Nature Power:
Stories from an Okanagan Elder

by Harry Robinson, Wendy Wickwire,
272 pages,
ISBN: 0295972238

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Brief Reviews - Non-Fiction
by John Doyle

IT is REVEALED by the editor, Wendy Wickwire, in her compelling introduction to Harry Robinson's Nature Power (Douglas & McIntyre, 248 pages, $18-95 paper) that when Robinson's first collection of stories (Write It in Your Heart) was published in 1989, he wasn't entirely pleased. It's not that he was angry; he was simply disappointed that all the stories he told to Wickwire weren't included in the book.

Robinson, who died shortly after that first collection appeared, is recognized as the greatest storyteller of the Okanagan people. The stories here have a unified theme - the celebration of "nature power." In the Okanagan religion and philosophy, expressed in all of Robinson's stories, some are given the gift of this power through an encounter with a "power-helper." The encounter usually happens when the person is a child and the power-helper appears in the form of an animal. This power offers protection to the bearer and gives the ability to heal.

The most powerful of the stories collected here is the first, "You Think It's a Stump, But That's My Grandfather." It has a simplicity and grace that are strangely affecting. All the stories underline the strength of nature power and offer examples of remarkable cures and incidents of the dead returning to life.

These are tales to marvel at and muse upon, and they stand as a testament to Robinson's remarkable powers of storytelling. Wickwire has successfully retained the engaging tone and rhythm of Robinson's delivery by presenting the stories as long prose-poems. These stories also establish Robinson as a cultural icon whose gift, fortunately, was recorded forever.


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