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29 October 2016

"I Heard the Owl Call My Name" by Margaret Craven

"Don't be sorry for yourself because you are going to some remote parish. Be sorry for the Indians. You know nothing and they must teach you," page 12. This quote expresses the theme of I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven (1901-1980). The author introduces the reader to Mark Brian a 27 year old vicar. Assigned to Gwa'yi or Kingcome Village, British Columbia, Canada, Mark served the Indians and they became his friends. Mark's first visitors, perhaps six years old, are described as " fawns ̶ ̶̶ too small to be afraid. They stood absolutely still...watching him from their soft, dark, sad eyes, as their ancestors must have watched the first white man in the days of innocence," page 39. The author describes the people's misconception of Mark, he would be useless as he can neither hunt nor fish. Mark wrote to his Bishop that these people were NOT simple, emotional nor primitive. This beginning developed into a bond and strong friendship. Read how this progresses for yourself. This book published in 1973 delves into the struggles of the Tswataineuk Tribe as their world collides with the white man's world.

By the end of this small book, I wept, laughed and learned. I wept for the mothers and children as the children left for school. When the young people leave for an education, few return, most do not. The mothers know in their hearts that most will not return. Several examples of these conflicts and the results are in the narrative. I laughed when the Indian women planned to serve mashed turnips. "No white man liked mashed turnips," page 31. Or, when the women began talking about Mark in their native language and he answered. I learned that on the family level struggles are common to everyone; our differences are how we react to our struggles.

My review of I Heard the Owl Call My Name received four stars because of my difficulty adjusting to the authors narrative at the beginning. Ten short paragraphs fill page 16 including dialogue. Paragraph one orients the reader to the location in three sentences. Paragraph two, in two sentences, recounts of killer whales jumping out of the water to knock off barnacles. In a four sentence paragraph, the reader learns about a float house and hand-logger with two sets of long-underwear and that he "changes only one." In the next paragraph, two sentences, the reader learns "when she knows you better, the wife of the oil agent at the float store will ask you to help her get it off him and into her washing machine." After several passes at the narrative, the reader starts to understand that the author's words have meaning and are not thrown around carelessly. Minimal words describe the beautiful landscape, yet the reader's eye captures the birds, fish and flowers. The last words on page 159 sums up their life, "Wa Laum (That is all)."

Kingcome Village, British Columbia, Canada is located northwest of Vancouver. I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven was purchased in a bookstore on the inland passage of Alaska. When traveling, we want to learn about each area such as the people, culture and points of interest. Please contact Selma Blackmon with any comments or questions.

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