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3 - Les rencontres de l’humain et du non humain dans la littérature de voyage / Human and Nonhuman Encounters in the Fiction of Travel

Watershed Literature: place, belonging, and longing for indigeneity in Paddle-to-the-Sea and "Minisniwapta: Voices of the River"

Harry Vandervlist
p. 139-150


Cet article propose la catégorie de la "littérature de bassin versant" pour décrire certaines œuvres qui puisent leur imagerie et leur principe d'unité dans les mouvements non-humains des eaux. L'article parle de deux œuvres certes fort différentes : "Minisniwapta: Voices of the River", un long poème du poète Jon Whyte, de Banff ; et un livre d'enfants très connu, Paddle-to-the-Sea, de Holling C. Holling (qui est également devenu un film de l'Office National du Film du Canada). Les deux œuvres partagent un certain désir d'indigénéité, qu'elles trouvent dans le mouvement intemporel et cyclique des eaux dans le bassin versant. Elles montrent aussi que, même si ce mouvement non-humain —une fois converti en récit— ne peut pas échapper à l'histoire coloniale, le bassin versant offre une source de structure et d'images qui peut servir aux écrivains d’ascendance européenne qui veulent parler du désir d'intégration avec un lieu.

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1Water travels. In fact the essence of water is movement, transformation and return. Water moves through its cycles on a global scale, yet there are also water systems which are local enough to provide a coherent sense of place for the human imagination. The concept of a watershed, in particular, captures a universally available experience of cyclical movement within a unified space. Two aspects in particular—local catchment, and a shared destination—lend themselves to this sense of inclusiveness and unity. A watershed links earth and sky as it "catches rain and snow and drains or seeps into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater" (Conservation Ontario). Meanwhile, the unity of a watershed comes from the way it gathers and directs this precipitation in an identifiable way: "What is a watershed? Easy, if you are standing on ground right now, just look down. You're standing, and everyone is standing, in a watershed. A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that falls in it and drains off of it goes to a common outlet" (U.S. Geological Survey).

2Writing which makes use of these literal aspects of watersheds, easily available for direct experience, and turns them into a literary image, might be called "watershed literature." Such writing takes its unity and its major imagery from the natural reality of watersheds and the cyclical movement of water within them. This non-human natural movement of water serves as a source of imagery and an organizing principle for the two very different works discussed here: Jon Whyte's poem "Minisniwapta: Voices of the River," and the well-known children's book and Canadian National Film Board film Paddle-to-the-Sea. These two examples are chosen in part for reasons of personal familiarity: I know Whyte's poem from scholarly experience, and like all Canadians schooled in the 1960s and 1970s I know Paddle-to-the-Sea from reading the book and viewing the film as a child. Juxtaposing these two works which place watersheds at their centres sheds an interesting light on both the works themselves, and on some implications of writing watershed literature in North American contexts.

3To some degree the idea of a watershed overlaps with the idea of a bioregion. Bioregionalism suggests that "human identity may be constituted by our residence in a community of natural beings—our local bioregion, replacing or supplementing national, state, ethnic, or other more common bases of identity" ("Bioregionalism: Theory, Practice, Pedagogy"). This is partly because bioregions are often defined by watersheds, either alone or linked together into larger areas. In a separate paper (Vandervlist 2012) I have discussed the idea of a bioregion in relation to Jon Whyte's poem, and examined Whyte's poetic strategies as he imagined the Bow River Valley in a bioregional way, as "both . . . geographical terrain and a terrain of consciousness" (Cresswell 134). The present discussion will focus more directly on the question of water's natural movement in the poem, and of course on the implications of placing it alongside a further example of such writing in the form of Paddle-to-the-Sea.

  • 1 For a well-developed discussion of the term "indigenous," see the United Nations workshop paper The (...)

