Family and friends of the late Chief Andy Chelsea of Esk’et (Alkali Lake) are gathering next weekend to celebrate a new book published by Caitlin Press.
Resolve: The Story of the Chelsea Family and a First Nation Community’s Will to Heal by Carolyn Parks Mintz explores the lives of the Chelseas and their community.
Parks Mintz will hold a book launch at The Open Book on Saturday, May 25 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
After struggling with their own alcoholism, the Chelseas chose sobriety and then worked to eradicate alcoholism and overcome intergenerational trauma in the community.
Parks Mintz told the Tribune she was humbled and honoured to write the book.
“It’s been a real learning experience and a very emotional journey for me about all First Nations in general, but particularly this family that I became close to.”
She moved to Chase, B.C. in 2016 with her husband from Ontario and soon afterwards an author friend contacted her because he was writing a play about a community like Chase and wanted a few lines of the play developed in the Secwepemc language.
“I asked around town and found out that Ivy Chelsea taught the language at both schools in Chase and got hold of Ivy. I connected her with the playwright, she did the translation.”
Parks Mintz and Ivy hit it off and eventually Ivy told her she was looking for someone to write her parents — Andy and Phyllis Chelsea’s life story.
“I’ve always been interested in First Nations culture and people — long story short — I met with her parents for three hours down her in Chase and I was totally impressed with them and saddened by what I heard.”
The Chelseas sent her away with an assignment to come up with a structure of the book.
“I came home and it was all there,” Parks Mintz recalled. “I wrote the introduction and then I met with them a couple of weeks later. It was so moving when Andy said to me, ‘you are the one. You will write our truth. I’m not Indigenous, but through this the family and I became very close. In fact I had to step back from it sometimes to write objectively.”
Phyllis Chelsea plans to attend the book launch with several other members of the family and said the project was the dream of Andy, and something he really wanted to see before he died in 2017.
“It was great working with her,” Phyllis said of Parks Mintz. “With the book coming out, people will get to know the great man that I knew. Andy Chelsea was a genuine, people-loving leader. Our main effort was in community work and sobriety.”
Andy and Phyllis had five children, one they lost in 1981.
Three weeks after Andy died the Chelseas celebrated the birth of a great granddaughter who has the name Andi in his memory.
Parks Mintz said things the Chelseas told her were very personal and troubling and some nights she struggled to fall asleep.
“But we had to tell the story and the story of their village and how they saved themselves. The Chelseas never took all the credit.”
During the time she was working on the book, Andy was dying of cancer, but Mintz got all his interviews done by phone an hour or an hour and a half at a time.
She completed his section, which, she said he liked and approved of.
Parks Mintz saw the Chelseas in April and May of 2017, even putting him in her guest room with a blanket one day in May so he could have a rest.
“While he rested I did some more interviews with Phyllis and then we lost him the next month on June 27, 2017.”I hope the book will educate and illuminate people about what has happened to our First Nations and what continues to happen in our country. I come across people who know nothing about it.”
For the book she interviewed several other people outside of the family, including former Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William, authors and former Tribune writers Diana French and Sage Birchwater, Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson and Frank Antoine, a director with Indigenous Tourism BC and founder of Moccasin Trails Inc., Adams Lake Indian Band councillor Ronnie Jules and Dean Gladeau a former Metis RCMP officer.
“The book took me to some very interesting places and very interesting people to ask them ‘what do you see as the major issue?’ What do you see as a possible solution? That’s where the answers will come, from First Nations,” Parks Mintz said.