Phyllis Chelsea (left) and Carolyn Parks Mintz signs books at the book launch in Williams Lake last month of Resolve—the Story of the Chelsea Family & a First Nation Community’s Will to Heal. (Contributed)

Shuswap author tells First Nations family’s story of resilience, leadership

Chase resident will hold book signing in Salmon Arm June 22, in Kelowna June 23 and Vernon June 29.

Chase author and journalist Carolyn Parks Mintz has long had a keen interest in many things, from therapeutic horseback riding for children to radio broadcasting to dragon boat racing – and, of course, writing.

Parks Mintz wrote The Eye of the Dragon—Women, Cancer & Courage, published in 2004, which tells the stories of the women of Sistership, her dragon-boat teammates.

The production of the book and her cancer support work would earn her a Woman of Vision Award.

Her latest literary undertaking, Resolve—the Story of the Chelsea Family & a First Nation Community’s Will to Heal, focuses on the biographies of Andy and Phyllis Chelsea and the story of their people, the Esk’etemc of Alkali Lake, B.C.

“Through per chance circumstances soon after moving to Chase in 2016, I connected with the Chelsea’s daughter, Ivy, a language teacher at the village’s elementary and high school,” Parks Mintz explained.

”On learning I was an author and journalist, Ivy told me she’d been looking for someone to write her parents’ life stories.

“This resonated with me as I had always been interested in Indigenous peoples and their cultures.”

Soon after, there followed a three-hour meeting with Andy and Phyllis during one of their visits to this area.

“I was so impressed with their accomplishments and those of their community—as well as sadly impacted by the parts of their stories I heard that day.”

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Those meetings would lead a few weeks later to Andy and Phyllis choosing Parks Mintz to write their story.

The couple met during their years at St. Joseph’s Mission School, which operated from July 19, 1891, to June 30, 1981, near Williams Lake.

Like the thousands forced into the church-run residential school system, they are acutely aware of the lifelong difficulties experienced by most Indigenous people in Canada.

The couple married in 1964 but, unavoidably, the damage inflicted during their mission school years leached into their marriage.

Their 1971 decision to save their family by overcoming the multi-faceted, grievous harm done to them at St. Joseph’s sparked a lifetime of activism which took them across Canada, throughout the U.S. and to many other countries worldwide.

As well, they were an inspiration to their people as Alkali Lake was ready for change.

Throughout the 27 years Andy was chief and Phyllis served as social worker, education trustee and court worker, they worked to help eradicate alcoholism and took definitive steps to overcome the rampant intergenerational trauma which existed on their reserve.

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Resolve explores the harrowing journey of the Chelseas and their community.

By combining personal interviews and historical records, Parks Mintz shares their transition from residential school to state-sanctioned reserves to recognition of their direct action in the face of ongoing oppression.

A simultaneous celebration of strength and a condemnation of systemic racism, Resolve is a deeply moving story that calls for a closer look at the status of national reconciliation efforts from the Chelseas’ perspective.

Parks Mintz will attend book launch readings/signing sessions at Riverside Park in Kamloops on National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21; at Bookingham Palace in Salmon Arm on Saturday, June 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; at Chapters in Kelowna on June 23; and at Bookland in Vernon on June 29, from noon to 2 p.m.


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Chase author Carolyn Parks Mintz. (Photo contributed)

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