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

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

“It was so meaningful to me when the poems came in.”

How apropos that ‘Before the Road’, a historical narrative by Tofino writer Joanna Streetly, goes on public display and on sale at Mermaid Tales Bookshop 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 chaoshistoryRoad conditionsTofino,

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An electronic sign at the Tofino-Ucluelet junction notifies travellers heading towards Sutton Pass that closure windows are in effect Thursday morning. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Survey swirls up confusion around Tofino-Ucluelet highway closures

“The Highway 4 Kennedy Hill Project closure times remain the same for now,” ministry says

Nuu-chah-nulth language champion Tim Masso holds his Rainy Coast Arts Award. (Jessie Masso photo)
Masso and Wenstob receive 2020 Rainy Coast Arts Award

Tla-o-qui-aht brothers share Pacific Rim Arts Society honour

Pamela Evans gazes lovingly at her four-year-old French bulldog Jack on Thursday, Nov. 5. The energetic young pup has regained his usual rambunctiousness after recently recovering from a significant illness brought on by consuming discarded cannabis new Brown’s Beach in Ucluelet. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Discarded cannabis a “frequent” threat to pets in Tofino-Ucluelet

“I couldn’t grab him fast enough to get it out of his mouth before he swallowed it.”

The School District 70 administration office in Port Alberni. AV NEWS FILE PHOTO
Four Alberni schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

Exposures occurred between Nov. 19 and Nov. 25 depending on the school

A lightning strike destroyed a radio repeater on Porter Mountain, shutting down the Ministry of Transportation and infrastructure’s highway cam at Sutton Pass. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure photo)
Lightning strike shuts down camera on Tofino-Ucluelet highway

“One of our radio repeater sites was recently struck by lightning.”

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

BC Ambulance Services reassures people that the service is well staffed and ready to respond. Photo by Don Bodger
BC Ambulance assures the Island community they’re ‘fully staffed’

‘Paramedics are not limited to a geographical area.’ — BCEHS

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read