The Lil'wat World of Charlie Mack
Early in their ethnographic work, Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy were privileged to meet Charlie Mack. Born on the Mount Currie Reserve in 1899, he was a fascinating character and a font of wisdom, exemplifying by his way of life, his skills in trapping and canoe-making, and his knowledge of the history of his people, the living world of the Lil’wat, which the young ethnologists were able to record on tape and in their notes and photographs. Most important among what Charlie Mack gave them was a wide corpus of stories; he was a master storyteller, holding his listeners spellbound with his animated and dramatic delivery in both Lil’wat and English.
Charlie Mack’s stories were originally recorded in his native language as part of a systematic government-sponsored effort to create public awareness of the threatened indigenous languages of British Columbia and Washington State, and were eventually published as a highly popular translated and edited collection, Lillooet Stories (1977), by the British Columbia Archives.
More time spent with Charlie Mack before his death in 1990 revealed to Kennedy and Bouchard that his worldview embedded a moral code, information about the environment and the self-evident truths of his world not easily comprehended out of context: an interweaving of myth, history and experience invoked in daily conversation and deeply rooted in a sense of place. Now, two decades after Charlie Mack’s passing, the authors present a selection of his English renditions of some of these stories, drawing on their transcribed interviews, correspondence and ?eld notes to re-contextualize the narratives he wanted to share, and guide the reader to a more holistic understanding of this Lil’wat elder’s world.
This book is a tribute to a long friendship; the result of the authors reflecting on a lifetime of listening to a man who had something to say.
“[one of the] testaments to the increasing recognition of First Nations voices within Canadian society.”
– Canadian Literature