Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul'q'umi'num' Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island.


354 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 978-0-88922-555-8
DDC 971.1'20049794





Edited by Compiled and edited by Chris Arnett
Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan A. Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and
ethnohistorian in British Columbia.


During the 1930s, a part-time journalist named Beryl Mildred Cryer recorded and transcribed numerous stories from Coast Salish from the village of Puneluxutth on Kuper Island. The first part title of the book, “Two Houses,” is a metaphor for two peoples and refers to non-Native and Native peoples, while the “Half Buried in Sand” refers to the long houses on Kuper Island, which appear to be buried in the sand. The editor of the book, Chris Arnett, discovered Cryer’s stories in the B.C. provincial archives and has reproduced them in this book.


The stories are well supported by numerous and historically interesting photographs. As the stories were originally newspaper articles, most of the stories are less than three pages in length. Arnett introduces the stories with a brief synopsis. Arnett also provides a lengthy introduction and biography of the background of Cryer and her principal collaborator, Mary Rice, a Puneluxutth storyteller from Kuper Island.


Arnett had the stories published because he considers them to be worthy of academic interest. He notes, however, that while some anthropologists have encouraged the collection and publication of Cryer’s stories, others consider that Cryer’s work lacks the necessary “learned standards” required for anthropological texts. He appears intent on promoting the “ethnographic validity” of the stories without actually undertaking the necessary scholarship. This does not mean that Cryer’s contribution should be ignored by scholars, only that like any record of Native oral accounts, scholarship entails corroboration from other sources to establish the accuracy and reliability. Without having undertaken the necessary research, Arnett appears to privilege Cryer’s work over the work of others, including the work of Franz Boas. The motivations of the editor, however, should not take away from the contribution of Cryer’s work. There is no doubt that Cryer’s stories will have cultural and historical value to the local Coast Salish community. Whether they have ethnographic validity, as Arnett advocates, has yet to be determined. Any scholar using this source will find it a useful if supplementary source of ethnographic data.


Cryer, Beryl Mildred., “Two Houses Half-Buried in Sand: Oral Traditions of the Hul'q'umi'num' Coast Salish of Kuper Island and Vancouver Island.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,