Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors
Even though Henry W. Tate’s authority was not fully acknowledged until 79 years after his death, a claim can be made that The Porcupine Hunter and Other Stories: The Original Tsimshian Texts of Henry W. Tate (1993) represents the earliest published work to be written in English, without assistance, by an Aboriginal native to British Columbia.
Fluently bilingual, Henry W. Tate was a Tsimshian who taught at the Methodist mission school at Port Simpson. With the support of missionary Thomas Crosby, Tate first sailed aboard the mission boat Glad Tidings in 1894 with Captain William Oliver to spread Christianity as a lay preacher.
From 1903 to 1913, Tate forwarded his own versions of Tsimshian stories, written in English, to Franz Boas, who “cleaned-up” his informant’s work and published it in 1916, with minimal credit to Tate, who died in 1914. When Simon Fraser University English professor Ralph Maud consulted the archives of Columbia University Library and saw the discrepancies between Tate’s vibrant storytelling and Boas’ revised texts for his book Tsimshian Mythology, Maud blew the whistle on the famous anthropologist, first in an article for American Ethnologist called “The Henry Tate-Franz Boas Collaboration on Tsimshian Mythology.”
While criticizing the methodology that produced Tsimshian Mythology, Ralph Maud simultaneously resurrected the literary importance of Tate by arranging for publication of Tate’s original versions of ten stories, as well as an extensive Raven cycle, in The Porcupine Hunter. Maud’s opinionated analysis of Boas’s relationship with Tate is recorded in Transmission Difficulties: Franz Boas and Tsimshian Mythology (2000).
Boas, Franz. Tsimshian Mythology: Based On Texts Recorded By Henry W. Tate (Thirty-first Annual Report of the United States Bureau of American Ethnology 1909-1910, Washington D.C.: 1916; New York: Johnson, 1970).
Tate, Henry W. The Porcupine Hunter and Other Stories: The Original Tsimshian Texts of Henry W. Tate (Talonbooks, 1993). Edited by Ralph Maud.