Book shines light on humble champion

Peggy Malcolm/Contributing Writer / Staff writer
February 7, 2014 01:00 AM

Sechelt author Joan Harper's new book He Moved a Mountain: The Life of Frank Calder and the Nisga'a Land Claims Accord offers insight into a unique story of Canadian history.

Here is the story of a Canadian man of destiny.

His intrepid life purpose and ground-breaking accomplishments were envisioned in an aunt's prophetic dream before his birth. They were indemnified by his father, at a grand council of First Nation leaders, when Frank Calder was a very little boy.

That boy, a Canadian from the Nisga'a Nation, was gifted with enormous intelligence, athletic prowess, and emotional endurance. He was a natural conciliator and arbiter, with an intuitive ability to honour his own good instincts.

He Moved a Mountain: The Life of Frank Calder and the Nisga'a Land Claims Accord by Sechelt author Joan Harper tells the tale of a titan of personal resolve and intention. The boy did not buckle under the weight of his people's messianic expectations. They hoped he would convince the Canadian government to recognize the Nisga'a Nation's right to hold title to the lands it had occupied from the beginning of time. His father's opinion of the quest: It would be easier to "move a mountain."

Although Calder started on a path to become an Anglican minister his keen mind, engaging personality, and inborn leadership skills impelled him along a route that led to increasingly responsible positions. In 1949 he won a CCF seat in the British Columbia legislature.

He accumulated an impressive list of firsts: first First Nation individual to graduate from high school, first to earn a university degree, and first to win a seat as an MLA. And that was just the beginning.

An uninspiring picture of an older Calder, on the book jacket obscures the excellence of this well-written, compelling biography.

He Moved A Mountain illuminates First Nation land claim issues clearly and simply. Opinions of residential school experience and First Nation responsibilities, in the Canadian social landscape, are refreshingly realistic and unencumbered.

The book shines a light on a humble champion, political heroism and treachery, and an unlikely love story. Clear, spare structure and language make this an easy, enlightening, sometimes wrenching and always entertaining read.

Editor's note: Author Joan Harper's career began in library education at the Vancouver School Board and the University of B.C. A long-time admirer of the work of Frank Calder, Harper met his wife shortly after his death and gained access to much private material, augmenting it with extensive research through interviews and in the archives.

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