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Talking to the Story Keepers

Tales from the Chilcotin Plateau

Sage Birchwater

In Talking to the Story Keepers: Tales from the Chilcotin Plateau, writer and journalist Sage Birchwater gathers dozens of stories spanning decades in the Cariboo Chilcotin from those who hold onto stories passed through generations. These stories reflect on the story keepers themselves as well as our collective humanity, tying everything from the small, almost forgettable moments, heroic deeds and colourful characters, to the greater significance of our histories. Each story contains insight, wisdom, knowledge or entertainment, connecting the past to the present and shaping the future in their telling; each story provides a sense of perspective of where we come from, and prepares us for how we might proceed forward.

Talking to the Story Keepers also offers an image of a changing landscape, identifying the quiet or forgotten stories swept aside by colonization. Here, those often left unnamed in historic photographs and the side characters in the many stories are given a voice, a name, that may otherwise be left to history. From the tale of the Old Emmanuel United Church’s Brass Band playing “Onward Christian Soldiers” from the pews, as the church is dragged across the river to its new location on the south side of the Bella Coola river, to the Ulkatcho community search for missing local Tory Jack, which was successfully led to its conclusion by a clever horse, each story builds a portrait of time, place, and of the story keepers that protect these histories for the next generation.