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Theytus Books

Volume 12 Number 6

Theytus books, a native owned and operated book publishing house in Penticton, British Columbia, is in the process of expanding its operations.

A modest beginning in 1981 resulted in four publications: Gone Indian by Robert Kroetsch (a paperback reprint), Kwulasulwut: Stories From the Coast Salish by Ellen White, Queesto: Pacheenaht Chief by Birthright, by Charles Jones and Stephen Bosustow, and Teachings of the Tides: Uses of Marine Invertebrates by the Manhousaht People by David Ellis and Luke Swan.

Theytus operated in Nanaimo for nearly two years. Problems with their funding agency and with cash flow forced the owner, Randy Fred, to make a decision: declare bankruptcy or find an Indian organization to take over the business.

Fred had been negotiating with the Okanagan Indian Curriculum Project (OICP) to publish their educational materials. He comments, Perhaps their (Okanagan Indian Curriculum Project) involvement with educational publishing is the reason they were one of the only Indian groups who were interested in operating a publishing house. Their staff could see the potential benefits of Indians publishing their own materials.

OICP was instructed by the Okanagan Tribal Council, representing six bands in the Okanagan Valley, to purchase Theytus. However, they could not afford to do so on their own, and they approached Nicola Valley Indian Administration, which represents five bands in the Merritt area. After several months an agreement was reached. Theytus is now owned fifty per cent by each of the councils.

Randy Fred has been retained as the manager. Judy Manuel is the only other fulltime staff person. She is responsible for sales and marketing. Warren Knechtel, of Vancouver, represents Theytus through British Columbia and Alberta bookstores. The remainder of the regular trade and educational outlets are handled by Marvin Melnyk Associates in Queenston, Ontario and Lewiston, New York State.

The firm did very little publishing in 1982. In 1983, most of the effort was put into OICP materials. Kindergarten to grade 6 social studies units are now in use in the public system. The grades 7 to 10 ones will be in use by the end of 1984. The units deal with Okanagan culture and philosophy but purposely eliminate any lessons on material culture. For this reason they are applicable all over North America. Jeff Smith, former director of OICP, states: "The Okanagan Indian Curriculum Project materials fully comply with the social studies guidelines established by the B.C. Ministry of Education."

The Okanagan Indian Curriculum Project completed its project task and turned over the final production to Theytus Books. Since OICP had a fully-trained staff, it received a mandate from the Okanagan Bands to continue working in education for the Okanagan people . A new organization, the Okanagan Indian Learning Institute (OILI), is the result. OILI is a multi-purpose facility. As well as continuing in curriculum development,it is involved with band administration training, computer training, video training, counsellor training, and numerous other programs. Theytus Books works closely with OILI staff in developing curriculum and packaging kits.

"Without the support of the two tribal councils and the OILI staff,'' says Fred, "Theytus would have been history." Theytus acts as the publishing arm of OILI. The evolution is resulting in the formation of a complete educational and communications system under one roof.

Theytus was successful in receiving a Canada Works grant to set up Access Distribution. This subsidiary, which began January, 1984, is a wholesale and distribution company. It handles mail order sales and specialty markets not represented by Knechtel or Melnyk. On the drawing board are a video and film rental service and a specialty native book club.

Access Distribution's objective is to be an authority on native materials. Their rationale is "nobody knows Indians like Indians." The products that Access handles includes Theytus titles, OICP print materials, OICP audiovisual materials, books from other North and South American publishers, note cards, posters, art prints, calendars, films, videocassettes, records, audiocassettes, computer software, and related items.

Research is nearing completion. An inventory of relevant material is being compiled. The next step is to secure a starting inventory. When this is done, a catalogue will be widely distributed. Prior to establishing a sales force, a marketing study and business plan will be prepared. This will be used in the second stage of development.

Cordon Antoine President of the Theytus board of directors says, "We know that Access has potential to be a driving force on the international marketplace. The study and business plan will review the feasibility of setting up warehouses in Vancouver and Toronto. If all goes well we will then look at a warehouse in Washington State." Additional services being contemplated by Access are a fullfilment service for small presses and a mail order service.

Internal control systems are being implemented using inventory from Theytus and OICP. The Princess and the Sea Bear by loan Skogan, with illustrations by Claudia Stewart, is another featured book being handled by Access, as is April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton. Note cards by Kenneth Edwards are a constant seller.

Contracts are being made to negotiate for rights to market records and cassettes of Indian musicians, both contemporary and traditional. Randy Fred, who oversees the operation of Access, says, "The intention is to offer a complete line of educational and entertainment products that are of high quality. We hope to break down misconceptions and stereotypes of Indian people. It is our policy to reject materials that are derogatory."

Theytus Books is very busy this summer with production of their & 11 books. A variety are in the works. Slashby Jeannette Armstrong is a contemporary novel following a young Indian through events beginning in 1960 and ending today. Close to the River by Glen James is a companion novel to Slash. It takes place during the contact period. White and Back by Alice Klassen with Nela Leja is a biography of Alice relating how Section 12(1)(b) of the Indian Act has affected her life. Forgotten Soldiers by Fred Gaffen is a look at the involvement of native people in the two World Wars. Major Richardson's Short Stories by David Beasley is a collection of five short stories and one essay, all except one of which were previously published in New York and Chicago journals in the mid-1980s . Renewal: Prophecy of Manu is book one of a two-book fantasy novel. On a regional publishing basis, Theytus is also rebasing Close Harmony by Ruth McVeigh. It is a coffee table book in two parts; the first part recounts the formation of the Tune agers, a group of fifty retired folk who make up an orchestra and chorus. The second part includes individual biographies of the present members.

This is an ambitious list but the staff and board of directors believe it will launch Theytus into a sales volume that will guarantee its survival. When asked to comment on this Fred states, "I can only repeat what most people say when they learn about Theytus Books -- it's about time!"

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