The Cameron Ridge Conspiracy an intriguing read

Steve Hunter offers an account of the Cariboo Gold Rush told from a First Nations perspective in his novel The Cameron Ridge Conspiracy.

Steve Hunter gets it.

Despite a few cultural and historic inconsistencies, Hunter offers a delightful account of the Cariboo Gold Rush told from a First Nations’ perspective in his first historic fiction novel, The Cameron Ridge Conspiracy.

This is no small undertaking considering that the author is non-aboriginal.

Hunter uses his imagination and knowledge of place and time to lay out a plot in the Cariboo that is quite believable and consistent with the landscape and time period of the Gold Rush.

He writes sensitively with understanding of this tumultuous time. He describes the clash of cultures that transformed the country and particularly the lifestyle of the Aboriginal people and threatened to break their connection to the land.

Hunter obviously draws on his 30-year career as a social worker, much of it in the Cariboo Chilcotin, and his empathy with the Secwepemc (Shuswap), Dakelh (Southern Carrier) and Tsilhqot’in people.

He acknowledges the assistance he got from Secwepemc friend, Rosanna McGregor, who helped him fine-tune his understanding of the culture.

The theme of the novel centres around one of the most challenging moments of upheaval in the history of the Secwepemc.

In 1859 their culture and way of life was turned up-side-down in the face of the Gold Rush bringing a new breed of people into their territory – people who didn’t respect them or their relationship to the land.

The author doesn’t delve deeply into the hurt, heartbreak and bloody gore associated with this invasion by outside forces, but he lays the groundwork for the shift, showing the treachery, greed, racism and murder.

He also counters it with values of honour, wisdom, valour and principle shared by both the native and white cultures.

He shows how these values are intrinsic to survival.

Hunter points out positive relationships that did occur between the First Nations people and white settlers and the values they shared to build the community we call the Cariboo. He shows the roots of these values centred around family, children and true caring for each other.

There are thrilling moments in the novel as the reader is swept up by the drama of events and literally taken to the edge – especially in the last pages – to find out how justice is meted out.

It is a story about transformative change, confronting the inevitable, acting appropriately, and making the best of very difficult circumstances. It is about drawing on the loftier principles, albeit aided by cunning, to allow fair retribution to run its course.

A First Nations reader might take exception with some of the author’s liberties and artistic license he employs to tell the tale. After all Steve Hunter is white and there is an undeniable cultural gap that is unavoidable as a result.

Nevertheless, as a non-First Nations person myself who has worked with and written extensively about aboriginal culture in this region, I have to take my hat off to Steve. He is extremely brave walking into this abyss. God forbid, I’m not sure my feet would fit in his moccasins.

The book leaves me feeling uplifted.

Not only is there a sense of redemption for wrongs committed, there is a noble sense of hope that altruism in any culture will take you beyond the chaos and destruction.

Hunter says the book is a tribute to honour the First Nations people he spent a whole career working with.

“I wrote the book to craft my own version of the world and to set things in perspective,” he stated at his June 20 book launch at the Cariboo Arts Centre.

He started writing the book in January 2011 and when he was finished he spent six months shopping it around to trade publishers before deciding to publish it himself.

“It’s historical fiction told through the voice of a young Secwepemc woman who witnessed a tragic event,” he explains.

Rosanna McGregor who mentored Hunter on some aspects of Secwepemc culture, says she grew up in Beaver Valley near Horsefly.

“So I could relate to the area he’s describing in the novel.”

The Cameron Ridge Conspiracy is available locally at various outlets, The Open Book, the Station House Gallery and Save-On Foods book department.a.

This is no small undertaking considering that the author is non-aboriginal.

Hunter uses his imagination and knowledge of place and time to lay out a plot in the Cariboo that is quite believable and consistent with the landscape and time period of the Gold Rush.

He writes sensitively with understanding of this tumultuous time. He describes the clash of cultures that transformed the country and particularly the lifestyle of the Aboriginal people and threatened to break their connection to the land.

Hunter obviously draws on his 30-year career as a social worker, much of it in the Cariboo Chilcotin, and his empathy with the Secwepemc (Shuswap), Dakelh (Southern Carrier) and Tsilhqot’in people.

He acknowledges the assistance he got from Secwepemc friend, Rosanna McGregor, who helped him fine-tune his understanding of the culture.

The theme of the novel centres around one of the most challenging moments of upheaval in the history of the Secwepemc.

In 1859 their culture and way of life was turned up-side-down in the face of the Gold Rush bringing a new breed of people into their territory – people who didn’t respect them or their relationship to the land.

The author doesn’t delve deeply into the hurt, heartbreak and bloody gore associated with this invasion by outside forces, but he lays the groundwork for the shift, showing the treachery, greed, racism and murder.

He also counters it with values of honour, wisdom, valour and principle shared by both the native and white cultures.

He shows how these values are intrinsic to survival.

Hunter points out positive relationships that did occur between the First Nations people and white settlers and the values they shared to build the community we call the Cariboo. He shows the roots of these values centred around family, children and true caring for each other.

There are thrilling moments in the novel as the reader is swept up by the drama of events and literally taken to the edge – especially in the last pages – to find out how justice is meted out.

It is a story about transformative change, confronting the inevitable, acting appropriately, and making the best of very difficult circumstances. It is about drawing on the loftier principles, albeit aided by cunning, to allow fair retribution to run its course.

A First Nations reader might take exception with some of the author’s liberties and artistic license he employs to tell the tale. After all Steve Hunter is white and there is an undeniable cultural gap that is unavoidable as a result.

Nevertheless, as a non-First Nations person myself who has worked with and written extensively about aboriginal culture in this region, I have to take my hat off to Steve. He is extremely brave walking into this abyss. God forbid, I’m not sure my feet would fit in his moccasins.

The book leaves me feeling uplifted.

Not only is there a sense of redemption for wrongs committed, there is a noble sense of hope that altruism in any culture will take you beyond the chaos and destruction.

Hunter says the book is a tribute to honour the First Nations people he spent a whole career working with.

“I wrote the book to craft my own version of the world and to set things in perspective,” he stated at his June 20 book launch at the Cariboo Arts Centre.

He started writing the book in January 2011 and when he was finished he spent six months shopping it around to trade publishers before deciding to publish it himself.

“It’s historical fiction told through the voice of a young Secwepemc woman who witnessed a tragic event,” he explains.

Rosanna McGregor who mentored Hunter on some aspects of Secwepemc culture, says she grew up in Beaver Valley near Horsefly.

“So I could relate to the area he’s describing in the novel.”

The Cameron Ridge Conspiracy is available locally at various outlets, The Open Book, the Station House Gallery and Save-On Foods book department.

 

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