Review of Mapping My Way Home: A Gitxsan History
This remarkable, unique and articulate history of the people who have occupied the northern territories bisected by the Skeena and Kispiox rivers from time immemorial is powerful, accessible and a cultural tour de force. It deserves to be on every British Columbian’s bookshelf.
Sterritt was president of the Gitxsan-Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council just before the Supreme Court of Canada’s historic Delgamuukw decision established constitutional frameworks for dealing with aboriginal rights and title. But this book is no dry legalistic exercise in nationalism. It’s suffused with the human stories that determine every people. Sure, there are maps and genealogical tables, but you will also find the poignant and sensitively presented tales of culture clashes that claimed very human victims on both sides. Here you can read the story of trader Charlie Yeomans, killed because he didn’t comprehend his obligations under Gitxsan law following the death of one of his employees, and how it led indirectly to the deaths five years later of Spookxw — James Spaagh to officialdom — and his wife and two children who starved after he froze to death.
Too often, First Nations history is left either to academics or to amateurs and advocates. Sterritt transcends stereotypes and makes an extraordinary and eloquent contribution to B.C. history.