4"Minisniwapta" follows the movement of water from the source of the Bow River north of Lake Louise to the river's confluence with the Oldman River. Paddle-to-the-Sea narrates the voyage of a small hand-carved canoe borne by the movement of water through the Great Lakes basin, starting north of Lake Superior, and through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean. Whyte's poem remains unpublished and is essentially unknown. On the other hand, Paddle—despite being written and illustrated by an American author—is almost universally familiar to Canadians who grew up during the1960s and 1970s, and in some cases later. Although the two works are obviously very different, I will argue that their uses of watersheds overlap in ways that demonstrate several common features. Both works reach toward the mythic. Both aim to tell stories that define a place, and to situate the human within a cycle of origin and return which suggests completeness. Both works rely on an underpinning of scientific thinking—topography, cartography, meteorology, hydrodynamics—but each work renders these ways of understanding poetic, in a Romantic fashion. Finally, Holling's work, despite its stereotypical use of First Nations imagery, helps make visible an aspect of Whyte's poem which might otherwise be missed—its desire for a kind of indigeneity.1

5When both works come to place human inhabitants within their watersheds, they start with First Nations imagery and language. In my view this shows the way both works recognize that, in a North American context, the desire to place humanity, and to make us at home within a natural region like a watershed, requires authors and readers to consider the fraught issue of indigeneity in a colonized place. In Paddle-to-the-Sea I note a desire that some connection with indigeneity might be made accessible to all, through inhabiting a watershed whose eternal cyclical qualities might enfold authors like Holling, and readers like myself, who feel themselves latecomers to these places yet also feel powerfully attracted by the place and desire to be just as rooted there as its first peoples. Whyte's poem has encyclopaedic aims, as will be seen, and it reaches toward the universal in the local, in Modernist fashion. Yet it emphasizes that the Bow River valley was always an indigenous space, and so the European discourses on rivers which Whyte weaves into his poem must stand alongside the ancient names and practices attached to a river that indicates home for Whyte, but was home to hundreds of non-European generations before him.

6Each of these works benefits from a larger context of common images, both literary and non-literary, of local watersheds. Such imagery offers a naturally-provided iconic image of a kind of non-human cyclical movement that grounds all human activity, placing it both locally and in relation to larger environments. Your nearby stream or body of water is intensely local, shaped by the soil, the forests, the grazing or farming or urban activity around it—and is also demonstrably tied to larger movements of surface water, underground water, and precipitation. For a certain kind of poetic imagination, this idea of a watershed and of the water cycle offer an irresistible combination of individual identity and connectedness, of visible and invisible movement, of pattern and unpredictability. A watershed can be an organic and ancient model for the link between here and there, past and present, human and non-human. One of the most obvious and spectacular examples of this in European poetry is P.B. Shelley's "Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni." The poem offers a vivid and literal tracing of the water cycle from clouds in the sky, to glacial accumulations below, to the glacier-fed river and valley system, and out to the sea which gives back future precipitation in the form of vapour:

Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
Mont Blanc appears—still, snowy, and serene;
Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
And wind among the accumulated steeps;
Below, vast caves
Shine in the rushing torrents' restless gleam,
Which from those secret chasms in tumult welling
Meet in the vale, and one majestic River,
The breath and blood of distant lands, for ever
Rolls its loud waters to the ocean-waves,
Breathes its swift vapours to the circling air. (Shelley)

7European poets from the time of Goethe were of course deeply involved with science, and the period from the late seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century saw the first development and refinement of meteorology. Shelley's poem demonstrates familiarity with such knowledge in the way it explicitly invokes all four phases of the water cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection. Shelley's poem is just one example of widespread romantic use of such imagery, nourished by science. Goethe's tribute, late in his career, to English amateur meteorologist Luke Howard "Howards Ehrengedächtnis (In Honour of Howard)" (1821) is another striking example. Howard was the first to identify and name distinct types of clouds, and in his 1802 paper "On the modification of clouds" he founded the categories employed today, such as cirrus, cumulus and so on. According to English historian Richard Hamblyn, "Howard's theories of cloud formation . . . enhanced the development of Goethe's own view of the 'wholeness' of nature, the wholeness of its ‘mind', as it were" (210).

8For Goethe, the science of meteorology helped fulfill the poetic function of finding form in the experience of vast natural movements. Like Shelley, he could find in the water-cycle, including cloud-formation, a potent metaphor for the workings of human imagination. By the time of John Whyte and Holling C. Holling, authors were no longer seeking metaphors for the human imagination, in Romantic fashion. Instead they seek imagery of authentic integration with place. However, partly because of the foundation laid by Romantics who elaborated this imagery in such compelling fashion, watershed imagery proves capable of fulfilling this more contemporary requirement as well.

