In House: Theytus Books

Theytus Books is the first and oldest Indigenous Publishing house in Canada. It’s recognized the world-over for its contributions to Aboriginal literature – giving Indigenous authors, illustrators, artists, and professionals a home to speak out with the utmost respect for cultural authenticity and integrity.

The press was founded in 1980 by Randy Fred, who was inspired to do so after organizing courses in newsletter production and photojournalism at Vancouver Island University (then Malaspina College), in Nanaimo, British Columbia. He named it “Theytus” after the Salish word, meaning “preserving for the sake of handing down.”

The first book Theytus published was a re-release of Robert Kroetsch’s Gone Indian, a postmodern literary cowboy tale set in Alberta. Other books published in its early years included a collection of Coast Salish legends compiled by Elder Ellen White of the Nanaimo Nation, and Teachings of the Tides: Uses of Marine Invertebrates by the Manhousat People, an ethnobiological book of nonfiction. This editorial mix of fiction, nonfiction, and Indigenous legends continues to speak true to the “preservation” aspect of Theytus’ mandate. Moreover, they worked and continue to work closely with Elders of individual Nations, ensuring that the stories shared in Theytus Books remain owned by the Nations that have told them for centuries.

Theytus moved to Penticton, BC, in 1981, and operates out of the En’owkin Centre, an organization that fosters and develops First Nations arts, culture, education, and language support. Theytus employees have been known to see wild horses on the way to work.

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LPG wrote this piece with the help of Geist magazine's primer on Randy Fred and the early days of Theytus Books. It's a great read! We also thank editor-in-chief Paul Seesequasis for sharing photos of the En'owkin Centre (and the horses!) with us.