Father August Brabant (18451912) was the first Roman Catholic missionary to live and work among aboriginal people on the west coast of Vancouver Island during the colonial period. He endured long periods of isolation, built a number of log churches and undertook extraordinarily difficult trips along the west coast in dugout canoes. His thirty-three-year-long effort to transform Nuu-chah-nulth culture gives us a provocative case study of the dynamics that shaped, and continue to define,the settler-colonial relationship between indigenous peoples and the state in Canada. Convinced he had a mission to save the indigenous people from being themselves, the zealous priest strove to instill alien spiritual beliefs. He served as a willing instrument for imposing colonial power by introducing new forms of justice, commerce, dress, housing, personal identity, and-most devastating of all-schooling. As the father of British Columbia's first residential school, Brabant precipitated the single institution that proved most destructive to the people he set out to rescue. Brabant's biography will be of interest to historians, anthropologists, political scientists, individuals engaged in First Nations Studies, and general readers.
Jim McDowell is a veteran British Columbia historian. His first career was teaching, which took him into classrooms from northern California to Seattle, New York City, and Vancouver. He taught elementary school in California and Washington, worked as an inner-city education consultant in Harlem and Brooklyn, and educated teachers at Simon Fraser University. McDowell also worked for 20 years as a freelance writer and independent reporter; he wrote hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles for Canadian and U.S. publications. McDowell has four published books: Peace Conspiracy: The Story of Warrior-Businessman Yoshiro Fujimura (McBo, Irvine, CA 1993), a partial biography of a once obscure Japanese naval commander; Hamatsa: The Enigma of Cannibalism on the Pacific Northwest Coast (Ronsdale, Vancouver, BC 1997), an investigation of the existence of cannibalism among early Northwest Coast Native people; Josè Maria Narvaez: The Forgotten Explore (Arthur H. Clark, Spokane, WA 1998),the first full life story of the Spanish-Mexican navigator; and Father August Brabant: Saviour or Scourge? (Ronsdale, 2012), which presents a thorough, unvarnished biography of the first Catholic missionary to work on Vancouver Island during the colonial period. McDowell is also working on two other books: one about birdsong, which uses folktales from around the world to probe the possible psychological significance of bird songs for human beings; another about walks for seniors and families.
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