The Many Voyages of Arthur Wellington Clah
A Tsimshian Man on the Pacific Northwest Coast
First-hand accounts of indigenous people’s encounters with colonialism are rare. A daily diary that extends over fifty years and two thousand pages is unparalleled.
Drawing on a painstaking transcription of Arthur Wellington Clah’s diaries, Peggy Brock pieces together the many voyages -- physical, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual -- of a Tsimshian man who moved in both colonial and Aboriginal worlds. Clah’s birth in 1831 coincided with the establishment of a permanent fur trade post, and he became student, teacher, and confidant to missionary William Duncan. Later, Clah’s spiritual voyage into the world of colonial culture transformed him into a devout Christian and an evangelist for the faith.
From the goldfields of BC and Alaska to the hop fields of Washington State, Clah witnessed profound change. His diaries reveal the complexities of personal interactions between colonizers and the colonized and the inevitable tensions within a community undergoing rapid change. They also show how Clah’s hopes for his people were gradually eroded by the realities of land dispossession, interference by the colonial state in cultural and political matters, and diminishing economic opportunities.
Taken together, Clah’s many voyages offer an unprecedented Aboriginal perspective on colonial relationships as they played out on the Pacific Northwest Coast.
This book is required reading for students and scholars of indigenous peoples and colonialism and anyone interested in BC or Canadian history.
- 2012, Short-listed - Canadian Aboriginal History Book Prize, Canadian Historical Association
The Many Voyages of Arthur Wellington Clah is a striking book offering an on-the-ground viewpoint of colonialism as it evolved on the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada.
A fascinating account...Peggy Brock has made a truly significant contribution to our understanding of the history of the northwest coast in the nineteenth century.
Clah’s life and diary offer a window into the lives of the Tsimshian political hierarchy of the time and Tsimshian society’s interaction with colonialism ... His voyage is a metaphor for the voyage that his own and other indigenous people were also taking in their encounters with colonialism.
Arthur Wellington Clah’s diary is likely the most remarkable document to come into the light of Pacific Northwest Coast history ... Surmounting the challenges presented by this rich and at times near impenetrable personal record, Peggy Brock has researched and admirably summarized fifty years of the diary, pulling out key themes and highlighting its many contradictions. This much-needed introduction to a man and an indigenous history of British Columbia and Alaska will change the way we think about our past.
Peggy Brock is an emeritus professor at Edith Cowan University in Perth and a visiting research fellow at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
1 The Life and Times of Arthur Wellington Clah
2 Keeping Account: The Diary
3 The Fur Trade Era
4 Chasing Gold
5 Food Production and Wage Labour
6 Land Matters
7 Becoming a Christian
8 Parading and Preaching
9 Clah and the Missionaries
10 The Changing World of Feasting
11 Ligeex, Chief of the Gispaxlo’ots
12 Old Age: The End of Voyaging
1 Clah’s Trade Records for 24 and 25 December 1865
2 Key People in Clah’s World
Indigenous Encounters with Christianity in Canada
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