9Jon Whyte's connection to his poetic subject, the Bow Valley watershed, begins at birth. He was born in the small town of Banff on the banks of the Bow River in Alberta. His first fifteen years were spent only a few paces from the river's edge, in the home of his aunt and uncle Peter and Catherine Whyte, the founders of what is today the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Banff and its river valley obviously meant a great deal to Jon Whyte, since after his education in Edmonton and at Stanford, he returned to Banff and spent the years until his early death at the age of fifty writing about the town and its immediate environs. He wrote over twenty books, including the poetry collections The Fells of Brightness: Some Fittes and Starts (1983), The Fells of Brightness: Volume Two Wenkchemna (1985), and local history such as Indians in the Rockies (1984), and Tommy and Lawrence: The Ways and the Trails of Lake O'Hara (1983). He sought to remedy what he saw as a lack of historical, artistic and imaginative accounts of the area. His poem on the Bow river was intended to form the third volume of a projected five-part series with the collective title The Fells of Brightness. Unfortunately, Whyte died before this work could be completed and published. He described the planned river poem as follows:

Minisniwapta is a poem about the Bow River, the gentle green river which has always flowed--flowed longer than the Rockies have stood as the sentinels we believe them to be; always on the western edge of the small green world I have always called home. If the river seem [sic] to flow through you as you perceive this poem, consider that we are the landscape life flows through, the mind the mountains myth flows from, time the river whispering by ("Minisniwapta").

10Although the poem remained unfinished when he died, a good sense of the poem's poetic vision of the Bow Valley watershed can be gained from the four surviving versions: a spoken-word recording for four voices broadcast by CBC Radio in 1987, and typescripts from 1987, 1990, and 1991. There are also photographic records of an exhibition at the Whyte Museum in which the poem text was displayed as a concrete poem on the gallery walls. Whyte printed the poem, not in the usual portrait mode used for print documents, but in landscape orientation on the accordion-fold printer paper of the time, which enabled him to present viewers with "a long shallow poem, about 150 ft long and 11 inches deep" (Whyte, CBC Radio), evoking the linear form of the Bow River. Like many rivers, however, the Bow does not flow in a single line. It is braided and meanders, changing its course often within a broad valley. Whyte emulated this multi-stranded structure by attaching glosses to his poem's main text, in the form of quotations from world literature on rivers by authors including Wilfrid Noyce, Anne Zwinger, Peter Steinhart, Barry Lopez and many others. This satisfied his urge to place his local river in a global context, and also reached toward an encyclopaedic inclusiveness which Whyte saw as an aspect of the kind of epic writing he aimed for. At the same time, just as the river's source lies in the Bow glacier at the top of the watershed, the poem's language first flows out of the local Nakoda tongue which provides the poem's and the river's, name:

Wap nis ni Minisni wapta mi Minisniwapta wapta Minisni quiet river moving silently
mi ta ni mi Minisni waptata wapta Minisniwapta wapta river the river
ni wap nis wap nis wapta wapta Minisniwapta wapta Minisniwapta nis mi ta ta wap ni wap
Minisni wapta Minsiniwapta: ice cold river broad and deep" (Minisniwapta).

  • 2 For a more detailed description of the poem's structure see Vandervlist, 2012.

11As the poem develops it gathers strands and broadens its range of reference from Herodotus to Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué.2

12At a certain level of generalization there are striking similarities between Whyte's river poem and Holling's Paddle-to-the-Sea. Both Whyte and Holling trace the movement of water from its beginnings, in the form of melting snow and ice at the high point in a watershed. Both works follow this movement to a point of completion. Whyte chooses to end his narrative where the Bow River joins a larger river system. Holling has a didactic purpose and wants to teach school children about the extent of the entire Great Lakes and St. Lawrence watershed, so his journey covers more ground and takes several years. Yet both authors structure their works by using the movement of water through the watershed as a naturally-provided narrative.

