Harry Robinson: Write It on Your HeartFront Cover

ISBN: 9780889225022 | paperback / softback

$29.95 | 320 pages | Pub. Date: 2004 | Edition # 2 | 2nd edition, new format
6.00 W × 9.00 H × 1 D inches
Non-Fiction | Backlist | Bisac: SOC002010
ISBN 13: 9780889225022 | Rights: WORLD

Harry Robinson: Write It on Your Heart
The Epic World of an Okanagan Storyteller
By Harry Robinson
Edited by Wendy Wickwire

Write It on Your Heart is a celebration of the late Harry Robinson, one of the great storytellers of the Interior Salish people of North America.

Collected over a ten-year period, the stories selected for this volume tell from a First Nations point of view about the origin of the world; the time of the animal people; the time before the coming of the white man; the stories of power; the prophet cult and its predictions of profound cultural and economic change; and the post-contact world. The collection ends with Robinson’s own version of “Puss in Boots,” true in every psychological detail to the European story, but set in the ranching country of the Similkameen Valley.

This collection is unique in that it chronicles not only the treasure house of a vibrant First Nations culture, but also the sweeping changes which took place in that culture as it began to interact with the new colonists who introduced a foreign language and writing to the mythic world of Coyote, Fox and Owl. As more and more of his listeners, First Nations included, understood only English, Robinson began to tell his old stories in this new language in order to keep them alive. By the time Wendy Wickwire met him in 1977, he had become as skilled a storyteller in English as he had been in his mother tongue. Robinson knew that the profound cultural changes which had taken place in his lifetime would continue and took to heart the matter of preserving the storytelling tradition. With his approval, Wickwire recorded his stories and brought them together in this critically acclaimed collection. Write It on Your Heart stands as a monument to the epic world of Harry Robinson, ensuring its survival in the many generations to come.

“Write It on Your Heart is nothing less than a masterwork in the genre of oral literature. Robinson’s mastery of his craft and his tradition are flawless. Wickwire’s poetic transcriptions are equally ­masterful.”
Journal of American Folklore

“Epic, mesmerizing tales by a great Okanagan storyteller … that lift [one] eerily and movingly, into a different world.”
Toronto Star

“Nowhere have I read a more productive synthesis of the Indian oral tradition … and the written word. A few other books have come close, but only close.”
Vancouver Sun

By Harry Robinson

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.”

Read more about Harry Robinson


Edited by Wendy Wickwire

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.

Read more about Wendy Wickwire


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