The partnership between First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers and author-historian Robert Budd has combined for a ninth book in six years and this time it’s more unique than ever.
With their newest project, Voices From The Skeena: An Illustrated Oral History, Budd thinks they’ve finally ripped the lid off their true potential.
Skeena is more than three years in the making, and with an online, down-loadable oral history component, it’s unlike any project the duo has done before. It focuses on the navigation of the Skeena River before railway.
“It stands on its own as an art book, and it has an oral history so the reader can hear all seven stories of these historical people talk about the Skeena before Europeans,” Budd said. “We’ve had national bestsellers, we’ve won 24 awards, it’s been a whirlwind, but this one is different.”
In their first eight books the two combined Vickers’ artistic skill and Budd’s experience in oral history to tell First Nations stories to children of all ages. They’ve won about two dozen awards and have slowly built their brand through visually expressive children’s books Raven Brings the Light (2013), Cloudwalker (2014) and Orca Chief (2015) and Peace Dancer (2016). Orca Chief was so well regarded it was still winning awards after Peace Dancer was released.
Along the way they also produced a trio of children’s board books and truly embedded their market reach in the children’s book industry with Hello Humpback, One Eagle Soaring, and Sockeye Silver, Saltchuck Blue.
“Skeena goes back to when we first met,” recalls Budd, who lives with his family in Fairfield.
As the story goes (and Budd loves nothing more but to tell a story within a story), Vickers had wandered down to the Royal B.C. Museum around 1971. Vickers had recently arrived at Oak Bay High from the north and was homesick for the life he knew.
His art teacher at Oak Bay High told him to take off and study somewhere else.
At the museum he uncovered oral history tapes from legendary CBC reporter Imbert Orchard’s time in the early 1960s that documented the traditional First Nation ways of life on his home river of the Skeena that preceded settler arrival. Vickers enjoyed them and found connection in them. But he also neglected to note which recordings he had listened to.
About 20 years ago Budd, a University of Victoria history grad, ran a 4.5 year project digitizing 2,700 hours of these same oral histories, many of them from Orchard’s precious collection. Budd later produced a book on these historical accounts and that’s when Vickers learned about him and reached out.
The result is the newest project, a unique combination with 40 illustrations by Vickers that support seven different stories based on these oral history accounts, as identified by Budd and Vickers.