn is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction books as well as a contributor to many anthologies and chapter books. She has been a feature writer and columnist for decades, with over five hundred articles on environmental issues and natural history in newspapers, magazines, government publications, online news sources and peer-reviewed journals. She has also written numerous environmental guides and educational handbooks for teachers in British Columbia. Her first book with RMB, The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, was the winner of the 2015 BC Book Prize. Her work with Cecil Paul will continue with the publication of a comprehensive and collaborative biography, Following the Good River: Stories from the Magic Canoe of Cecil Paul, which will be published by RMB in the autumn of 2019. Briony lives on Salt Spring Island, BC. brionypenn.com
Cecil Paul, also known by his Xenaksiala name, Wa’xaid, is a respected elder, activist and orator, and one of the last fluent speakers of his people’s language. Cecil was born in 1931 in the Kitlope and raised on fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. At the age of 10 he was torn from his family and placed in a residential school run by the United Church of Canada at Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. For years, Cecil suffered from the pain of the abuse inflicted there. After three decades of prolonged alcohol abuse, he finally returned to the Kitlope and the positive influence of his people’s knowledge and ways. Once Cecil’s healing journey began, he eventually became an outspoken leader against the industrialization of his people’s land and traditional territory, working tirelessly to protect the Kitlope, the largest intact temperate rainforest watershed in the world. Now in his late 80s, Cecil still lives in his ancestors’ traditional territory, and his work protecting the Kitlope continues to this day.
Cecelia Reekie is Wa’xaid’s eldest daughter. Cecelia is a Cultural Presenter with the Langley School District working with students from Grade 2-12 in bringing awareness to the true history of Canada. Reconciliation is Cecelia’s passion, she has worked with many Organizations, School Districts and Churches over the years to help bring knowledge, understanding, compassion and then hopefully igniting the spark to continue on the path of reconciliation.