Legends of Vancouver
Becky Norman is a Kitchener-based freelance writer.
Reminiscing about days gone by is an action essential to any human
being. But what is important and valid to one individual may mean
nothing to another. Johnson-Tekahionwake’s collection of Vancouver
legends faces this risk. Originally published in 1911, Legends of
Vancouver must now prove that it is still important enough to warrant
The language of this collection is, despite some dated word choices,
powerful and lyrical enough to be contemporary. Aside from the now
politically charged references to “white man” and “pale faces,”
the observant descriptions of the land and the people make Legends of
Vancouver come alive. The glossary is essential, for
Johnson-Tekahionwake casually uses tribal words that are lost on the
novice. However, these Native word choices are essential in explaining
the culture and spirit of the people. Without these Native words, the
power of the piece is lost.
Most important of all, the legends themselves remain timeless. The
landmarks the author refers to still exist, so the reader can visit them
if the desire arises (although a map of the area would have been nice).
Legends of Vancouver is also about tribes who believed in the separate
equality of the sexes, a concept that appeals to today’s audience. But
most of all, this collection deals with the differences and similarities
between all peoples. One story in particular, “The Island,” is a
heartbreaking account of the loss of something true and noble. The
search to find it again is a quest all individuals (past, present, and
future) undertake in one way or another.
Laq’s stark, beautiful illustrations combined with
Johnson-Tekahionwake’s effortless, eternal language and subject
matter, make Legends of Vancouver an important collection for today’s