Henry Buler writes to the Colonist

The British Colonist online, 1858-1920

When the first sixty-plus years of Victoria’s British Colonist  became available online in searchable form, I lost quite a few hours to what could be better described as distraction than as focused research. The title of the newspaper suggests the aspirations shaping its editorial perspective. But, for me, the seductiveness of the early Colonist lay in the glimpses it afforded of stories that run counter to any standard narrative of white settler colonialism, but nevertheless documented fascinating—and integral—pieces of British Columbia’s colonial history.

Henry Buler writes to the Colonist

One of these glimpses came a March 1898 letter written by Henry J. Buler, defending the potlatch, which church and government were already working to eradicate. Buler’s communication addressed an earlier letter that the Colonist had published from the Rev. Alfred J. Hall, the Anglican missionary at Alert Bay, BC. Buler called Hall a liar (“this is the same Reverend … who was sent out here to teach the Indians that ‘…lying lips are [an] abomination to the Lord’”). He went on to refute the first letter’s claims point by point, concluding, “everything in our country is in your hands … let us have this only one thing—our joyous potlatch.”

Now, Henry Buler’s name was not unfamiliar to me, though I was surprised to come upon it in the Colonist. George Hunt, the long-time co-worker of anthropologist Franz Boas, refers to him in a couple of places, and Buler is also the subject of correspondence between Boas and Hall. Apparently Buler, like Hunt before him, worked for Hall for a time as a translator. Hall also gave Buler the job of caretaker of his first mission building at Fort Rupert after Hall decamped to Alert Bay. Continue reading

Judith Berman Ebooks and Book View Café

I recently joined the multi-genre publishing cooperative Book View Café. Starting in 2016, I’ll be bringing out ebook versions through BVC of what I hope will eventually be my entire list of fiction publications, starting with my novel Bear Daughter.

I’m really pleased to have been accepted into Book View Café, a company of many very fine writers. They include award-winners and bestsellers, old friends and people I know only through their fiction. One is my childhood literary hero Ursula K. LeGuin — who is also one of BVC’s bloggers. The cooperative model, which gives writers control over production as well as 95% of the cover price, is an empowering one, although it comes with considerable responsibility as well, not least responsibility to one’s fellow members.

I don’t have any publication dates yet but I’ll be posting here as soon as I do.

About filomancy

According to William Smith’s classic 1875 tome, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (John Murray, London), ancient Greek botanomanteia was “divination by writing one’s own name on herbs and leaves, which were then exposed to the wind, &c.” Phyllomancy is my neologism (maybe) for writing words onto plant leaves, or leaves of paper, and letting the wind blow them away. Maybe it’s a pessimistic metaphor for the writer’s life, but the thing is you don’t have control of your words after you release the pages from your hands. And the image of wind in the leaves is a happy one. (I’ve spelled it filomancy so it doesn’t seem so much like divination by means of Greek pastry, although that would be a happy form of divination too, if you could eat it afterwards.)