As part of BC Heritage Week, I enjoyed sharing readings from The Curve of Time on Feb. 25 and telling a Gibsons, BC audience about some of the eccentricities of author Muriel Wylie Blanchet. For instance, she had emphysema and defied her doctor, who wanted her to move out of her cold, drafty house near Sidney on Vancouver Island. Her solution? She stuck her head in the oven every day for 20 minutes. She died at her typewriter at age 70, only six months after The Curve of Time came out.
It amazes me that Blanchet spent 15 summers touring the BC coast with five kids, ages two to 13, and a dog in a 25-foot boat that wasn’t super seaworthy. They all survived and had many adventures. The Curve of Time is considered one of the leading books on cruising the Inside Passage from the southeast coast of Vancouver Island to Cape Caution on the mainland coast. It became a national bestseller, received international attention, and has had 30th and 50th anniversary issues published.
Unfortunately, when it came to exploring First Nations settlements on the coast, Blanchet reflected colonialist views of entitlement and disrespect that were common in the 1940s and 1950s (and sadly, continue today). She and her family trespassed on Indigenous communities when residents were away and viewed them as part of a soon-to-be-lost culture rather than a vibrant, continuing one. She also confiscated items such as a weaving spindle without permission.
Author Dr. Nancy Pagh explains: “When Blanchet constructs Native people as the embodiment of ‘the Past’ [sic], she refuses to allow that these very real people are her contemporaries, alive and working in the summer fishery while she is fantasizing about them from their winter villages.” (Source: VanIsleHistoryExplorer.ca)
Thankfully, many current museums, such as the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives, where this Heritage Week event was held, are involved in repatriating First Nations artifacts back to their rightful homes and lands.