Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors

Having collaborated with Annie York twenty years ago for They Write Their Dreams on the Rock Forever, Richard Daly has co-written the oral history of Stó:lo artist and craftswoman Rena Point Bolton for Xwelíqwiya: The Life of a Stó:lo Matriarch (Athabasca University Press $34.95). Point Bolton, a weaver and mother of ten, was living in northern B.C. when the book was published. Xwelíqwiya celebrates her as a teacher and activist who maintained and revived Stó:lo art.

Rena Point Bolton is the mother of Steven Point who served as the 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia from October 1, 2007 to November 2, 2012.

According to promotional materials:

"Xwelíqwiya is the life story of Rena Point Bolton, a Stó:lo matriarch, artist, and craftswoman. Proceeding by way of conversational vignettes, the beginning chapters recount Point Bolton’s early years on the banks of the Fraser River during the Depression. While at the time the Stó:lo, or Xwélmexw, as they call themselves today, kept secret their ways of life to avoid persecution by the Canadian government, Point Bolton’s mother and grandmother schooled her in the skills needed for living from what the land provides, as well as in the craftwork and songs of her people, passing on a duty to keep these practices alive. Point Bolton was taken to a residential school for the next several years and would go on to marry and raise ten children, but her childhood training ultimately set the stage for her roles as a teacher and activist. Recognizing the urgent need to forge a sense of cultural continuity among the younger members of her community, Point Bolton visited many communities and worked with federal, provincial, and First Nations politicians to help break the intercultural silence by reviving knowledge of and interest in Aboriginal art. She did so with the deft and heartfelt use of both her voice and her hands.

"Over the course of many years, Daly collaborated with Point Bolton to pen her story. At once a memoir, an oral history, and an “insider” ethnography directed and presented by the subject herself, the result attests both to Daly’s relationship with the family and to Point Bolton’s desire to inspire others to use traditional knowledge and experience to build their own distinctive, successful, and creative lives."

PHOTO: Rena Point Bolton, in front of her log house near the junction of the Skeena and Zymacord Rivers, holding the back she took with her to receive a British Columbia Lifetime Achievement Award for Aboriginal Art in 2010.


Xwelíqwiya: The Life of a Stó:lo Matriarch (Athabasca University Press 2013) $34.95

Xweliqwiya, The Life Story of a Stó:lo Matriarch

from BC BookWorld

It’s not easy to promote a West Coast book with an unpronounceable title from an Alberta-based publisher.

But that didn’t prevent the authors of Xweliqwiya from having an unforgettable launch in Sardis, at Coqualeetza, near Chilliwack, to celebrate Stó:lo matriarch, artist and craftswoman Rena Point Bolton’s lifelong struggle against cultural silencing.

Co-authored with friend and ethnologist Richard Daly, Bolton’s autobiographical Xweliqwiya, The Life Story of a Stó:lo Matriarch (Athabasca University Press $34.95) was not printed until the annual Stó:lo Nation winter dance mi’lha season had already begun, so everyone took a break from initiation work—the training of new spirit possession initiates—to honour the mother of ten children for her key role in fostering Stó:lo customs and knowledge on November 7 at the new Stó:lo Research and Culture Centre.

The Point family provided drummers, singers and dancers, served smoked chum and sockeye, bannock, salads and finger foods, tea and coffee, for more than one hundred well-wishers and admirers. After Daly showed a five-minute video interview with Rena made by the BC Achievement Foundation, he explained how he had gradually co-wrote the book with Rena, from 1989 onwards.

Daly also read two pages from her book that described how she was brainwashed at residential school, “coming out ready to march off to India as a missionary.” Then Rena spoke and explained the name she holds, Xweliqwiya, meaning Flesh-eating Wolf Mother.

Much to Daly’s surprise, she revealed she no longer retains the name, having recently passed it along to her grandchildren’s generation. Instead she has taken the name of Mrs. August Jim, keeper of the sacred sxwoyxwey cult back in the era of the pioneering, UBC-based anthropologist Wilson Duff.

Later in the evening Rena explained Xweliqwiya’s right to subject all babies whose mothers claimed the father was from Rena’s wolf family to the test of being offered to the wolf mother on Sumas Mountain. If the girl told the truth the baby was licked, if not, it was eaten.

It’s that type of knowledge that Rena Point Bolton is renowned for preserving on behalf of the Stó:lo, or Xwélmexw, as they call themselves today.

The book recounts Point Bolton’s youth on the banks of the Fraser River during the Depression, a period when the Canadian government persecuted her people and cultural activities were mostly done in secret. Her mother and grandmother educated her in traditional skills as well as the songs of her people. Later Point Bolton made it her duty to revive Stó:lo practices as a teacher and activist.

For decades, Point Bolton has visited many communities and worked with federal, provincial, and First Nations politicians to rekindle knowledge of, and interest in, Aboriginal art. Her life story is a memoir, an oral history and an “insider” ethnography that Daly and Point Bolton hope will inspire others to use traditional knowledge to foster successful and creative lives.


[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2014]