13The differences between the two works are also striking and illuminating, especially in their use of First Nations elements. Whyte chooses a Nakoda title for this volume of his long poem, as he did for The Fells of Brightness: Volume Two, Wenkchemna. This decision reflects a long involvement on the part of both Whyte and his family with local First Nations people along with the Bow River. (This history will be discussed in greater detail below.) Holling C. Holling and his wife Lucille were fascinated by First Nations life as well, spending time in 1922 visiting Pueblo settlements in Arizona, for example. Together they published the Book of Indians in 1935, with text by Holling and illustrations by Lucille. Their contacts with First Nations people in both the U.S. and Canada show every sign of having been extensive and genuine (see Gibb Hinman). And while images of "Indian" characters and culture are foundational to Paddle, First Nations elements seem to me at the same time vestigial. They are vestigial in the sense that the "Indian boy" who carves the small wooden canoe, which "looked like his father's big birchbark loaded with packs and supplies for a journey," (Paddle, n.p.) immediately disappears from the narrative once the canoe is launched. With him, all explicit references to first Nations history in the entire Great Lakes watershed also disappear. The obvious exception, of course, is the canoe itself. This small handcrafted artifact, easily held in one hand, moves through an enormous territory, once entirely peopled by the boy's ancestors and their friends, relations, cousins, and enemies. The boy's only role is to craft the canoe and set it in motion. After that, all of the book's imagery reflects the modern industrial Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. In the book's final scene, the boy re-appears as an adult, briefly and almost silently, to witness the completion of his tiny craft's journey. In this scene he is almost himself a ghost, a quickly-disappearing figure barely noticed by those around him.

14At the canoe's point of departure, however, the Indian boy looms large. He inhabits "the Canadian wilderness . . . White with snow." Near the small firelit log cabin where he carves the canoe, he launches it into the watershed he has learned about at school. He addresses the canoe as follows:

'Now I will tell you something!' said the boy to the little figure in the canoe. 'I have learned in school that when the snow in our Nipigon country melts, water flows to the river. The river flows into the Great Lakes, the biggest lakes in the world. They are set like bowls on a gentle slope. The water from our river flows into the top one, drops into the next, and on to the others. Then it makes a river again, a river that flows to the Big Salt Water.
I made you, Paddle Person because I had a dream. A little wooden man smiled at me. He sat in a canoe on a snow bank on this hill. Now the dream has begun to come true. The Sun Spirit will look down at the snow. The snow will melt and the water will run downhill to the river, on down to the Great Lakes, down again and on at last to the sea. You will go with the water and you will have adventures that I would like to have. But I cannot go with you because I have to help my father with the traps. (Paddle, n.p.)

15This passage gives some sense of the work's exoticising and appropriation of First Nations imagery: the boy's reference to dreams, the references to (capitalized) spirits, and the way the boy inhabits a trapping economy, associated with the romantic Canadian wilderness past yet invisible throughout the rest of the territory his little canoe will traverse—all of these elements fulfill stereotypical expectations for images of "Indians in the Canadian wilderness." But above all, Paddle-to-the-sea offers an opportunity to focus on one specific type of such imagery, inextricably associated with the movement of water: the canoe.

16The canoe is a product of place, an indigenous Canadian form inseparable from the movement of water. The filmmaker Bill Mason, who apart from making the film version of Paddle to the Sea was an avid canoeist and canoe advocate, famously said that "It is as if God made the canoe, and then set about making a country in which it could flourish. That country was Canada" (qtd. in Francis). Mason's easy elision of the people who did in fact make the canoe, in favour of an imported European God, reveals much. As Daniel Francis explains, the canoe image has complex and uncomfortable meanings for Canadians of European background: "For Canadians, the canoe is a container for our deepest dreams and anxieties, the magical vessel in which we are transformed from newcomers into natives" (Francis). Beyond the personal level, canoe imagery has a function in Canadian national mythology, argues critic Misao Dean, author of the 2013 study Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: the Canoe in Discourses of English-Canadian Nationalist:

Even as a child I knew that the canoe was the means whereby Canada "became a nation": it facilitated exploration and the fur trade, those two east-west movements which eventually united the nation a mare usque ad mare." The canoe occupies a unique place in the nationalist discourse […] as Pierre Trudeau wrote in his famous essay "exhaustion and Fulfillment" it was the means whereby Canadians could learn a patriotism which was "felt in the bones." (Misao Dean "Thinking about things in the postcolonial classroom" in Home-work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy, and Canadian Literature by Cynthia Conchita Sugars 339)

17Although the canoe is a vehicle which can carry European Canadians into a sense of inclusion in belonging, it carries a dire historical baggage. As Dean explains, speaking of the handmade canoe paddle she has inherited from her father: "My paddle has come to be a reminder that my "Canadianness" also implicates me in the theft of the land that comprises Canada. […] the feeling of being at home […] is contaminated" (Dean 342).

