Delehanty-Pearkes’ new book looks at the First People of the West Kootenays


The second edition of Eileen Delehanty-Pearkes’ The Geography of Memory was published at the end of August.

“There was a four-month delay due to supply chain issues,” Delehanty-Pearkes said. “It was hard to be patient! So many people had pre-ordered and some are still waiting for Amazon to fulfill it. The real heroes are the local museum shops – they were the first to stock the book. Local booksellers bring them in too.”

The Geography of Memory will be available from the Four Points Book Store in Invermere on October 4th. The book chronicles a quest for understanding to find the history behind the First Peoples of the West Kootenay; the Snayackstx (Sinixt) First Nation (pronounced sin-ay-ch-kst-h). In the United States, the Sinixt were known as the Arrow Lakes Indians of the Colville Confederated Tribes and lived along the upper Columbia River and its tributaries for thousands of years. The Canadian federal government declared the Sinixt an “extinct” First Nation in 1956, eliminating with the stroke of a pen the tribe’s ability to legally access 80 percent of their transboundary traditional territory. This makes Delehanty-Pearkes’ book a unique story for Aboriginal people in Canada.

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“This is the second edition of a modest book I first published in Nelson in 2002. This 20th anniversary edition has tripled in size and includes many new maps and images, as well as several essays written by contemporary Sinixt people,” said Delehanty-Pearkes. “Originally my work was inspired by the curious story of an ‘extinction’ of the First Nation, the Sinixt, who first inhabited the Columbia and Slocan Rivers, the Arrow Lakes, the West Arm and Kootenay Lake. When I moved to Nelson from BC’s lower mainland, I found it so odd that the Canadian government could just try to erase history. When I discovered the truth, it seemed worth sharing.”

Delehanty-Pearkes was born in the USA and received her BA in English from Stanford University and her MA in English from the University of British Columbia. Their work defies nationality and insists on truth. She has written five books so far. She shared that she was honored when Rocky Mountain Books approached her in 2019 and said they wanted to produce a second edition of The Geography of Memory. Delehanty-Pearkes has now published two books with Rocky Mountain Books: The Geography of Memory: Reclaiming the Cultural, Natural and Spiritual History of the Snayackstx (Sinixt) First People and A River Captured: The Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change.

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“This new edition of The Geography of Memory reflects 20 years of research and learning and the strong relationship I have with the Sinixt people,” said Delehanty-Pearkes. “The border has kept them away from the region, their homeland, for far too long. They are wonderful people and I wanted everyone who reads the book to experience some of what I learned. My favorite part of the new issue is the contribution by Shawn Brigman, a Sinixt/Spokane tribesman who has studied and raised awareness of Indigenous architecture. His handmade canoes, pots and baskets are beautiful.”

Popular online columns on the western Canadian landscape have emphasized the need for reconciliation of people with land. Not only has Delehanty-Pearkes researched alongside the Sinixt people for two decades, in 2014 she curated a major exhibition on the history of Canada’s upper Columbia River system for Touchstones Nelson Museum and the Columbia Basin Trust.

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Her second edition explores the landscape and human imagination with an emphasis on the history of the upper Columbia River and its tributaries. It reveals the history of the West Kootenays of British Columbia’s First People. Part travelogue, part cultural history, the book describes the culture, place names, practices and landscape features of this lost tribe of British Columbia through a contemporary lens that offers all readers an opportunity to participate in reconciliation. A perfect read as we approach

Canada’s second official Truth and Reconciliation Day.

“The Geography of Memory would be a great read for anyone who enjoys the outdoors and loves the beauty and power of western landscapes and wants to learn more about the region’s indigenous history,” said Delehanty-Pearkes. “This landscape has a history of several thousand years. Indigenous peoples are remarkably adaptable and resilient, and have strong spirits. These cultural qualities are evident throughout the book. You inspire me.”



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