Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

What Was Said to Me

The Life of Sti'tum'atul'wut, a Cowichan Woman

by (author) Ruby Peter & Helene Demers

foreword by Molly Peter

Royal BC Museum
Initial publish date
Jun 2021
Creative Writing, English Language Arts, Geography, History, Social Justice
Grade Levels
9 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2021
    List Price

Where to buy it

Descriptive Review

This book shares many compelling stories told by Sti’tum’atul’wut Ruby Peter, a Cowichan matriarch, about her life, upbringing, and family on Quamichan Reserve in Duncan, BC. Each chapter contains anecdotes and tellings, through Ruby’s own voice, of her lived experiences growing up as an Indigenous woman on Vancouver Island. Interwoven throughout this book are insights about family traditions, community teachings, cultural protocols, and the Hul’q’umi’num’ language that have played a vital role in Ruby’s life and the lives of those around her. Transcribed from oral stories that were collected over several years, this book presents a unique and authentic narrative that creates a personal connection between Ruby and the reader, and offers guidance for the challenges and celebrations of life. This text may be used in full, or by chapter, for subjects including literacy, Canadian history, and geography.

224 pp., 6 × 9", colour and b&w photographs • Index

Ruby Peter (Cowichan) in collaboration with Helene Demers

Source: Association of Book Publishers of BC - Canadian Indigenous Books for Schools (2021-2022)

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Sti'tum'atul'wut Ruby Peter is a Cowichan Elder and linguist who has trained Hul'q'umi'num' language teachers and researchers for over six decades. She is the lead language consultant on five SSHRC grants on Hul'q'umi'num' stories and four Partnership Development Grants on narrative and discourse structure, pronunciation, the language of canoe culture and Hul'q'umi'num' theatre. Ruby serves on boards, panels and committees that set policies and provide linguistic support for language revitalization efforts in her community. In 2019 she was awarded honorary doctorate degrees by the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University. She is the associate editor of The Cowichan Dictionary.

Helene Demers is a Dutch-Canadian cultural anthropologist and a research associate at Vancouver Island University. Her research in the Cowichan Valley spans 30 years and includes recording life histories, The Cowichan Valley Community Oral History Project: The Meaning of Home and assisting in the repatriation of a Cowichan Sxwuyxw mask. As an immigrant, she is deeply aware of the interconnection between identity and place, and this thread runs through her research. Currently, she is researching "home artifacts," the items that immigrants and refugees bring from their homeland, as well as documenting journeys and migrations through a collaborative embroidery project.

Molly Peter is a daughter, grandmother and great-grandmother from Cowichan Tribes territory. She has worked in Cowichan Tribes Child and Family Services for over 26 years. Like her mother, Ruby Peter, she has shared the importance of cultural teachings, values and beliefs with her offspring and community members.

Editorial Reviews

"What an honour it was to read the words of Sti'tum'atul'wut. As I read What was Said to Me I felt like I was sitting with my grandmother when she too shared stories, teachings, culture and tradition. I giggled, I laughed, sometimes I felt a bit angry--but more importantly, I heard the narrative of resistance and renewal. Such a beautiful reflection of Ruby's vision: to leave a legacy that guides and directs her family--to be honourable."--Robina Thomas, Executive Director, Indigenous Academic and Community Engagement, University of Victoria

"What Was Said to Me is a beautiful and generous gift our Aunty, Sti'tum'atul'wut, has shared with us. It is rich with teachings from beginning to end. It is an example of the love she had for the people. What Was Said to Me will be echoed for generations to come."--Samaya Jardey, Director of Language and Cultural Affairs, Squamish Nation

"With sensitivity and honesty, Ruby Peter brings to life the cultural training and protocols that have sustained her Cowichan community for generations. A synthesis of memoir, oral history and auto-ethnography, her story is a powerful testament to the persistence of Indigenous life on Canada's West Coast." --Wendy Wickwire, author of At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging

?The stories contained in this book are wonderful reminders about the centrality of care, and of listening, for a life well-lived. . . Its lessons are Cowichan and invaluable to all who want to live an honorable, and ethical life.? “Georgia Sitara, for BC Studies