18Paddle-to-the-sea, then, is more than simple didactic piece of watershed literature. It naturalizes a marginalized and romanticized role for the exotic aboriginal other. At the same time it places all those who dwell in that a watershed within a web of connections created by non-human movements of meltwater, creek and river water, and the lakes themselves. It is the canoe —the handcraft of the book and film's imagined First Nations boy—which tracks this movement and makes this web visible. One might read the book as an indirect gesture of thanks to the original dwellers in this watershed, for having conferred it upon its current owners, and then (as they do in the book) mostly disappeared. All that remains of these original dwellers is their beautiful creation, the canoe, which blesses, in a sense, the watershed in its wholeness with an image of origin.

19One must ask the question: is this a blessing sought and offered, or one that is simply claimed and presumed? Holling's book, and Mason's film, appear to presume ownership over this beautifully integrated watershed. They also appear to presume the absence of any contesting claims, since the originators of the canoe, that all-important vessel, can now be found (if they appear at all) only in the most remote, half-lit, purely mythological corners of that world.

20How far does the relation to indigeneity differ in Jon Whyte's river poem? His interactions with, and representations of First Nations people in the Bow Valley are well-documented. His 1984 book Indians in the Rockies drew upon generations of family connections with local Nakoda people, and did more to counter than to promote the myth of the "disappearing Indian." For example, the book offers a continuous history beginning from "The First Hundred Centuries," and concluding with changing conditions for First Nations in the Bow Valley at the time of publication. The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, where Whyte was a curator, maintained then, and continues to maintain, lively connections with local First Nations communities. What to make, then, of Whyte's gesture in naming his poem using the Nakoda name for the river? This decision seems to found the poem upon a recognition that the river now called "Bow" has always been part of the territory, part of the long experience, of the Nakoda people. And yet the text of the poem performs an operation similar to the one I've described in Paddle. After commencing in the Nakoda tongue, the text returns to it only in its closing words. The main body of the poem portrays the Bow River through the lenses of European and North American literature, geology and topography, rather than demonstrating a continuous interest in First Nations representations of the river and its valley. Whyte's poem avoids the kind of exoticizing moves seen in Paddle—there is no canoe here, and no stereotyped Indian charactersbut its initial gesture of recognition towards the Nakoda people is not sustained throughout the poem. In that sense, indigenous peoples become just as vestigial here as they are in Holling's narrative. Despite the apparent genuineness of his experience with his First Nations neighbours, Whyte still writes from an outsider perspective. His well-informed and respectful perspective does not erase the fact that for him, his neighbours still constitute an "other." In this way Whyte's text betrays the way that even a Banff-born author of European background might still feel himself an outsider, and might still long to be just as rooted in the Bow Valley as the First Nations people he knows. Watershed imagery serves this desire: for both Whyte and Holling/Mason, different though they and their works are, such imagery offers a way to present their human experiences and imaginings as rooted in a powerful non-human, natural and local cycle. Although this is not precisely the same thing as gaining access to Van Tighem, it is perhaps the closest available experience of a similar kind of belonging.

21This desire for such belonging is persistent. Writing in 2015, Bow Valley naturalist Kevin Van Tighem provided a recent testament to its power. Holding a trout caught in the Bow River, Van Tighem reflects that:

Even though this fish's near glacial predecessors lived in a landscape configured differently from today's, their tissues almost certainly have not only the same DNA but the same chemical composition of the fish I now hold in my hands [...].
Every chemical in this bull trout's body, as in it's ancestors', came from the stones of the eastern Rocky Mountains, the residual tills of continental glaciers, and the deep places from which groundwater emerges. Unlike my body—which contains isotopes derived from Central American coffee, California vegetables, and Pacific Ocean salmon—nothing in this bulltrout's body came from any place on earth but here: these headwaters. The trout is one with its Valley. (224)

22Van Tighem goes on to imagine a river-based form of indigeneity, one perhaps achievable for present-day Albertans like himself:

Like most of the others use these headwater places today, I call myself an Albertan and by doing so assert some degree of nativeness. So how much of what makes this place unique on earth defines me now? Or am I just appropriating the name of the place while occupying it as an outsider? Am I a mammalian weed or a part of the natural community that surrounds me? […]
We could belong here too. We could be like the bull trout, the willows, the wary horses: like the river that continuously arises from these fine green places where the waters are born. We could find our best selves and the stories of those living waters and the river that gathers them together.
Ultimately, after all, we are that river. (229)

23Echoing Jon Whyte's evocation of "the gentle green river which has always flowed . . . on the western edge of the small green world I have always called home," this passage unites a sense of longed-for "nativeness" with the enduring natural movement-in-place of the watershed. Though even a non-human natural movement such as the watershed—once turned into narrative— cannot remove itself from colonial history, it is nevertheless difficult to imagine a form of imagery and structure more apt for addressing the concerns of European-descended writers in North America who aim to speak of belonging and a sense of integration with place.

