As a member of the Lower Similkameen Band of the Interior Salish people and a rancher for most of his life, Robinson also looked upon himself as one of the last storytellers of his people. As he came to realize fully the importance of the storytelling tradition in his community, he began telling stories in the Okanagan language and became as skilled in English storytelling by his mid-seventies. Wendy Wickwire met Robinson while working on her doctoral thesis and recognized what, as Thomas King would later suggest, may well be “the most powerful storytelling voice in North America.” He passed away in 1990—shortly after the publication of Write It on Your Heart, the first of three story collections which will ensure the survival of the epic world of Harry Robinson in many generations to come.”
Born in Nova Scotia, Wendy Wickwire lived in Merrit and Lytton, British Columbia while researching her doctoral thesis on Native song. During her ten years of research, she met Similkameen storyteller Harry Robinson and recorded his stories in the critically acclaimed Write It on Your Heart and Nature Power. She also co-authored the award-winning Stein: The Way of the River with her husband Michael M’Gonigle.
Wickwire teaches and continues her work in both the School of Environmental Studies and the Department of History at the University of Victoria. She now focuses her research on the oral tradition (oral narratives, songs, life history) of the First Nations peoples of south-central British Columbia.
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