Based on recorded interviews and journal entries this major biography of Cecil Paul (Wa’xaid) is a resounding and timely saga featuring the trials, tribulations, endurance, forgiveness, and survival of one of North American’s more prominent Indigenous leaders.
Born in 1931 in the Kitlope, Cecil Paul, also known by his Xenaksiala name, Wa’xaid, is one of the last fluent speakers of his people’s language. At age ten he was placed in a residential school run by the United Church of Canada at Port Alberni where he was abused. After three decades of prolonged alcohol abuse, he returned to the Kitlope where his healing journey began. He has worked tirelessly to protect the Kitlope, described as the largest intact temperate rainforest watershed in the world. Now in his late 80s, he resides on his ancestors’ traditional territory.
Following upon the success of Wa'xaid's own book of personal essays, Stories from the Magic Canoe, Briony Penn's major biography of this remarkable individual will serve as a timely reminder of the state of British Columbia's Indigenous community, the environmental and political strife still facing many Indigenous communities, and the philosophical and personal journey of a remarkable man.
About the authors
Briony Penn is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction books as well as a contributor to many anthologies and chapter books. She has been a feature writer and columnist for decades, with over five hundred articles on environmental issues and natural history in newspapers, magazines, government publications, online news sources and peer-reviewed journals. She has also written numerous environmental guides and educational handbooks for teachers in British Columbia. Her first book with RMB, The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, was the winner of the 2015 BC Book Prize. Her work with Cecil Paul will continue with the publication of a comprehensive and collaborative biography, Following the Good River: Stories from the Magic Canoe of Cecil Paul, which will be published by RMB in the autumn of 2019. Briony lives on Salt Spring Island, BC.
Cecil Paul, also known by his Xenaksiala name, Wa’xaid, was a respected elder, activist and orator, and one of the last fluent speakers of his people’s language. Cecil was born in 1931 in the Kitlope and raised on fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. At the age of 10 he was torn from his family and placed in a residential school run by the United Church of Canada at Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. For years, Cecil suffered from the pain of the abuse inflicted there. After three decades of prolonged alcohol abuse, he finally returned to the Kitlope and the positive influence of his people’s knowledge and ways. Once Cecil’s healing journey began, he eventually became an outspoken leader against the industrialization of his people’s land and traditional territory, working tirelessly to protect the Kitlope, the largest intact temperate rainforest watershed in the world. Cecil worked on two books with Briony Penn: Stories from the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid and Following the Good River: The Life and Times of Wa'xaid. Cecil lived in his ancestors’ traditional territory and his work protecting the Kitlope continued throughout the final years of his life. Wa'xaid passed away at the age of 90 on December 3, 2020.