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CRESSWELL, Tim, Place: A Short Introduction, London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.

DEAN, Misao, Inheriting a Canoe Paddle: the Canoe in Discourses of English-Canadian Nationalist, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

HAMBLYN, Richard, The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies, NewYork: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2001.

GIBB HINMAN, Hazel, "The Lives and Works of Holling Clancy Holling," Redlands, Ca: The University of Redlands, 1958.

HOLLING, Holling C., Book of Indians, illust. Lucille Holling, New York: Platt & Munk, 1935.

HOLLING, Holling C., Paddle-to-the-Sea, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1941.

SUGARS, Cynthia, Home-work: Postcolonialism, Pedagogy, and Canadian Literature, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2004.

VANDERVLIST, Harry, "The challenge of writing bioregionally: performing the Bow River in Jon Whyte's "Minisniwapta: Voices of the River," The Bioregional Imagination. Glotfelty, Cheryll, Karla Armbruster and Thomas Lynch, eds., Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2012, 150-164.

WHYTE, Jon, "Minisniwapta: Voices of the River," Ts, M88/34,35,36. Jon Whyte Fonds, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

VAN TIGHEM, Kevin, Heart Waters: Sources of the Bow River. Victoria, B.C.: Rocky Mountain Books, 2015.

Whyte, Jon, CBC Radio interview with Vicki Gabereau. Audio recording. S28/40. Jon Whyte Fonds, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Electronic resources

"Bioregionalism: Theory, Practice, Pedagogy," ASLE 11th Biennial Conference, <>.

FRANCIS, Daniel, "Magical Thinking," Geist 91: National Dreams, <>.

MASON, Bill, Paddle-to-the-Sea, National Film Board of Canada, 1966, < >.

Site of Conservation Ontario. "What is a watershed?", <>.

Site of U.S. Geological Survey, "What is a watershed?", <>.

SHELLEY, P.B., "Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni," Poetry Foundation, <>.

United Nations Department Of Economic And Social Affairs, The Concept Of Indigenous Peoples: Background paper prepared by the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, <>.

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1 For a well-developed discussion of the term "indigenous," see the United Nations workshop paper The Concept Of Indigenous Peoples.

2 For a more detailed description of the poem's structure see Vandervlist, 2012.

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Bibliographical reference

Harry Vandervlist, Watershed Literature: place, belonging, and longing for indigeneity in Paddle-to-the-Sea and "Minisniwapta: Voices of the River"Caliban, 59 | 2018, 139-150.

Electronic reference

Harry Vandervlist, Watershed Literature: place, belonging, and longing for indigeneity in Paddle-to-the-Sea and "Minisniwapta: Voices of the River"Caliban [Online], 59 | 2018, Online since 01 June 2018, connection on 23 June 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Harry Vandervlist

University of Calgary.
Harry VANDERVLIST taught in the English department at the University of Calgary from 1991 to 2018. He has published scholarly work on modernism, especially Samuel Beckett's early fiction, and on Canadian literature. In 2000 he edited Jon Whyte: Mind Over Mountains, the collected poems of Banff poet Jon Whyte. His recent publications on eco-criticism and Canadian literature include "Seeing seeing, and telling telling: Framing and Transparency in Robert Kroetsch's The Hornbooks of Rita K. and James Turrell's 'Twilight Arch," in Writing Alberta: Building on a Literary Identity, edited by Donna Coates and George Melnyk, University of Calgary Press, 2017;  "Re-Envisioning epic in Jon Whyte's Rocky Mountain poem The Fells of brightness," in Sustaining the West: Cultural Responses to Canadian Environments, ed. L. Piper and L. Szabo, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015; and "There is no such place as away": confronting the abject in ecology and poetry," in Found in Alberta: Environmental Themes for the Anthropocene, ed. Boschman, Trono. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015. He serves as a member of the comité scientifique, Caliban: French Journal of English Studies, and from 2003 to 2013 was a Director of NeWest Press, Edmonton, Alberta. He served as a judge for the Mountain Book Awards at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in 2015 and 2016.

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