VERNON - The Okanagan Indian Band is voicing outrage after it says a non-indigenous author appropriated Okanagan stories and knowledge for her own profit and falsely claimed to have consulted the band.
According to a press release from the band, the author, Dorothy Hawes, approached them about her children’s book Ogopogo Odyssey and asked permission to acknowledge the Okanagan Indian Band in the dedication inside the cover.
“Her request was met with a resounding no,” states the media release. “The OKIB cultural representative advised that there were a number of glaring inaccuracies with the book because of Dorothy Hawes’ lack of research, including the use of Coast Salish imagery not consistent with the Okanagan culture, incorrect use of Okanagan language, and improper portrayal of oral history.”
In a May 8 news article about the book, Hawes says it was important to her to bring the story to the Okanagan Indian Band to make sure she was being accurate and respectful. But band Chief Byron Louis says it was anything but.
“The Okanagan Indian Band was not consulted during the writing of this book; OKIB is not affiliated in any way with Dorothy Hawes; and we do not support her exploitation of our people, culture and knowledge. This is just another example of a non-indigenous person seeking to profit from our stories. Our stories are our own to tell and illustrate, as such, books not written or approved by us infringe on our own voice and are not authentic representations of Okanagan people.”
Contacted today, Hawes says she is "shocked" to learn of the band's reaction. She says she was directed by the band to contact Ruby Alexis and met with her for an hour and a half at the band office last February.
"We chatted and she clarified a few references in terms of spelling... she was most helpful, so this is shocking to me," Hawes says. "The last email I had with Ruby Alexis she said good luck with the book, so I don't know what happened."
She says she asked Alexis if she could acknowledge the band and Alexis specifically for their help, but Alexis said no.
"I said are you offended by my story? She said no this is just what she preferred," Hawes says.
Dorothy Hawes is an English teacher at St. Michaels University School in Victoria.
— This story was updated at 2:36 p.m., May 13, 2016, to include comments from the author.
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