Paddling to Where I Stand: Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman


283 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0912-4
DDC 971.1'00497953'0092





Reviewed by Marilyn Mardiros

Marilyn Mardiros is an associate professor of health sciences at the
University of Ottawa.


Paddling to Where I Stand is the story of a great storyteller, Agnes
Alfred, a non-literate noble Qwiqwasutinuxw woman of the Kwakwakawakw
Nation. Martine Reid, an anthropologist and ethnographer, has a
long-standing commitment to documenting the stories of this culture.
Daisy Sewid-Smith is a community member, language instructor, cultural
historian, and granddaughter of Agnes Alfred.

Alfred was born around 1894 and died in 1992. As a noblewoman and
elder, she wanted to document her life experiences and knowledge for
future generations so that they would know who they are and where they
came from. As an accomplished storyteller, she tells of her life through
myth, personal stories, and tribal collective life experiences. Reid and
Sewid-Smith’s goal was to hear and see the world through Alfred’s
eyes and to discover her life and her culture as she saw and described
them. The stories are organized according to myth time, war, conflict
and slavery, childhood, becoming a woman, marriage, ceremonies and
rituals, and recent introduction of Western culture into daily life.

Reid and Sewid-Smith acknowledge that their well-researched and
scholarly book may be difficult to read because of the many names and
words that are presented in Agnes’s language (she spoke in her Native
language throughout the interviews). A cast of characters in the form of
kinship diagrams is provided to assist the reader. The stories are
nonetheless engaging and instructive; in representing the reality of a
humble woman, they provide us with valuable insight into culture change.


Alfred, Agnes., “Paddling to Where I Stand: Agnes Alfred, Qwiqwasutinuxw Noblewoman,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,