Tofino Poet Laureate Joanna Streetly holds a copy of her new historical album ‘Before the Road.’ (Nora O’Malley photo)

Tofino author’s new book reflects on life before Highway 4 ever existed

Poetry, stories and photos capture the roots of Tofino and Ucluelet

How apropos that ‘Before the Road’, a historical narrative by Tofino writer Joanna Streetly, went on public display and on sale the weekend when life without a road was on everyone’s mind.

The exquisite album features stories from Japanese-Canadian Ellen Kimoto, First Nations Ah-Neets-Nas (Tom Curley) and poetry by Ucluelet Secondary School and Heartwood School students.

“This is before the road,” Streetly says as she flips to a black and white photo from the 1930s of the Princess Nora arriving at Tofino’s waterfront with mail and supplies. “This is how you got supplies was by boat.”

“We obviously can learn from history because that was the way it was easiest to do it before. And technology changed that, but it’s still always going to be the way that’s easiest to do it is using the water,” she said.

READ: Ucluelet and Tofino mayors call for “calmness” and “empathy” as highway closure cuts communities off from supplies

Streetly’s work on life ‘Before the Road’ began from when she was appointed the honour of Tofino Poet Laureate in May 2018. Since then, she’s been collecting interviews—and connecting youth—to prominent story-holders on the Coast.

There is strong representation from First Nations in ‘Before the Road’, and Ucluelet local Ellen Kimoto was “over the moon” to participate in the project, notes Streetly.

“I had reached out to the local non-indigenous elder population and I found a lot of shyness amongst the elders here,” she reflects. “In the end, the stories that rose to the top were the ones that needed to be heard the most, I think.”

Streetly arranged to have elder Ah-Neets-Nas (Tom Curley) share his story about residential school with the school groups.

“They took it in the way children do, in a very elemental level. They put themselves in peoples’ shoes. Kids think, ‘What happened if that was me?’ I think when you become an adult you start thinking, ‘Oh, that happens to other people’,” said Streetly.

One of the children asked Curley what he would eat for breakfast.

“Well, we didn’t really eat breakfast,” he answered. “We would have salmon broth and that would last us for the day. That gave us good energy and we would go out and play all day.”

After the presentations, the students were given a couple weeks to compose a poem based on what they had heard from the elders.

“It was so meaningful to me when the poems came in. I choked up. They understood in a visceral way what happened,” said Streetly. “I think the best way to learn about history is to feel it somehow, otherwise it’s not really meaningful.”

Currently, the original ‘Before the Road’ album can be viewed at Mermaid Tales Bookshop in Tofino. Streetly plans for the project to be a travelling exhibit, spending time with visitors and locals in a selection of resort lobbies.

One hundred copies of the album were printed by Island Blue Print Co. and can be purchased for a $20 donation to the Tofino Poet Laureate program.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: The long winding road to Tofino-Ucluelet—then and now

VIDEO: Drone footage shows extent of damage in Highway 4 rockslide

authorhighway chaosRoad conditionsTofino,

Just Posted

Vancouver Island man warning others through video following cyber attack

Julian White had his online portfolio hacked less than two weeks ago.

Juno-nominated teen Vancouver Island singer to appear on ‘American Idol’

Lauren Spencer-Smith up for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for ‘Unplugged, Vol. 1’

Painful Truth: Forestry no longer close to top of B.C.’s economy

When the forestry industry caught a cold in the 1970s, it was enough to sicken the entire economy

Island Inked magazine cover hopeful receiving strong local voting support

Chemainus Secondary grad and Ladysmith resident a strong contender for the top prize

Victoria to see extra ships after cruise company cancels Asia tour in wake of COVID-19

Coronovirus fears cause Celebrity Cruises to head west early

Rail disruptions expected to continue after new protest sites emerge

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

Demonstrators plan to shut down Pat Bay Highway Wednesday afternoon

Protest is in support of Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Fake meat and a latte? Starbucks adds Beyond Meat in Canada

The Seattle roaster has talked about introducing plant-based patties in the U.S., but has yet to do so

Groundhogs got it wrong: spring isn’t coming soon, Weather Network says

The only part of B.C. to warm up early will be Victoria

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Saanich man involved in cross-border drug smuggling sentenced to nine years

William Milton Barnes pleaded guilty to three charges related to drug delivery

Seven years later, Nanaimo animal trapping bylaw still isn’t approved

Animal trapping bylaw requires provincial approval before it can be adopted

Free youth transit push denied in Greater Victoria

Victoria Regional Transit Commision votes tied 4-4

Most Read