Totem Poles and Tea

By (author): Hughina Harold
Foreword by: John Cashore
ISBN 9781894974134
Softcover | Publication Date: February 14, 2006
Book Dimensions: 6 in x 9 in
240 Pages

About the Book

Hughina Harold paints a powerful picture of a world that no longer exists in this compelling account of her experiences as a young teacher and nurse on the remote Broughton Archipelago on British Columbia’s coast in the 1930s. Fresh from nursing school in Victoria and eager to start work, Harold could not have imagined the challenges that awaited her in the tiny village of Mamalilikulla. Leaving the comforts of Victoria behind for a cold, leaky floathome that she shared with two elderly missionaries, she had to adapt quickly to her new circumstances.

Transported in unreliable boats to remote outposts to treat the sick, attending births in the most primitive conditions, and teaching—from standard, middle-class textbooks—children who had never even seen a car, this gutsy young woman rose to the challenge. The clash of cultures Hughina experienced was extreme, but through it she developed a new understanding of the people she had been sent to teach and treat, discovering their age-old traditions and witnessing “things that should not be forgotten.”

Written decades later and based on letters Harold had written home, Totem Poles and Tea—updated in this second edition with original photos from the Harold family collection—ensures that her memories will be preserved.

About the Author(s)

Hughina Harold (née Bowden) was born in Victoria, BC, in 1915. She graduated with a nursing degree from the Royal Jubilee Hospital in 1935, and shortly thereafter began a two-year term as a nurse and teacher at the Mamalilikulla Indian Day School on Village Island. She later practised nursing on Vancouver Island and married a young RCAF enlistee at the beginning of the Second World War. After the war, she raised three daughters while her husband developed his medical career. During her time on Village Island, Hughina wrote detailed letters about her experiences to her family in Victoria. After her mother passed away, Hughina rediscovered her old letters and was inspired to transform them into stories, which were broadcast on Eileen Laurie’s CBC program Morning Visit. American anthropologist Harry Wolcott, who taught on Village Island to collect material for his dissertation, heard those broadcasts and contacted Hughina to learn more about her experiences. His discussions with Hughina resulted in the publication of his book A Kwakiutl Village and School in 1967. Her nostalgic trip to Alert Bay in 1985 rekindled Hughina’s ambitions to have her stories published, and the result was the first edition of Totem Poles and Tea, published by Heritage House in 1996. Hughina Harold died in 2001.