A book that links early maritime history, Indigenous land rights, and modern environmental advocacy in the Clayoquot Sound region has won the 2021 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing, as presented by the British Columbia Historical Federation at its annual conference on Saturday. The award comes with a cash prize of $2,500.
Possessing Meares Island: A Historian’s Journey into the Past of Clayoquot Sound is by Barry Gough and published by Harbour Publishing. Centred on Meares Island, near Tofino on Vancouver Island’s west coast, Possessing Meares Island connects 18th century Indigenous-colonial trade relations to more recent historical upheavals and bridges the cap between centuries to describe how the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council drew on a complicated history of ownership to invoke their legal claim to the land and defend it from clear cutting.
Gough is a past president of the BC Historical Federation and won the same award in 1984 for Gunboat Frontier: British Maritime Authority and Northwest Coast Indians, 1846-1890. He becomes the second person, with Richard Sommerset Mackie, to win the award twice.
Second prize, worth $1,500, went to Joseph William McKay: A Metis Business Leader in Colonial British Columbia, by Greg Fraser (Heritage House). The book looks at the accomplishments and contradictions of the man best known as Nanaimo’s founder and one of the most successful Metis men to rise through the ranks of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the late 19th century.
Third prize, worth $500, went to A Journey Back to Nature: A History of Strathcona Provincial Park by Catherine Marie Gilbert (Heritage House). This book looks at the century-long effort to define, access, preserve, develop, and exploit the uniquely beautiful area of rugged wilderness now known as Strathcona Provincial Park on Central Vancouver Island.
The Community History Book Award, worth $500, went to Always Pack a Candle: A Nurse in the Cariboo-Chilcotin by Marion McKinnon Crook (Heritage House). In this memoir, the author recounts arriving in Williams Lake in 1963 at age 22 to work as a public health nurse, relying on her academic knowledge, common sense, and government-issued Chevy to provide health care to rural communities of the region.
Honorable mentions were presented to Craigdarroch Castle in 21 Treasures, by Moira Dann (TouchWood Editions); Becoming Vancouver: A History, by Daniel Francis (Harbour Publishing); and Pinkerton’s and the Hunt for Simon Gunanoot, by Geoff Mynett (Caitlin Press).
The award recipients were chosen by a three-member panel of judges from 24 books published in 2021 and submitted for the competition.