Okanagan author makes shortlist for prestigious award - InfoNews

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Okanagan author makes shortlist for prestigious award

Ken Mather has made it onto the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing shortlist.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Ken Mather
April 29, 2019 - 3:00 PM

VERNON - North Okanagan writer Ken Mather has been shortlisted for the 2019 B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing.

Trail North: The Okanagan Trail of 1858-68 and its Origins in British Columbia and Washington was published in 2018 and is the sixth book he's published on B.C. history.

"It makes me feel really happy," Mather says about being shortlisted. "Writers don't get rich... but what does pay you is recognition that you've done something that maybe has some significance to it."

Mather's book focuses on the history of the Okanagan Trail, which travels along the current route of Highway 97 from Washington State to Kamloops.

"It was a trail that was used by the First Nations people for literally thousands of years connecting up the two great highways, the Columbia and the Fraser [rivers]," Mather says. Then when horses were introduced in around 1750 the trail became key to a huge trade network, Mather says.

"Highlight of the book is the early cattle drive they would have taken place between 1858 and 1868 and during that time 22,000 cattle came up the trail through the Okanagan," he says.

The former manager of the Historic O'Keefe Ranch, Mather says he learned about the cattle drives, which explained the reason for the location of O'Keefe Ranch and became fascinated with the history of the trails.

"Trails are the oldest documents to mankind's occupations," Mather says, outdating buildings and monuments which came later. "Trails were being worn out by the feet of the people lived in a certain area, a lot of those trails are still around as they were the most convenient way of getting from A to B," he says. And much of what is the modern Highway 97 does follow the original trail in Mather's book.

Mather, who spent over four decades doing research professionally before retiring in 2013, spent "hundreds and hundreds" of hours working on his book. His research took him to Oregon, through the Washington State Archives, and to the provincial archives in B.C. and more.

"The good news is don't try to work out what my hourly wage would be as it would be highly discouraging," he jokes.

The author says he was always surprised that American and Canadian historians stop on their side of the 49th parallel. "Nobodies ever tried to connect the two ends." He hopes his book will go some way to rectifying that.

And he's very modest about making the shortlist for the prestigious prize.

"The best recognition of all is the books I've written is on early B.C. ranching... the actual cowboys and ranchers in B.C. have told me how much they like my books, now that's the recognition I'm after," he says.

But Mather admits he would mind walking away with the $2,500 first prize, although he reiterates: "It's not about the money."

The winner will be announced June 8.

For more information and to purchase Trail North go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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