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 Featured Title
Paddling to Where I Stand
Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman
Martine J. Reid   Daisy Sewid-Smith  

$97.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 5/25/2004
ISBN: 9780774809122    

$36.95 Paperback
Release Date: 11/1/2004
ISBN: 9780774809139    

325 Pages


About the Book

• Honourable Mention, 2005 British Columbia Historical Federation Book Prize
• Honourable Mention, 2004 Lieutenant-Governor's Medal for Historical Writing, BC Historical Federation

The Kwakwakawakw people and their culture have been the subject of more anthropological writings than any other ethnic group on the Northwest Coast. Until now, however, no biography had been written by or about a Kwakwakawakw woman. Paddling to Where I Stand presents the memoirs of Agnes Alfred (c.1890-1992), a non-literate noble Qwiqwasutinuxw woman of the Kwakwakawakw Nation and one of the last great storytellers among her peers in the classic oral tradition.

Agnes Alfred documents through myths, historical accounts, and personal reminiscences the foundations and the enduring pulse of her living culture. She shows how a First Nations woman managed to quietly fulfill her role as a noble matriarch in her ever-changing society, thus providing a role model for those who came after her. She also contributes significant light and understanding to several traditional practices including prearranged marriages and traditional potlatches.

Paddling to Where I Stand is more than another anthropological interpretation of Kwakwaka’wakw culture. It is the first-hand account, by a woman, of the greatest period of change she and her people experienced since first contact with Europeans, and her memoirs flow from her urgently felt desire to pass on her knowledge to younger generations.

About the Author(s)

Martine J. Reid (editor) is an independent scholar whose interests are in the field of Northwest Coast cultural and aesthetic anthropology.

Daisy Sewid-Smith (translator) is Agnes Alfred's granddaughter, a cultural historian, and a Kwakwakawakw language instructor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria.

Table of Contents


1. Myth Time
2. War, Conflict, and Slavery
3. Childhood
4. Becoming a Woman
5. Marrying Moses Alfred
6. Ceremonies and Rituals
7. Fragments of Recollections

Eulogy for Granny Axuw


Paddling to Where I Stand is a delight in every sense of the word. It will quickly become a classic work of Canadian ethnography. Besides filling a noticeable gap in women’s history, it demonstrates the rich potential for collaborative ethnography in Aboriginal communities today. In addition to the standard traditional narratives, the book features lesser-known historical narratives -- stories of steamship and paddlewheel travel, of early missionaries and government agents, of the first washing machines, automobiles, and radios in Alert Bay, and of the impact of two world wars.
-- Wendy Wickwire, Department of History, University of Victoria, author of Nature Power: In the Spirit of an Okanagan Storyteller

Reid carefully conveys gestures, moods, and inflections evident in storytelling, enhancing authenticity. Paddling to Where I Stand deserves a spot in every Canadian library’s shelf.
-- Carolyn Redl, Integrated Studies Program, Athabasca University, Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol. XXXVII, no.2, 2005.

The pleasure of reading Paddling to Where I Stand… will be found, first, in Reid’s interrogation of autobiography and her strategies for ensuring that this story is Agnes Alfred’s story, and second, in the successful outcome of these strategies. Agnes Alfred emerges, in her own words, the ‘extraordinary woman with an extraordinary life’ that her granddaughter describes in her funeral elegy.
-- Mary Clearman Blew, University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 75, no. 1, winter 2006.

There is an honesty and ownership of responsibility and an enduring ripple effect from this time that pervades the entire work. […] The book transcends reading an historical account and retains the orality of the many, many discussions. […] There is a cognizance of the audience that she is speaking to, and intimacy, that most readers would not be privy to that is moving and compelling. […] The author’s humour, decency, and dignity are readily available to the reader […]. There is such fluency here – between spirits and humans, between past and present, between individual and communal – that your breath is, at times, taken away. […] This book is a very welcome and excellent addition to the resources available for Indigenous studies, history, anthropology, law, and women’s studies courses. It may also be useful for those communities and individuals who are pursuing community and oral traditions preservation and history projects.
- Tracey Lindberg, Canadian Woman Studies, Vol.26, No.3, 4

Sample Chapter


Related Topics

Native Studies > Canada
Aboriginal Studies
BC Studies
BC Studies > Native Studies

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Paddling to Where I Stand from UTP Distribution at:

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M3H 5T8

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