Oliver Wells, naturalist, writer, ethnographer, farmer, and stock breeder, was born in 1907 at the pioneer farm established by his family three generations before in the valley of the Chilliwack River. The name of this farm, Edenbank, echoes the rich heritage and idealist aspirations of the pioneer family who came to the valley to establish a new way of life in this new land. Their neighbors were the Chilliwacks, the native Canadians who live in the area. In the 1950s, sensing that the people with whom his family had shared the land for generations were on the threshold of losing their culture and traditions in the face of ever-growing pressure of settlement in the area, he began work on preserving, with the Native community, their way of life and their history.
While Wells was not a trained ethnographer, he brought to his work a vitality possible only for a man who can draw on generations of intimacy and wide-ranging friendships within the community. With tape recorder, notebook, and sketch pad, he began recording the lives and memories of his friends in exhaustive detail. He did not record this information as an outsider—he took an active part in an attempt to actually revitalize the culture and traditions of his friends. He is credited, for example, with reviving the Salish weaving techniques of the community which are now famous throughout the world.
A representative selection of Wells’s transcribed conversations with his Native friends is presented in this volume. Together with articles, legends, photographs, and a naturalist’s guide to the area, the interviews offer an intimate, thoughtful and informed introduction to the Chilliwacks and their neighbors.