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Jeanne Clarke Local History Awards handed out

The Prince George Public Library welcomed a crowd of over 100 attendees at the Bob Harkins Branch on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the finalists and winners of the 2024 Jeanne Clarke Local History Awards.

The awards were established by the Library Board in 1985, in memory of former library Board Chair, Jeanne Clarke. Awards were presented in two categories: the Service Award was bestowed to Clarence Boudreau, and Katherine Palmer Gordon was honoured with the Publication Award for her book This place is who we are: stories of Indigenous leadership, resilience, and connection to their homelands.

The objective of the Jeanne Clarke Local History Award is to increase interest in local history, to publicize the library’s role in preserving and promoting local history, and to recognize individuals and groups for their efforts in local history. Although the primary goal is to recognize the history of Prince George and the surrounding area, local history is broadly defined to
include all of Northern B.C. so historical work with a regional focus is eligible for recognition.

Eight publications were shortlisted and showcased for this year’s Publication Award:

  • Artist’s sketches : a history of the forest industry in Prince George and area by Larry Merritt
  • Berries, baseball & baskets : collection of memories by Shirley May Gratton
  • Kechika chronicler : William Freer’s Northern BC and Yukon diaries, 1942-1978 edited by Jay Sherwood
  • Prince George history : an artist’s view by Larry Merritt
  • Talking to the story keepers : tales from the Chilcotin Plateau by Sage Birchwater
  • The notorious Georges : crime and community in British Columbia’s northern interior, 1905–25 by Jonathan Swainger
  • The secret pocket by Peggy Janicki and illustrated by Carrielynn Victor
  • This place is who we are : stories of Indigenous leadership, resilience, and connection to their homelands by Katherine Palmer Gordon.

In her introduction of her book, Katherine Palmer Gordon explained: “This place is who we are is a collection of stories celebrating not only connections to homelands and connections to indigenous leadership, but the ways in which indigenous peoples are continuing and reviving ancestral practices, the stewardship, and building both environmental and human well being based on those practices and showing the rest of the world the potential for a better future for all of us.”

Palmer Gordon’s book This place is who we are is a collection of ten of these inspiring stories. X̱aayda voices explain how their Rediscovery camps are healing and empowering their youth; Dzawada̱’enuxw Hereditary Chief Maxwiyalidizi K’odi Nelson shares the story of building a healing centre and ecolodge; Wei Wai Kum Chief Christopher Roberts describes the challenges and opportunities for an urban First Nation looking to prosper while protecting the environment and ancient Ligʷiłdaxʷ history and living cultural values; and other inspiring Indigenous leaders share their own experiences of growth, strength and reconnection.

The winner of the 2024 Service Award was local author and musician Clarence Boudreau, awarded for his contributions to preserving and promoting local history. Boudreau, who just turned 93 years old, is an author and musician (aka Penny Slim) who has written multiple books on the history of northern B.C. Clarence was nominated for a Jeanne Clarke Publication Award in 2023 for his book I Hear the Mountains Calling, a memoir of his life in the community of Penny, B.C., where he was born and spent the first 80 years of his life. He and his wife Olga won the 1996 Jeanne Clarke Publication Award for their book A Penny for Your Thoughts.

Boudreau is a born storyteller who shares the history of northern B.C. not only as an author, but also through his original songs, including a song about the Northern Hardware Canoe Race and a song about the 2018 wildfires, which he performed in front of 750 people at the Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Celebration in September of 2018.

Boudreau’s mark on local history comes naturally from a life full of lived experiences. Boudreau began work at the age of 15 as a flunky in a cookhouse, then moved into logging by hand with a crosscut saw, working in a sawmill, then as a cattle rancher, a snow plow contractor to keep the roads around Penny clear, and a bridge builder helping to construct a 400-foot ice bridge across the Fraser River. He even managed a salmon hatchery for a while. His many colourful and often humorous stories and anecdotes about life in northern B.C. paint a picture for the rest of us.

At 93 years old, Boudreau continues to share his experiences, embracing modern platforms such as Facebook to spread his message that the sun will shine tomorrow.

Established in 1985, the Service Award recognizes outstanding contributions by an individual or group in the area of local history. In 1993, the PGPL Board added a Publication Award so authors could be recognized for producing an important new work of local history. Non-fiction, biographies, historical fiction or any publication that improves the appreciation and
understanding of local history is eligible for the Publication Award. Works must be published within the past two years.

Jeanne Clarke was a founding member of the Prince George Public Library’s Local History Committee, and played a key role in establishing the Prince George Public Library’s local history collection.

For more information on the Jeanne Clarke Awards visit:

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